Net Impact Book Club: As Long As Grass Grows | Net Impact

Net Impact Book Club: As Long As Grass Grows

Welcome to the Net Impact Book Club, a curated selection of social and environmental must-reads to keep you feeling inspired during the summer months. We’ll be featuring works by informative, influential writers and leaders across different fields and industries and providing you with key questions and takeaways to consider from each book.


As Long As Grass Grows

For the month of August we focused on the book As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock (2019), a story of Native people and their fight against environmental injustices. The book is an essential read for all emerging and established environmentalists and serves as a call to action for all to learn about the central role Indigenous communities have played in the history of land preservation and social justice activism. The book’s author, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, is a renowned scholar, educator, journalist, and writer and is currently the policy director and a senior research associate at the Center for World Indigenous Studies and teaches American Indian Studies at California State University, San Marcos. As Long As Grass Grows brings readers through the history of exploitation and violation that Indigenious peoples have faced throughout history. And yet despite these struggles, the book also draws our attention towards the remarkable leadership of Indigenous women activists and the steadfast efforts of Indigenous communities to fight for the preservation of their culture and lands. 

In this blog, we will be highlighting a few of the many key insights that you will walk away with after reading As Long As Grass Grows.  


Confronting the Past

As Long As Grass Grows gives an in-depth look at the history of injustices towards Native people, particularly in the US, and confronts the current environmental and racial injustices we are reckoning with as a society today. For example, Gilio-Whitaker goes into great detail about how the time period of the Industrial Revolution not only served to catalyze the displacement of Native people, but began the mass pollution of the lands and waters they held sacred, an issue Native people are still battling today. Forests were clear-cut, rivers were dammed and valleys flooded, and lands were excavated and destroyed for fossil fuels. Gilio-Whitaker demonstrates that the acts of history continue to exploit and burden Native people today and expand inequality.  


A Vision For An Indigenized Environmental Justice

In the book, Gilio-Whitaker brings to light how the push for environmental justice, as a term and a movement, came into being as well as the inclusion of racial justice as part of the movement. According to Gilio-Whitaker, the term “environmental justice” did not get coined until the early 1980s after decades and decades of pollution and environmental degradation that primarily impacted Native peoples and people of color. In 1986, two cross-sectional reports were published that revealed the exposure to environmental pollution and toxicity that Native people and people of color experienced. This marked the beginning of the push to ensure racial justice as a necessary component to the newly-termed environmental justice movement. By 1991, the first-ever People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit took place in Washington DC and produced a landmark proclamation that demanded a greater level of inclusion, leadership, and legal representation of Indignious communities, a decree that has yet to be fulfilled and continues to be fought for today. 


Hope for the Future

While Gilio-Whitaker reveals the often little-known or understood history of Indignious peoples and their fight against persecution and colonization, she also delves into the opportunities that lay ahead and a hope for the future. For example, she describes a movement to reclaim health and well-being for Native people and to empower Indignenous women as activists and leaders in their communities and as the protectors of their culture. She also describes the continued effort to preserve the environment, establishing more groups, coalitions, and initiatives that help to center the experiences and perspective of Indigneious people in the environmental justice movement. The book expresses hope that through education, activism and the proper application of the rule of law tribes in the US and around the globe will have autonomy and a deeper self-determination that will help protect their culture and land.    


Learn More 

You can read all about our previous summer book recommendations on our blog. If you want to learn more about how you can get involved and make change in your community, join your local Net Impact Chapter or get involved with Net Impact’s Up to Us initiative.