- Author: Will Gartshore
Last week, America lost a towering icon of the civil rights movement. It also lost a pioneering champion of the environmental justice movement, which was itself born of the struggle for racial equality and against the discrimination and economic disparities that persist to this day in so many facets of American life.
In 2019, Congressman John Lewis spoke of his early leadership on the Environmental Justice Act, a bill he introduced with then-Senator Al Gore in 1992, nearly three decades ago:
“I believed then, what I know to be true today: clean air and clean water are a right, not a privilege… Each and every one of us must cherish this planet, for it is likely the only home we will ever know.”
Congressman Lewis consistently linked these intersecting challenges of racial and environmental justice and worked to advance legislation to address it throughout his career, including in 2019 with the introduction of his Creating Opportunities for Research in Environmental Justice Act. He spoke passionately of the disproportionate impacts that climate change and environmental degradation continue to have on communities of color and of the need to protect the Earth for future generations. And he leveraged his voice of moral authority and his own lived experience to give that message a power that few could equal.
WWF honors the passing of Congressman John Lewis, who put himself on the frontlines in the march towards a more just America, healthier communities, and a sustainable future for our planet.