Moving Beyond Green: Dana Alston’s Rhetorical Mobilization of the Environmental Justice Movement

Megan Irene Fitzmaurice, California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo


While an abundance of research has recognized the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991 as a central turning point for the environmental justice movement, scholars have been silent regarding any analysis of key speakers or their rhetoric. By examining Dana Alston’s opening speech, Moving Beyond the Barriers, this study illustrates how the Summit’s environmental justice organizers proscribed the polarization of their audience and formed a firm foundation on which the group was able to build a successful socio-political agenda. Alston shaped her audience as she addressed it, uniting fragmented groups and ideological clusters into a collective movement. This essay illustrates how Alston’s constitutive rhetoric unveiled the ideological barrier between environmental justice activists and the greater environmental movement (which had previously been invisible), providing the audience with a collective sense of agency to “move beyond the barrier.” Implications for understanding the role rhetoric played in the history of the environmental justice movement are discussed.