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30.3.06

Your Concerns Are Duly Noted

Grist's excellent series on environmental justice continues with an interesting discussion between Eric Mann of the LA Labor/Community Strategy Center and Frances Beinecke of the NRDC. I've always understood the NRDC to be one of the best of the mainstream/establishment environmental organizations on this issue. But Beinecke's contribution to the discussion I think highlights the frustrations of trying to get middle class white environmentalists to engage with and support the environmental justice movement.

Mann's contributions to the discussion are passionate and insightful about the challenges facing the broad environmental movement both substantively and organizationally. He's clearly reaching out to the NRDC, trying to call them on their failures in a way that inspires them to improve and join hands with EJ groups, rather than attacking them.

Yet Beinecke's responses have the tone of a bureaucrat at a public hearing, of "your concerns have been noted and will be taken into consideration." She hears him, and doubtless accepts much of what he's saying -- but in the same way you'd accept when your astronomy teacher tells you the sun is made of hydrogen and helium. She doesn't seem willing to make Mann's concerns a part of who she is and how she approaches the world. She certainly doesn't engage and join him in his passion for changing the way things are done.

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