“Climates of Inequality” – a project led by the Humanities Action Lab at Rutgers-Newark to share how local environmental histories are intertwined with movements for racial, immigrant and labor rights––will be on view at two Los Angeles-area museums this fall.
The exhibition was created by students at Rutgers-Newark, together with over 500 students and environmental leaders in over 20 cities around the country. This fall, the nationally touring exhibition is making two back-to-back stops at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California. LA is the 14th city the exhibit has visited since its launch at Rutgers-Newark in October 2019, and it is scheduled to travel to at least 7 more through 2025.
The exhibitions uses virtual reality, audio testimony, and historical imagery to delve into the deep roots of climate inequality and environmental injustice. They explore how equitable access to clean air and green space intersects with the need for affordable housing and other civil rights.
In addition to stories created by drawn from communities across the United States, Mexico and beyond, the exhibition includes three two modules created by Rutgers students, two centered in Newark and New Brunswick: “Building Resistance in a Burdened Community” and “Reclaiming Our Land from the Flows of Global Capitalism,” in collaboration with the Ironbound Community Corporation, and one in New Brunswick, “Climate Justice is Worker Justice,” in collaboration with New Labor.
Two Los Angelos-area narratives will be on view: "Reimagining Immigrants and Environmental Justice,” a collaboration 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 among students and faculty from University of California, Riverside and People’s Collective for Environmental Justice. All worked alongside a coalition of universities and community organizations led by the Humanities Action Lab.
“Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice'' is accompanied by a series of locally produced public programs in the Los Angeles area. The exhibition was on view at the Japanese American National Museum from September 24 through October 1 and will be on view at the Riverside Art Museum October 14 through November 5.
Liz Ševčenko, founder of the Humanities Action Lab, emphasizes that Southern California partners’ work provides critical lessons and inspiration for others across the country.
“Climates of Inequality brings history to the climate fight in two ways: increasing communities’ knowledge of histories that help guide a path through the climate crisis, and building skills to practice public history as a resiliency strategy. We hope to help audiences understand environmental inequality and its implications for climate change, by sharing both scholarship and community narratives.”
Speaking about the significance of the exhibition, Catherine Gudis, Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History at University of California Riverside, who led the UCR students in creating their local portion of the exhibit, said, "This exhibition powerfully illustrates the ways that impacts of climate change have been felt disproportionately by communities of color and working people, historically, as well as how communities have organized for change, and use art, music, and the power of story to do so. It sparks conversation and the creativity we need to collectively reimagine a more equitable future, even as we continue to uplift stories of the past.”
“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,” said Stevie Ruiz, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies at CSUN. “Our community members stand committed to ensuring the public obtains a greater awareness about climate equity and social justice.”