Climate Justice is the work we do to confront the climate crisis. While Washington State is a small proportion of the world population and economy, there are actions we can take to show leadership in solving the climate crisis. Some of the major issues we confront are listed in the menu item “Our Work.” Recent changes in the state’s action on climate can be seen in the news items posted below. Climate change affects all of us, but its consequences are not distributed equally. Climate impacts exacerbate existing inequities in society, whether they are related to poverty, gender, race or ethnicity, ability, or other factors. The slow-onset impacts of climate change are displacing communities and having severe impacts on human rights — the right to health, food security, water and sanitation, life, religious expression, and culture, among others.
Often, grassroots, frontline communities have the best and most appropriate solutions to these challenges. At the same time, these communities receive the smallest share of funding and are sidelined by state and international decision makers.
"These charges are mere retaliation in response to the critical work done by Louisiana Bucket Brigade," said Scott Eustis, community science director at HealthyGulf. "Formosa Plastics is a serial offender of the United States Clean Water Act, and discussing their criminal record with executives and government is essential work in this time of climate emergency, when Formosa Plastics seeks to derail all the good work for Coastal Restoration that Louisiana has accomplished."
The attorney general for Washington, DC filed a lawsuit on Thursday against four of the largest energy companies, claiming that the companies have spent millions upon millions of dollars to deceive customers in about the calamitous effect fossil fuel extraction and emissions is having on the climate crisis, according to The Washington Post. . . . New York and Massachusetts have both sued ExxonMobil for fraud related to the climate crisis, though New York lost its case against the energy giant. California and Baltimore have filed similar suits. On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint in state court accusing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Flint Hills Resources and the American Petroleum Institute of consumer fraud, failure to warn, deceptive trade practices, and fraud and false advertising, as Courthouse News reported. Read more here.
Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN), a national coalition of black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith passed away, the network just announced that it's making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. The network's mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it's a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs, and healthcare. Read more here.
Kimmons, who prefers to go by the name Queen, said what her neighborhood doesn't lack is pollution. Near North, where Queen lives, is one of several neighborhoods that make up north Minneapolis, an area that is predominately Black and is surrounded by a large number of polluting facilities and infrastructure, including roofing manufacturers, a trash incinerator, a metal recycling plant and several major interstate highways. St. John the Baptist Parish, which includes Reserve, lies within Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," a stretch along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is cluttered with petrochemical development and the pollution it brings. The Environmental Protection Agency's National Air Toxics Assessment, which uses emissions estimates to model health risks, estimates that the risk of developing cancer in Reserve is 50 times the national average, and that the five census tracts with the highest risk are all in the area. Bears Ears - The coalition's work focused on protecting red rock canyons and pinion-dotted desert containing hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites and areas of deep cultural significance to the Hopi Nation, Zuni Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Utes.
Sunrise Movement, in recognition of the intersection between Black Lives Matter and Climate Change issues, has published a detailed 9-page guide for Taking Action for Black Lives. Included are ideas for how to support Black Lives Matter protests, talking points and how to be safe at protests. Access the guide here. In addition, attend trainings at CHOP/Cal Anderson Park, Seattle Non Violent Civil Disobedience Training w. Rev. Sekou (6/24) Non Violent Civil Disobedience Training w. Rev. Sekou (6/25)
Many of the places that have been dealt the harshest blow by COVID-19 are simultaneously dealing with other serious threats to residents’ well-being. Even under the cover of the pandemic, environmental rollbacks and pipeline plans continue to threaten the health of people of color. Add to that the outrage and civil unrest that has erupted in many cities in reaction to the death of George Floyd — a black man on whose neck a white police officer knelt for more than 8 minutes — and you have a veritable witch’s brew of community risk. So what does it mean to have all these calamities come to a head at the same moment? Will policymakers see the compounded threats as a wakeup call to the many ways our society is structured unjustly and unsustainably? What are people doing now to try to build a more resilient, equitable world? How much, and in what way, will things change as cities and states begin to emerge from quarantine? Read more here.
Since last fall, Washington’s 16-member Environmental Justice (EJ) Task Force and many more volunteers have been hard at work collecting data and generating ideas for recommendations on how state agencies can incorporate environmental justice principles into their work. Advocacy by Front and Centered, our members, and allies helped create this Task Force during the 2019 Legislative Session in order to develop strategies that address environmental health disparities with guidance from the communities most impacted by pollution. Read more here.
Now, as both the coronavirus pandemic and police violence are devastating black communities around the country, 15 organizations along with some of the scholars and activists who were members of the original group have relaunched the National Black Environmental Justice Network. The Intercept spoke to Bullard about his more than 40-year campaign against environmental racism, why pollution is inextricably linked to police violence, and how the Biden campaign can reach him and other members of the reinvigorated group if they want some free advice. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. Read more here.
The year is 1910 and 14 percent of the nation’s farmers are Black Americans. Living before the times of widespread mechanization, their labor is physically intense and intimate with the earth. Purchased only two generations after emancipation, these plots of land represent the resilience and dignity of the communities they serve. Since then, America’s agricultural landscape has changed, and not only where big machines have replaced hands and feet. Today, fewer than two percent of the nation’s farmers are African American, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. What happened in the past 110 years are vital parts of our nation’s story in which seeds of innovation, regeneration, and communal stewardship are planted throughout. Read more here.
Climate change has wide implications for both coastal and landlocked cities across the globe. But building resiliency and adapting to climate change can have disastrous effects for low-income and minority communities in the form of climate gentrification.
What Is Climate Gentrification?In a classic example of gentrification, developers see an untapped commercial value in a district and build what they think will attract well-paying consumers. This drives up property values and pushes out residents and businesses that cannot afford the higher cost of living—generally, these displaced peoples are communities of color. Conversely, climate gentrification is caused by displacement or a fear of displacement—whether that be from devastating natural disasters or extreme changes in weather patterns—that result in people moving to different locations. Read more here.
Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said the spill happened just south of the Lightning Rock site, a cultural and burial ground of great significance to their people. He said it's the fourth time in 15 years that there has been a spill from the pipeline on their land. "Our main concern is for the cleanup of this spill and preventing further impacts to our territory. We need to have our monitors on the ground immediately." Read more here. More on the spill Trans Mountain Pipeline spill in Abbotsford estimated at up to 190,000 litres of crude oil
Environmental groups, regional tribes and fishing organizations head to court in defense of community health and critical protections for the consumption of fish. Today, a coalition of organizations, in cooperation with regional tribes who have been leading this fight, filed a lawsuit to uphold these hard-won, critical human health protections. They include Columbia Riverkeeper, North Sound Baykeeper, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Spokane Riverkeeper, represented by Earthjustice. “The degradation of water quality standards is a direct assault on the Makah Tribe’s rights reserved under the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay and constitutes a direct attack on our sovereign interests and our way of life. Fish and other seafoods have always been fundamental to our diet, economy and culture,” stated Makah Tribal Council Chairman T.J. Greene, Sr. “Our people require safe water and seafood to survive. We absolutely oppose the EPA’s actions and the agency’s failure to meaningfully consult with the Tribe in its decisions.” Read more here.
A POWERFUL PETROCHEMICAL LOBBYING GROUP ADVANCED ANTI-PROTEST LEGISLATION IN THE MIDST OF THE PANDEMIC
ONE DAY AFTER West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the governor quietly signed into law the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the law created new felony penalties for protest actions targeting oil and gas facilities, as the state continues to confront opposition to two massive natural gas pipelines designed to cut through delicate forests, streams, and farmland. . . . West Virginia isn’t the only state to advance such anti-protest measures in the midst of the pandemic. Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s Democratic governor, who has been widely praised for his response to Covid-19, signed a similar critical infrastructure law on March 16, and South Dakota’s governor signed another on March 30. Alabama’s bill passed the state Senate on March 12 and is currently being considered by the House; Mississippi’s passed the House on March 4 and awaits action from the Senate. Particularly striking is a new amendment to Louisiana’s existing critical infrastructure law, now awaiting the governor’s signature, which would prescribe up to 15 years’ imprisonment for entering a critical infrastructure property without authorization during a state of emergency. Read more here.
Sunrise Seattle is organizing a remote phone action every day during the week of May 18 in solidarity with the Washington state farmworkers currently striking for COVID-19 protections and hazard pay. Click here to sign up for a shift to take action at the same time as others, or use the following information to take action when you can.
BackgroundFamilias Unidas por la Justicia and Community to Community Development are currently supporting six farmworker strikes in Washington State, as workers call for better health and safety protocols due to COVID-19. Although Emergency Rules for Housing in Agriculture go into effect on May 18, they are not adequate for the pandemic (e.g. do not require the ratios for housing, showers, sinks, cooking and food storage facilities, laundry, and bunkbeds to reflect CDC social distancing protocols) and are likely to not be adequately enforced. These farmworkers continue to work hard during this global pandemic to ensure that we have food to eat, but they are being exploited. You can help support their efforts to win protections by contacting the farms, Governor Inslee, and the Attorney General following our guide below – and by donating to the strike fund here. Note about Tone We want to get our message across without burning any bridges. We are asking farm owners to negotiate in good faith with workers and not retaliate. We need to do our part to make workers’ demands heard, while also setting both parties up to have fruitful negotiations going forward. Be direct, but also polite.
Take ActionWe hope that you can join us by taking the following six actions today (or sometime this week):
- Call the fruit companies
- Email the fruit companies
- Call the WA Governor
- Email the WA Attorney General
- Post on social media
- Report back on your actions went
Over the past few weeks, as the potential impacts of a dam have become clear, lines have been drawn between members of a group bound by state law to work together. The Chehalis Tribe has opposed construction of a dam on the river for years, and the Quinault Indian Nation declared its opposition to the project in April. But the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority — which represents the three Washington counties and 10 cities most affected by flooding along the river — subsequently endorsed the dam. Read more here.
In Case You Missed It:Here are some of the recent Solutionary Perspective Conversations we've had with movement and policy leaders and friends:
LaDuke lives on the White Earth reservation, part of the Ojibwe nation in northwestern Minnesota. She’s been a booming voice in Native American land rights for three decades, and in recent years that has intersected directly with campaigns against fossil fuels. She was at the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline — which she calls the “Selma moment” for a lot of Native activists — and she’s now taken that energy to a lower-profile but equally important fight: stopping the reconstruction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. “We don’t have any oil in Minnesota,” LaDuke points out, but because the nearest port is in Superior, Wisconsin, the state has become a thruway for Canadian oil. “We have six Enbridge pipelines already, and two Koch brothers pipelines,” she says. Enbridge is hoping to reroute Line 3, which was built in 1968 and has started to decay, rather than digging it up and repairing it. But the new route would go directly through land that sustains the Ojibwe nation — it’s the only place in the world where wild rice grows naturally, and it’s a core part of their economy, their culture, and their diet. Read more here.
On Earth Day 2020, Mary Robinson launched this series of intergenerational blogs. In her special Earth Day message, she outlined the need for us to respond to the global challenges we face in solidarity.