Be a volunteer to help protect Earth and all who dwell in this blue planet.
Hearken closely to the compelling voices of nature. The echoes of its inaudible cries and crestfallen leaves from its mother branches. The tears it shed on dark, gloomy skies and even on bright Sundays of the week. The environment is calling, calling for help, or could be calling for applaud. It could be asking for help, or it could be simply asking for attention. It is yearning for multiple hands to bring about the importance of its existence because of the surging disasters that destroyed half of it and could no longer take one big blow – not anymore.
Environment. Are we simply implying about the surroundings, or does it also include the people living in it? By definition, according to Merriam Webster, the environment is about “the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded.” Throwing in together both ideas is the definition of environment. With that, was there ever an occurrence where your barangay experienced inequitable treatment due to few prejudices from the authorities? If yes, then being a volunteer might work for you.
The life of a volunteer is a fulfilling one because you can help others and work with a community to protect the environment.
What is volunteerism?
This is a practice wherein a person gives his or her time to provide help and support for the welfare of other people without any financial benefit in return. According to HRZone, in the context of employment-related, this refers to the methods and equipment employers use to support their volunteering employees.
As per research, women are mostly the ones who are on the frontline in terms of volunteerism. One in three females shared their time, up from 29.4 percent the previous year. Meanwhile, the percentage for male volunteers is approximately 23%. Female volunteers are at a high rate in all aspects, such as in age groups, educational levels, and other demographic characteristics.
Moreover, the common and prevalent issues which receive several volunteers are environmental campaigns, social injustices – women’s rights, anti-racism movements, and more. Thus, people engage themselves in volunteering for a variety of reasons. Mainly to support the welfare of other people, such as eradicating poverty and environment-related movements.
However, volunteerism is not only limited to a group of people or individuals. A company could also volunteer as one in supporting a particular predicament, such as charities and donations. Lastly, in volunteerism, people who volunteers do not get financial benefit in exchange of their support. This is an own will movement that is inspiring and beneficial, not limited to the people that they help, but also to themselves.
Significance of being a volunteer
Isn’t it that every time we get to extend our help towards others, regardless of whether it is small or big, it makes us feel elated and appeased. Not only because we were able to help but because we’re able to make other people happy. In a nutshell, it spreads positivity all over our body, as if too much dopamine engulfed our senses.
Here are 5 reasons why being a volunteer is essential:
Helps with our mental health
Yes, it helps with our mental health. Despite the battles and disorienting issues, we face in our lives every day, an hour or two spent volunteering can erase a few of our worries and anxieties. This is because the happiness that fills us every time we see the smiling faces of the people we helped and the progress you and your organization are making is fulfilling. It may not completely erase the deep-rooted anxieties, but it serves as a therapy despite the physical exhaustion that we feel after a long day.
In volunteering, we do not only get to help other people, but we also have the chance to interact with various individuals of color and religions, even genders. With that, we can create a refreshing community that also enjoys helping others. Hence, our social relationship is no longer limited within the corners of our workplace and home but has now widened.
We create a better community
With more and more people we get to help every day, it is another chance to inspire others. Your actions may motivate other people and inspire them to do the same and join in the community.
At least, you did not spend your days mopping inside the corners of your home while just sitting pretty and complain about the government. By the time you want to rest, reflecting on your experiences in life provides satisfaction that you were able to extend your help.
Yes. Apart from the positive and reflective significances, being a volunteer is also another gateway for connections for future use. You may need help for charitable purposes, and the people you were able to build relationships with may help you achieve that.
As you can see, volunteering may not help you financially, but it can give more than what money can: satisfaction and happiness, which we must continue spreading in the world.
Dangers of being an environmental volunteer:
We must know beforehand that nothing is smooth and easy. Regardless if it is the easiest job in the world, there will always be risks and dangers which accompany it.
Despite your pure intentions, there are people with different upbringing who will take it the wrong way and mistaken it for oppression or worse. Negative experience would include unsatisfactory comments and constant complaints from the community you are helping, or it could also be the atmosphere of the community you are in.
Also, it may refer to dangers that you may face, such as people physically enforcing themselves towards the volunteers. Moreover, being an environmental volunteer would mean that you will find yourself traveling to other places such as mountain areas, where slippery sides would be present, or even dangerous species you might encounter.
Furthermore, there could be government agencies who do not fully support the organization and might put you and your group in danger just because they wished for you not to affiliate yourselves that would concern their business. Now, this negative experience encapsulates what you might encounter as an environmental volunteer because, compared to other kinds of volunteer groups, they often share the same risk and danger.
But of course, given the risks, as a volunteer, you should not panic. You must first observe if the risk and danger are manageable because, again, no job in this world is smooth and free from danger. Anywhere is dangerous. It is up to us how we will manage it.
We need to speak up and volunteer!
“Justice and judgment lie often a world apart”—Emmeline Pankhurst
We can never be sure that once the battle has been won, problems will no longer arise. Problems will always be there. But the only key to prevent war from arising again is within ourselves. We always seek peace, but we cannot even provide peace within ourselves. Take, for example, the word justice. Some would say that it is no longer existing, that it is akin to a ghost that roams around the air but cannot be seen nor proven.
Contrarily, I believe that it is there. Standing high and tall across our naked eyes – existing. However, considering other people’s sentiments, justice is no longer something they look forward to. Several issues had come, and there was no due justice. Many people crossed the path from living to death but have not achieved the justice they deserve.
Putting both ideas about justice and judgment together, they complement each other, but unfortunately, they are often apart. People do not receive justice because they are being judged heedlessly for an amount of reason. Commonly because of their race, gender, and religion.
By illustration, when a woman becomes unfaithful towards her spouse, she is deemed to be repulsive; disgrace if worse. Meanwhile, when a man is disloyal, it is as if his actions, not justifiable but quite acceptable because as per saying, “Men will be men”; a supreme saying of “Boys will be boys.”
Without condoning infidelity, we can notice how women are repeatedly credited to be the worse ones – which is downright unfair and not just. Similarly, while women are highly guaranteed protection from the stigma of rape, men do not receive the same amount of treatment. What we do not know is that 1 out of 6 men were also sexually assaulted.
Those mentioned above are only a few from the copious examples of social injustices that we get to see and hear; more so experience. The gravity of unfairness is immeasurable but not impossible to eradicate. Thus, the main objective of this article is to identify a social injustice that is not fairly prevalent in the status quo, excluding those who are experiencing it firsthand.
What is environmental justice?
Environmental Justice began in the late 1960s. According to the Grand Canyon University, “Environmental justice is defined as “the fair and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies” (USEPA, 2020).
Its focus is to bring about the importance of fair treatment in all areas, regardless of whether they are far-flung, without considering prejudices. For instance, building infrastructures that would help ensure the safety of the populace; health and evacuation centers – that can be used if necessary, especially during the surge of disasters. Moreover, it refers to the fair distribution of goods such as relief packs and medicines that is subsidiary no matter what situation. Hence, providing efficient jobs helps the affected people who lost theirs by the time certain disasters visited their town area.
The whole idea regarding the existence of environmental injustice is comparable to other social injustices that are occurring in our economy where treatments or even enforcing guidelines that are bias on a particular group. Environmental injustices are situations where a particular environment is subjected into unreasonable unfairness or injustices in terms of certain aspects.
These aspects could be “misguided regulatory policy, discriminatory siting, unequal regulation enforcement, and unequal political power” Undoubtedly, this claim is accurate and precise. In fact, in 1980, there has been a campaign of grassroots civil rights for environmental justice in America. With this, International Environmental Justice Movement flourished, which does not only focus on environmental justice itself but also it takes into consideration the notions of justice.
Why are people fighting for environmental justice?
To briefly answer this question, people are fighting for environmental justice because congruent to other social injustices that people fight for. They want to end the disproportionate treatment. Most of the time, prejudices always come first, the reason why injustices occur.
Not withdrawing the idea, in environmental injustice, there is an environment worldwide that is experiencing this kind of treatment. Although many areas are at high risk for possible natural disasters, the authorities do not give much attention. Few relief goods get sent, infrastructures that would aid their welfare ignored, and the cries of the populace blown by the wind. So finding justice towards this maltreatment is significant.
For instance, environmental racism in the US. Cancer Alley, Louisiana, is one of the top locations that popped up on my feed when I searched about places that experiences too many environmental injustices. This is because Black Americans predominantly inhabit the place. Given its name, “Cancer Alley,” people in this area are more likely to develop cancer. They are experiencing too much environmental injustice because, as per research, this area is over polluted with toxins both in the rivers and air, which kills many individuals, but receives less attention from authorities.
In the Philippines, with countless places that are extremely poor, many are suffering. Polluted rivers are one of the concerns, where most wooden houses are situated, where numbers and numbers of trash surround the bottom of their home. Several administrations already ‘tried’ to eradicate this problem, but it seems like nothing is working. Why is this so?
As we can observe, the people involved in the pursuits of Environmental Justice are NOT affected but highly care for their countrymen’s welfare. Their ultimate goal is not only to help other people but also to stop such injustices and prejudices that are rampant these days. In the beginning, the only problem is focused on eradicating trash and keeping the environment clean. However, the rampant environmental injustices they are trying to conceal can no longer be condoned and should never be.
Hence, several volunteer groups worldwide are in the pursuit of campaigning about Environmental Justice. Shifting their lifestyle to provide help is not automatically an easy decision. These volunteer groups did not wake up one day and realized they wanted to help. Sure, there are countless considerations they measured before coming up with their decision, not just to help live a sustainable life and eradicate trash on Earth, but to also extend their help to those who need it the most.
To comprehend what these volunteer groups do, let us first define the terms and understand the risks these groups have to experience and experience as part of their commitment to saving the environment.
Volunteer Groups on Environmental Justice
Here are some volunteer groups worldwide which campaign for Environmental Justice, and we highly encourage you to join in the movement towards a more sustainable future for all.
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice is an organization formed in 1993 by a diverse group of individuals and other organizations, such as Black Women’s Health Project, Asia Pacific Women’s Caucus, Rainbow Coalition, and many more. Their mission is to achieve environmental and economic justice in areas with low income and communities of color.
Environmental Justice Foundation
Dynamic, agile, and effective. That is how Environmental Justice Foundation refers to itself. There may be simple, but it can be as powerful as it can be. They are working to secure a world where natural habitats and the environment can sustain and be sustained by communities that depend on their basic needs and livelihood in these areas. Moreover, they aim to secure those who are oppressed and help the local fights reach the different government and business agencies’ very hearts. Furthermore, below are a few of the many goals of EJF to achieve environmental justice and aid the plights of the marginalized.
- “We use video, along with new technologies, to document threats to environmental security and human rights.”
- “Producing hard-hitting reports and investigations we target decision makers and work to change laws and policies with a positive impact for people and planet.
- “By combining our investigations with bespoke training and community support we also help to build local capacity, give a voice to new environmental defenders and strengthen the global call for change.”
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
I must say that they have one of the wittiest name of an organization which indeed manifests their actions. West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. is a Northern Manhattan community-based organization. Their goal is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of different colors and with low incomes will be able to meaningfully participate in the creation of a safe environment and fair environmental health and protection, including its policies.
At present, their ongoing mobilization of 630, 000 residents in Northern Manhattan on issues affecting their quality life. They became a leader in influencing the state, local policies, and others in realizing the risks that affects the environment and its people.
OPAL Environmental Justice
OPAL stands for “Organizing People, Activating Leaders”. Manifesting its name, OPAL was founded in 2006 by people of color and low income and is currently still fighting for a meaningful and powerful stand towards Environmental Justice, and civil rights by creating opportunities for their members in order to be directly involved in the decision making which impacts their communities.
Another nonprofit organization in National, Bay Area, CA, which aims to inspire individuals and remove barriers from outdoor spaces to empower environmental advocates.
Communities for a Better Environment
According to 1% for the Planet, Communities for a Better Environment fights for environmental health and justice by building grassroots power in and with communities of color and working-class communities.
Those mentioned above are only a few of the top volunteer groups which aim to help achieve environmental justice worldwide. Some do not only focus on fighting for better policies, discrimination, and prejudices done by other government authorities, but others also aim in building a better, safe, and healthy community that will also aid in the livelihood and resources of these people.
Knowing that they are all volunteers and nonprofit organizations melts my heart. They do not get any financial gain after their support and help, but they do not mind because their goal is to help. In a nutshell, this only proves that the marginalized and other people of color greatly receive discrimination and unjust treatment, regardless of their lives are at stake.
And this is what we should be backing up. Worldwide or local campaigns, we must take a stand and support one another in trying times and daily lives. We wish to attain justice. Hence let us begin giving ourselves that opportunity to be the voice of the weak.