A Cal State Northridge professor has been awarded two fellowships from The Huntington Library and UCLA to support his writing of a book to track the origins of the environmental justice movement to the experiences of Latino and Asian-American communities more than 100 years ago, the university announced Monday.

CSUN Chicana/o studies professor Stevie Ruiz will receive a $50,000 grant from the Huntington Library and $35,000 from UCLA for a sabbatical year — from fall 2021 to spring 2022 — working on his book, Stewards of the Land: Race, Space, and Environmental Justice — and accessing historical records and rare archives, including those of the Civilian Conservation Corps, at the Huntington Library and at UCLA.

“One of the reasons I am writing the book is that when we talk about environmentalism in the Southwest, we don’t talk about the important roles Asian Americans and Latinos have played and continue to play when it comes to the environment,” Ruiz said.

He said the book will provide a lens through which those involved in environmental justice can “see and appreciate the roots of the environmental justice movement in California.”

“When we talk about the environmental justice movement, the normal assumption is that it started as an off-shoot of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But the reality is that it started much earlier than that,” Ruiz said.

He noted that many of the early members of the Civilian Conservation Corps were Mexican-Americans who used their knowledge of the land to help build the foundation of the National Park Service.

“The first step is acknowledging the roles people of color have played historically in preserving our public lands and developing our national parks,” he said. “We also have to acknowledge the role racism has played under the guise of environmentalism.”

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