Climate Justice requires the recognition that the climate crisis was caused by failures of our political, social, and economic systems. It operates at the intersection of racial, social, environmental, and economic justice. It focuses on the root causes of climate change and demands holding those responsible for the climate crisis accountable. Climate Justice calls for a transformation resulting in a livable future where all can thrive.

Below you'll find a glossary of core concepts, important terms, and informational resources that can help you build an understanding of Climate Justice.

Economic Justice

Economic Justice aims to create an economy and economic institutions where all people have opportunities to have a dignified, productive and creative life without economic restrictions such as the existing inequities in the distribution of income, wealth, and opportunity especially with regards to race and gender. The economy will be more successful if it is fairer to all.


An economic and political system where industries are privately owned for an individual/organization’s personal profit, as opposed to the benefits of the state and its citizens. (Source: The Anti-Violence Project:


The Economy that Slavery Built(New York Times Podcast: 32 minutes)


The Power of Black Cooperative Economics with Dr Jessica Gordon-Nembhard (Black History Year: 1 hr)


Racial Justice


Race Equity*

The condition where one’s race identity has no influence on how one fares in society. Race equity is one part of race justice and must be addressed at the root causes and not just the manifestations. This includes the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race.

Race Equity Culture*: A culture focused on proactive counteraction of social and race inequities inside and outside of an organization.

Race Equity Lens*: The process of paying disciplined attention to race and ethnicity while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining success. A race equity lens critiques a “color blind” approach, arguing that color blindness perpetuates systems of disadvantage in that it prevents structural racism from being acknowledged. Application of a race equity lens helps to illuminate disparate outcomes, patterns of disadvantage, and root cause.

Race as a Social Construct


Resource Guide: Racial Justice Deep Dive from Maine Initiatives Books, articles, videos, blogs, and podcasts that dive deeper into issues surrounding racial justice and provide a more nuanced understanding.


The myth of race, debunked in 3 minutes created by (VOX, 2015) is a quick demonstration to explain race is socially constructed, even though the consequences of this are very real.


Race: The Power of an Illusion is a powerful PBS documentary series that provides an in-depth analysis of the social construction of race in the United States within the context of history, science, medicine, and society. The videos need to be ordered unless you are a member of PBS.


A system of advantage and oppression based on race. A way of organizing society based on dominance and subordination based on race. Racism penetrates every aspect of personal, cultural, and institutional life. It includes prejudice against people of color, as well as exclusion, discrimination against, suspicion of, and fear and hate of people of color.

Self Reflection:

• Do you feel prepared to talk about race and racism?

• When race comes up in a conversation, how do you react? (Discomfort is part of this work. We often grow through exploring the things that make us uncomfortable or that we shy away from.)


Racism is my High School Experience (Bangor Daily News, by Eesha Pendharkar, June 23, 2020)

Structural Racism*

The arrangement of institutional, interpersonal, historical, and cultural dynamics in a way that consistently produces advantage for whites and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It illuminates that racism exists without the presence of individual actors because it is systemically embedded. When the United States was founded, racist principles were codified in governance structures and policies. As a result, racism is embedded in institutions, structures, and social relations across American society. Today, structural racism is composed of intersecting, overlapping, and codependent racist institutions, policies, practices, ideas, and behaviors that give an unjust amount of resources, rights, and power to white people while denying them to people of color.


Systemic Racism Explained (, 2019, 4 min)


Community Leaders: Maine must fix COVID racial disparity (AP News, 1 page, by Patrick Whittle, June 25, 2020) Specific example of structural racism affecting COVID-19 rates: “Maine’s Black community accounts for more than a fifth of the state’s coronavirus cases despite making up less than 2% of the population,” and “No state has a wider gap between its percentage of Black residents and percentage of Black coronavirus infection victims than Maine.”


How Structural Racism is Magnifying the Public Health Crisis (AP News, 1 page, by Patrick Whittle, June 25, 2020) Also on COVID-19: includes specific, positive policy responses to COVID that take into account structural racism.

Critical Race Theory*

A theory that explicitly states and recognizes that racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of American society. Even without overt racists present, institutional racism is pervasive in dominant culture. Critical Race Theory examines existing power structures, and identifies these structures as based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuate the marginalization of people of color. Overall, Critical Race Theory examines what the legal and social landscape would look like today if people of color were the decision-makers. (While there are critics of this theory, it provides us with an opportunity to examine ways that we benefit from the structures and institutions.)


Dr. Keith Stanley Brooks “Critical Race Theory - Fact vs. Feeling" (EDtalks: 2016, 17 min)


Social Justice*

A concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of power, wealth, education, healthcare, and other opportunities for personal activity and social privileges.

Self Reflection:

• Is the work we are doing in our spaces creating social justice?

• How can we improve and steer the work to be more justice oriented?

Building Grassroots Power*

A strategy to build grassroots power equips people with knowledge, skills, and opportunities to address significant oppositions. The goal is to secure institutional change to improve lives. Their demands will likely require a shift in existing economic, political, or cultural norms. Grassroots power building usually, but not always, places particular emphasis on elevating marginalized, disenfranchised, and heavily-impacted communities and individuals. It also gives these populations access to positions of power to facilitate and create positive, effective, and broadly inclusive comprehensive change. A goal is to be committed to the shift of power to grassroots groups that represent marginalized and disenfranchised populations.


What does it mean to build grassroots power? (, 2017, 3 min)

Self Reflection:

• How do we elevate marginalized voices? How do we hold voices back in our spaces?


Individuals who influence a group of people to act towards a goal. Individuals may or may not be in positions of authority.

Self Reflection:

• Who are the leaders in my spaces?

• Do the leaders in my spaces accurately reflect who is in my space overall?

Anti-Oppression Organization*

An organization that actively recognizes and mitigates the oppressive effects of white dominant culture and power dynamics, striving to equalize that power imbalance internally and for the communities with which they work.

Self Reflection:

• What is Anti-oppression?

• What does it mean to be anti-oppressive?

• How does our organization succeed in this? How do we perpetuate oppression?

*Note: any entry with an asterisk (*) comes from the US Climate Action Network glossary.