Promoting environmental justice (EJ) is at the core of our work, and Taylor Jaffe–Mountainkeeper’s Environmental Justice Coordinator–plays a vital role in identifying opportunities to expand EJ in our region and beyond.
We met with Taylor this week to talk more about her work.
Have you always lived in the Catskills?
Before moving to Catskills, I actually spent my earliest years in Manhattan, but after 9/11 my family moved to Livingston Manor full time. My parents grew up watching “Green Acres”, so after moving to the country they assumed that the most logical career choice would be becoming farmers. Our land wasn’t suited for growing produce–it’s too rocky and down the side of a mountain–so we started off raising chickens, and now we raise sheep and turkeys too. Coming from the city, we had no farming experience, so I was able to learn alongside my parents and be a part of the decision-making process—which provided a unique family dynamic that we’re all grateful for.
How did you get involved with Mountainkeeper?
In 4th grade my school took us on a field trip to Dimock, PA–which is in the news these days because of all the damage the fracking industry has done to that community–and we saw firsthand how those families were suffering. They couldn’t (and still can’t) drink their water, and that really stuck with me since it was the first time I heard people talk about their resources as dangerous to their health. Kids in the suburbs put up lemonade stands, but as a young farmer I had an egg business, so I pledged that for every dozen eggs I sold I would donate 25 cents to an environmental group fighting on behalf of these communities. When you’re new on the farming scene, you reach out to other farmers for advice, which is how my family met Wes Gillingham–Mountainkeeper’s Associate Director–so I decided I’d send my donations to Mountainkeeper. Fast forward to today and I’m part of the team!
What’s something you wish more people knew about EJ?
I studied Political Science in college, and was really interested in the intersectionality of every social justice movement and how they all play into the environmental justice movement. We need to get people from all walks of life involved in environmental justice because I believe that by achieving environmental justice, we would also be achieving the goals of every other social justice movement. From housing and gender equality to racial equality, access to clean air and water, and access to affordable nutritious foods–each of these is a piece of the environmental justice movement. Because of the intersectional nature of the EJ movement, we really need all hands on deck to make the changes we want a reality!