I’ve been asked a lot lately about how environmental justice works in practical measures. Making the case for considering race and civil rights in environmental policy, or when planning for climate adaptation, sounds good in theory, but how does that actually play out on the ground?

Environmental justice at the very least entails community residents have meaningful involvement when city planners and government officials start making decisions about changing the landscape. Ideally, it means having residents of the communities that have historically been left out of such processes lead the planning.

As the saying goes among community folks normally left out of these planning processes, “If you’re not at the table, then you’ll be on the menu.” Planners and policymakers are used to eating amongst themselves. Many haven’t caught up with that whole notion that the lunch counter needs to be integrated.