MLK Day and Sustainability

martin-luther-1326730131Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represents the character, values, and vision that many of us share today in advocating for the long-term sustainability and health of our communities. Read this article to learn a little more about these true connections, taken from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education…

Having this past Monday off in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, (one of only four federal holidays here in the US that celebrate an individuals life) got me thinking of the importance of this holiday for everyone living here in the US, and to all those working towards a just and sustainable society.

I have to remind myself of the importance of reflecting on all the great accomplishments King made to our world in his short life and not to dwell on the tragedy of a life caught far too short.

The Monday before MLK Jr. Day I listened to an excellent program on the EarthBeat Radio program on environmental injustice (termed the “other” Inconvenient Truth). It featured Reverend Lennox Yearwood of The Hip Hop Caucus and Van Jones, the founder of Green For All. The program focused on two important connected issues: global warming and poverty in America. The entire audio program can be downloaded here.

It is easy (and quite common) both in our daily lives and while working on campus sustainability to forget that not only is “going green” important and necessary, but that understanding, confronting and overcoming economic and social inequalities are also equal parts to achieving a sustainable society. The example I like to think of in this context is food on campus. I would never argue with the fact that organic and local food is better for our bodies and the land, but we must also remember that in advocating for organic/local food policies on campus it doesn’t end there, for it is equally important to ensure that the people cooking and preparing the food and cleaning up after it has been served are getting paid wages that can support themselves and families. For resources on living wages see the Campus Living Wage Project and check the AASHE resource center for Living Wage Policies on campus for examples.

I believe that if Martin Luther King Jr. was here today he would be standing side by side with those advocating for policies and initiatives to halt global warming and that also lift people out of poverty. During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech he stated,

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.” Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1964.

 See article here