Environmental justice resides at the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. To advocate for environmental justice means to work towards a fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens regardless of people’s race, income, national origin, or another demographic. Although the EJ movement has gained mainstream recognition in the US in recent years, this movement takes myriad forms and has persisted for many years in communities across the globe. Demands for EJ may emerge as mainly nonviolent, direct action movements. For example, communities who typically experience an environmental injustice, such as rampant deforestation or toxic waste contamination in their neighborhood, come together to defend their families and communities from these injustices. 

EJ is both a social movement and an academic approach to environmentalism that seeks to address environmental inequities and their root causes by incorporating a social justice lens. Within an EJ framework, environmental inequities are tied to social and economic disparities, which are understood as products of systemic racism, classism, and sexism. Many EJ activists and academics perceive the inequitable distribution of environmental injustices on marginalized populations (like BIPOC communities, womxn, individuals experiencing poverty, and people with varying mental and physical abilities) as inevitable outcomes of the discriminatory socio-economic and political conditions of the world today.

EJ is multifaceted and dynamic, and while it often responds to issues of distributive justice (as in the case of unequal distribution of environmental goods and harms), EJ also seeks to address issues of unjust community and legal procedures, as well as justice as it relates to being recognized and respected in society (Schlosberg, 2007). An EJ approach to environmentalism looks to create change at both the personal and institutional levels, often through direct action, to ultimately dismantle environmental injustices and create a just, sustainable, and equitable future for everyone.