A nationally touring exhibition, "Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice," is set to make consecutive stops in Southern California, shedding light on the intricate connection between local environmental histories and movements for racial, immigrant, and labor rights, along with equitable access to affordable housing, clean air, and green spaces. The exhibition uses virtual reality, audio testimony, and historical imagery to explore the deep-rooted issues of climate inequality and environmental injustice. This exhibition will be hosted at the Japanese American National Museum from September 24 through October 1, 2023, and subsequently at the Riverside Art Museum from October 14 through November 5, 2023.
The exhibition features narratives from various communities across the United States, Mexico, and beyond, including two local narratives: "Reimagining Immigrants and Environmental Justice," a collaborative effort among students and faculty from California State University, Northridge, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Padres Pioneros; and "Witnessing the Slow Violence of the Supply Chain," a collaboration between students and faculty from the University of California, Riverside, and People's Collective for Environmental Justice. These narratives were developed with a coalition of universities and community organizations led by the Humanities Action Lab at Rutgers University-Newark.
Liz Sevcenko, founder of the Humanities Action Lab, underscores the significance of the work done by partners in Southern California, stating that it offers critical lessons and inspiration for communities nationwide. "Climates of Inequality brings history into the climate fight by increasing awareness of historical context that can guide our approach to the climate crisis. It also fosters skills in practicing public history as a strategy for resiliency. Through both scholarship and community narratives, we aim to help audiences comprehend environmental inequality and its implications for climate change."
Catherine Gudis, Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History at UCR, emphasized the exhibition's importance, noting, "This exhibition powerfully illustrates the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color and working people throughout history. It also highlights how communities have organized for change, using art, music, and storytelling as tools for transformation. It sparks conversations and creativity essential for collectively reimagining a more equitable future while honoring stories of the past."
Stevie Ruiz, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies at CSUN, commented on the public programming associated with the exhibition, stating, "Public programming will bring together activists, scholars, writers, and community members who are open to dialogue about concerns related to environmental justice in their local communities. Our community members are committed to raising public awareness about climate equity and social justice."