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From Earth Day Promotional Items to Environmental Justice

earth_day_organizing_importanc_northland_poster_collectiveGiving Away Charity vs. Skillbuilding

Have you ever heard this quote?

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”  — Author unknown

Ethix Merch thinks this is a great argument for moving beyond popular charity models- like when Tom’s Shoes dumps shoes on communities, potentially wrecking the local shoe manufacturer’s livelihood, (among other things).

Environmental Justice and Labor Rights

Ethix Merch is also passionate about the concept of environmental justice. After all, who wants to fish in a dirty river?

One way to understand environmental justice is to look at where landfills, toxic waste, and pesticide-laden fields end up (hint: it’s not usually near predominantly white, wealthy neighborhoods.)

Environmental justice offers another model for nonprofits and businesses that want to go beyond charity. What if we decided we can only take an economic action when both people and the earth are respected?

What would that look like? 

It would look like organizing! Check out this beautiful rephrasing of the above quote, which takes the idea way beyond charity and into community empowerment through organizing around environmental justice:

“If you give me a fish you have fed me for a day. If you teach me to fish then you have fed me until the river is contaminated or the shoreline seized for development. But if you teach me to organize then whatever the challenge I can join together with my peers and we will fashion our own solution.”  Ricardo Levins Morales

Gildan the Terrible

Here’s an example of how we need more environmental organizers, and it has to do with real-world rivers and fish!

It also shows how we are not going to be able to help the earth unless people are respected. And, of course it has to do with textile factory working conditions (our main passion here at Ethix Merch).

In the Dominican Republic a couple years ago, a local news report told of a chemical dye spill from a Gildan factory. The spill contaminated a river, “causing the deaths of thousands of fish and other aquatic animals.”

What was formerly a drinking and food supply source quickly became a bath of poison. And then the factory was closed. The local government was seeking cleanup support. It is unclear if they received any.

Here is a link to the Google translation of the article that was originally in Spanish.

Organizing for People and Planet

Any group that spreads the basic skills of organizing is going to give a community the tools to do what they need when environmental injustices are taking place. This is one of the reasons we value labor organizing and the unions that provide opportunities for building this capacity.

We need more organizers! Through labor and other groups, we hope to see increased environmental justice organizing.

To help, Ethix Merch will continue to do what we do best: provide great union made and recycled/organic merchandise to organizations who need swag for their campaigns. It’s a small piece of  the puzzle, but integral to creating a model where manufacturing practices value our world and comrades.

What else to you think needs to happen for better and balanced treatment of nature and people?

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