Sewanee Integrated Program in the Environment (SIPE) and the

Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (OESS)

Support #BlackLivesMatter

July 2020


As we remember the momentous month of June 2020 when protests throughout our country rightly focused the world’s attention on the imperative for racial justice and equality, environmental studies, programs and initiatives at Sewanee seek to sustain this crucial momentum by declaring that #BlackLivesMatter. In particular, we call for environmental justice, recognizing that climate change, pollution, resource extraction, biodiversity loss and other such exploitation disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in this country and around the world.

We aim to eliminate barriers preventing BIPOC from engaging in environmental careers and participating in decision-making regarding environmental issues. We recognize and seek to address barriers preventing BIPOC from living in healthy environments and accessing and enjoying outdoor spaces and experiences. We acknowledge that some of the past and present rhetoric and practices of the environmental movement have included colonial and white supremacist ideas, and we commit to a future where previously marginalized or suppressed voices and lives are heard and honored. As long as we accept inequality we can never tackle climate change or other problems that require collective action.

Looking forward, we understand that no one action or policy will dismantle systematic racism, it will take sustained and thoughtful effort over time; however, we know we can do more and be better to support BIPOC students across campus. Therefore, as environmental studies faculty and staff, we make the following commitments: 

  • We commit to centering environmental justice in the vision of sustainability that we promote in our teaching, scholarship, and service to the university.
  • We will create an environmental justice working group to support BIPOC students, researchers, and activists; explore academic opportunities for our students and examine environmental justice issues in our community.
  • We will actively seek to diversify our environmental studies faculty when opportunities for new hires arise.
  • We commit to diversifying our syllabi and programming to elevate the voices of BIPOC scholars, activists, and artists in our field and centering concerns around environmental justice.
  • We will critically reflect on the environment we create within the classroom and on campus to better support the environmental scholarship and activism of BIPOC students.
  • We will interrogate the past and present imbrication of environmental, colonial, and white supremacist thought and policies to question practices that promote racial marginalization in the name of sustainability.

Together we raise up and celebrate the committed engagement and advocacy by Black, Indigenous and People of Color to support the health of our planet and the well being of its inhabitants. This can only happen when we all act to end racism and oppression and proclaim #BlackLivesMatter.