There are so many incredible Asian American environmental justice activists fighting for a more equitable and sustainable planet. And as May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, there’s no better time to celebrate them.
For 2023, the Federal Asian Pacific American Council declared the theme of AAPI Month as "Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity."
So, here are just a few inspirational Asian American women leaders, activists, and influencers, all of whom use their voices and platforms to advocate for climate justice, racial equity, and other important causes.
Varshini Prakash is an Indian American climate activist based in Massachusetts. Prakash is best known as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sunrise Movement, a youth-led, nonviolent activism movement that aims to end climate change by supporting a Green New Deal, creating jobs, empowering communities, uniting with other movements, and more. Since founding Sunrise Movement in 2017, the nonprofit has grown exponentially, with actions and chapters all across the U.S.
Prakash was also appointed a member of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force during the presidential election cycle, along with powerhouses John Kerry and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. However, she did not let that get in the way of publicly speaking her mind when President Biden appointed a congressman with ties to the fossil fuel industry as a senior White House adviser shortly after Biden won the election. “That’s a mistake, and it’s an affront to young people who made President-Elect Biden’s victory possible,” Prakash stated at the time.
Kristy Drutman, better known as @browngirl_green, is a Jewish Filipina American, and a climate activist and content creator. Drutman is the founder of the Green Jobs Board, an online space that shares listings for jobs in the sustainability space, as well as the host of the Brown Girl Green podcast, and a founding member of The Outdoorist Oath.
Drutman uses her popular Instagram page to share a mix of funny original videos and educational graphics, on topics ranging from the intersection between immigrant justice and climate justice to being Asian and Jewish.
Andrea Chu is a Taiwanese American, Chicago-based activist, who serves as the Midwest Organizing Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. The organization’s mission is to achieve racial equity through community organizing and collective advocacy — and Chu has made environmental advocacy a core part of the organization’s work.
According to a recent profile by the NRDC, Chu studied environmental sciences in college, and as her work grew with AAAJ, she realized that there was a need to connect AAPI issues and environmental activism. “The ways in which most environmental issues were framed didn’t really resonate with me as an Asian American,” she told the NRDC. “I’d only ever talked about them, learned about them, separately … I felt like I was living two lives.”
So, Chu began integrating workshops on these topics into AAAJ’s work. From there, she co-founded the Chicago Asian Americans for Environmental Justice (CAAEJ), another Chicago-based group working to amplify Asian American voices in the environmental movement and fight for climate justice.
Remy Morimoto Park
Remy Morimoto Park, better known as @veggiekins, is a Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese American influencer based in Los Angeles. Park’s primary venture is recipe creation, and she regularly shares original plant-based recipes on her social media pages, YouTube channel, and the Veggiekins blog.
In addition to sharing her delicious vegan and gluten-free eats, Park also uses her various platforms to advocate for living sustainably, prioritizing mental health and wellness, and more. In 2021, she wrote a powerful essay for Shape about the misappropriation of Asian cultures in the wellness and food spaces. “People pick and choose the parts of our culture they want to interact with, and I can't help but feel like there's a huge disconnect between our community and people and our culture,” she wrote.
This article, originally published on May 4, 2022, has been updated.