Angeles Chapter Environmental Social Justice (ESJ) Book Club

  • Posted on 7 June 2021
  • By Kim Orbe - Conservation Program Manager

Toxic Communities Recap and What’s Ahead!

The Angeles Chapter staff hosted our second environmental social justice (ESJ) book club last week Wednesday, June 2nd. For this meeting, we chose Dorceta Taylor's Toxic Communities. The book draws on an array of historical and contemporary case studies to explore the controversies over racist disparities, inequities, and discrimination that affect our communities of color. 
We had ten participants this time around, some new, some who participated in our first meeting. In small groups, we tackled questions like: Why do communities of color suffer the burden of living in toxic, polluted areas? Why are these communities often uninformed and not engaged? What systems/policies continue to contribute to racial discrimination and these 'sacrifice zones.' Our intention was to create open discussions shaped by personal and shared experiences. Each participant brought a unique perspective related to the book's central themes. A fascinating element observed in the group discussions was participants building on the knowledge they gained from the first book club, braiding sweetgrass. It was definitely an empowering moment to see first-hand participants sharing their awareness of environmental social justice issues and bringing that with them in other ESJ topics and events.
For the final thirty minutes of the meeting, we returned from breakout rooms to form a large group. There, each person had the opportunity to share their takeaways from the text as it pertained to our work as environmental advocates and organizers. As we neared the closing of the event, participants were challenged to continue thinking about what they can do in their communities to ensure all voices are represented and to imagine a world where everyone has a seat at the table. 
Key Takeaways from the group:
  • The environmental social justice movement has grown and is more inclusive (of issues and people).
  • Toxic exposure is often communicated to communities of color until long after the fact. Validates the dynamic of Power & Health. That power structures, socioeconomics and race have an impact on public health.
  • Existence of internal colonialism and why Native Americans stay on their reservations despite living close to hazardous waste sites.
  • How the perception of BIPOC housing as “slums'' led to the displacement of communities of color- ex. Manhattan beach and Santa Monica.
We cannot express enough how appreciative we are of the space participants helped us create. Everyone, despite their knowledge of the issues, leaned in and contributed meaningfully. Thank you, to those who continue to show up and take part in our little book club community.
The Angeles Chapter Book Club will meet again Wednesday, August 25th @ 6:30 PM to discuss acclaimed sci-fi author Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. An Afro-futurism classic, Butler's work serves as a major inspiration for us as we navigate these strange times we find ourselves in today. From climate change to socioeconomic disparities to a distrustful government, all these topics were issues for the main character's Lauren world.
“Parable of the Sower,” which was published in 1993, takes place in a dystopian future in Los Angeles in 2024. In a not so divergent future from ours, global warming has brought drought and rising seawater. Freshwater is scarce, as valuable as money. Fires are common. Police services are expensive, whilst few people trust the police. The book unfolds through journal entries of its main character, a fifteen-year-old black girl named Lauren Oya Olamina. “People have changed the climate of the world,” she observes. “Now they’re waiting for the old days to come back.” We hope you can join us for the third book club of the year. This is a FREE event and everyone is welcomed and invited so feel free to share with family and friends!
Checkout previous book club reads
March 2021 - Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
June 2021 - Toxic Communities by Dorceta Taylor


Blog Category: 


I would like to suggest the books of Dr. Robert Bullard (considered the Father of Environmental Justice) as well as though of Hazel M. Johnson (considered the Mother of Environmental Justice) for any future meetings of the Angeles Chapter book club. Yvonne Martinez Watson, Chair - Angeles Chapter Environmental and Social Justice Committee, 2018 - 2022.

Add new comment

Enter the characters shown in the image.