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Our Statement of Intent on Social Justice

graphic reading "We cannot protect this earth without first protecting its people."

The Office of Sustainability at the University of Tennessee Knoxville stands against the systemic oppression of marginalized people. We are committed to supporting and lifting up the voices of those oppressed here at home as well as around the planet, whether they are Black, Native, Latinx, LGBTQ+, migrants, or American born. There can be no climate justice when the communities most impacted by environmental degradation and climate intensification are not given equitable treatment under the laws and systems that create the problems. 

  • We cannot demand clean air to breathe when some of us are suffocated by violence and institutionalized poverty.
  • We cannot end the impact of our disposable culture when some of our lives are disposable.
  • We cannot insist that a healthy planet is more important than cheap goods until we put all people before property and products. 
  • We cannot push for an end to the destruction of wild places without pushing for an end to indigenous land theft.
  • We cannot call for the protection of clean water sources and forget that minority communities in our urban centers are still without safe tap water.
  • We cannot address public health emergencies while denying health services to those we have most isolated.
  • We cannot invite people to have a personal relationship with and connection to the natural rhythms of the world when they cannot move freely through that space without suspicion.
  • We cannot grow a sustainable food system on the backs of disenfranchised laborers who cannot afford to eat the food they produce.
  • We cannot envision a safe and healthy sustainable future when so many children live in a system that devalues them and limits their access to those dreams.
  • We cannot reshape an unsustainable capitalist society until we fully recognize that it was built on the blood of enslaved peoples and indigenous genocide.


This work starts at home. Because of this, our office will formally commit to:

  • Hold ourselves and our University to a higher standard of care for the lived experiences of our students, especially our marginalized students
  • Increase and institutionalize critical antiracist training for all of our staff and student interns
  • Work harder to engage diverse voices and experiences on our committees and within our hires
  • Continue to frame our work on campus within social justice to help ensure all students have equitable access to the resources they need to be fully present and successful
  • Intentionally highlight voices of color in our education and engagement materials
  • Support the amazing work of the other departments and student organizations who put justice at the center of their purpose.


#BlackLivesMatter #VolMeansAll #VolisaVerb #ICantBreathe


In solidarity and allyship,

The Office of Sustainability, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 

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