Written by: Natalie Henderson, Marketing associate @blueland
May 6, 2021
May is AAPI month, and we’re proud to celebrate AAPI leaders in the environmental space and support AAPI communities. Read about some amazing AAPI environmental leaders and learn more about how to support AAPI communities this month and always!
What Is AAPI Month?
AAPI Month is Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month. The first AAPI month was celebrated in May of 1990 when George H.W. Bush designated the month a national heritage month. However, the month was first proposed several years earlier. During AAPI Month, it is a time to remember and honor the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and celebrate their cultures and heritages. We’re honored to celebrate some amazing environmental leaders in the AAPI communities.
Miya Yoshitani is the executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN). Miya is has spent years in the environmental justice space, leading the Student Environmental Action Coalition early in her career. She started as a community organizer for APEN, eventually becoming the executive director. APEN is an organization that advocates for a healthy and sustainable economy for everyone. They see climate change as a multifaceted issue that has social, political, and economic implications as well as environmental ones. They advocate for a transition to local centered and sustainable economies.
Varshini Prakash is the co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate action organization focused on bringing climate change to the top of the political agenda. They are currently advocating for and mobilizing in support of the Green New Deal. Varshini has been interested in climate issues from a young age, and since she was 19 has been involved in climate movements.
Pam Tau Lee
Pam Tau Lee is an environmental and social justice advocate who is the chair of the board of the Chinese Progressive Association. Pam has a long history of environmental justice and activism and was a founding member of APEN.
Andrea Chu + Kelly Chen
Andrea Chu and Kelly Chen are the founders of the Chinatown Environmental Justice Initiative (CEJI), part of Chicago Asian Americans for Environmental Justice. In 2017, Kelly tested soil in her family garden and found lead present in the soil. Shortly after she met Angela Chu who was working to educate around environmental issues that impact the Asian American community. The two started working together which led to the creation of the Chinatown Environmental Justice Initiative. CEJI works on issues related to urban gardening and other environmental issues.
Charlie Jiang is an environmental and climate advocate who champions the Green New Deal and advocates for divestment from fossil fuels. Charlie has been an environmental justice advocate since college, where he joined the Students for a Sustainable Stanford organization.
Kathy Jetnil Kijiner
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is the co-founder of Jo-Jikum, a nonprofit that helps to empower Marshallese youth in the fight against environmental threats. She is a poet and educator, and much of her work is focused on culture and storytelling. She was born in the Marshall Islands and raised and Hawaii and has focused much of her work on climate change and the legacy of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. She is currently the Climate Envoy for the Marshall Islands Ministry of the environment.
We’re proud to recognize these Asian American and Pacific Islander environmental leaders and all of their work and contributions to the environmental movement. These individuals are just a few of the many inspiring leaders.
How Can I Support AAPI Communities During AAPI Month And Beyond?
We support Asian and Pacific Islander communities. In the last year, anti-Asian violence has increased over 1900%. This month and every month it is important to stand in solidarity with AAPI communities and stand up against anti-Asian violence. To start, check out these resources for places to learn more and support AAPI communities:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- Hollaback: Bystander Training
- Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Check out these additional resources on Instagram:
AAPI Nature Terms
When it comes to the wonder of the planet, sometimes the English language can be limiting and we love how these terms, found in several AAPI cultures, can capture exactly what we're looking for.
A vital life force that flows through all living beings. Qi offers a way to reconstruct our ecological imagination for this era of planetary crisis. It is universal—it describes an indiscriminate force that sustains all fauna and flora on earth as well as human communities.
The word theuan refers to wildness. A pa, a forest, can be manicured, maintained wood behind a temple. But a pa theuan, a wild forest is beyond the control of humanity. It must be approached through propitiation, negotiation, engagement, and respect, transforming a dangerous thing into a partner.
Literally translated, the phrase means “Flower, Bird, wind Moon” or the “beauties of nature,” but the deeper concept is of self discovery when experiencing nature.
The scattered light that filters through the trees when sun shines through.