ACTION CALL #4 — SUPPORTING THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FRONTLINE: Environmental Racism, Social Justice, and the People’s Climate March

Photo credit Bill Pugliano/Getty Images from Merrit Kennedy: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis

Think environmental issues affect all people equally? Take a look at Flint’s water crisis or East Chicago’s lead contamination problem. See what’s happening at Standing Rock or the water situation on Navajo Nation lands. And think again.

Across the nation, negative environmental impacts such as climate change, pollution, and toxic waste affect people of color and indigenous groups much more disproportionately than white communities. Environmental racism is nothing new and has long been a social justice issue. However, the Trump administration is once again targeting our most vulnerable communities. 45 makes no secret of his anti-environment and pro-business agenda, from slashing the EPA budget to appointing an EPA agency head that puts corporate greed before the health of citizens. As protestors take to the streets to resist the Trump “M.O.” (profits before people), the fight is clearly heating up.

Crises such as Flint and Standing Rock may be two of the most well-covered issues, but people of color and indigenous groups have a long-standing history of fighting for environmental justice as well as paying dearly for these actions. Even now, protesters are being silenced by authorities and penalized for exercising their First Amendment rights. Activists are given extremely limited opportunities to have their voices heard by those with the power to make positive change, largely due to the history of mainstream environmentalists ignoring the intersection of racial and environmental issues. Indigenous Water Protectors continue to protest the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline but are quickly running out of options. Action is needed to protect water supplies and Indigenous land from toxic development.

This week’s call coincides with the People’s Climate March to achieve two main things: (1) Call attention to environmental issues immediately affecting communities of color and other vulnerable populations, and (2) amplify the activism efforts led by those most impacted.

ACTIONS

Support the Environmental Justice Movement and join the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. and Nationwide on April 29th. The March is organized by the People’s Climate Movement, an organization founded in response to the 2014 United Nation’s Climate Summit. Various coalitions and affinity groups (many of them people of color led) will come together united by their commitment to climate, racial, and economic justice. Uplift their voices by committing to the following.

Amplify Indigenous Peoples’ Efforts to Protect Native Sovereignty and Fight Against Environmental Racism.

  • Divest from banks that finance the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Follow the steps provided by #DefundDAPL and move your money — accounts, loans, and credit cards — out of these banks. Use a credit union, a #DefundDAPL-recommended bank, or support this Black-owned bank. Read more about how divestment works as a part of an activist toolkit.
  • Pressure the Army Corps of Engineers to provide a full record of documentation of its approval of the Dakota Access pipeline. Earlier this month, Democratic senators sent this letter to the Army Corps demanding justification for their decision to allow DAPL to proceed despite conflicts with tribal, environmental, and federal laws. Sign this petition sponsored by the Lakota People’s Law Project demanding the Corps’ response.
  • Stay informed about indigenous rights issues by subscribing to Indigenous Rising’s YouTube channel here.

Be Vigilant and Defend the Environmental Health of Your Community.

  • Protest and resist Trump’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s primary regulation addressing the harmful effects of climate change, and his proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Use this form to send an email directly to your Representatives. You can also call your Representatives in Congress using this sample script: As one of your constituents, I ask that you protest Trump’s gutting of the EPA budget and unravelling of the Clean Power Plan. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by negative environmental impacts. For example, 1 in 6 Black children have asthma (a much higher rate than white children), with many cases being related to the polluted environments they live in. Members of Congress need to stand united against regulatory rollbacks, and instead, defend and enact laws that protect the environment.
  • Demand clean water for Flint and across the U.S. by sending a message to Congress here and/or calling your Representatives. Tell them to hold the Trump administration responsible for ensuring affordable, clean and safe water for all Americans. Sample script: It’s been three years since the water in Flint, Michigan was contaminated with lead that led to the poisoning of thousands of people. There are more than 3,000 areas in the U.S. with lead levels higher than Flint. You and other members of Congress must enact and support legislation that protects our water supply and access.
  • Defend the EPA and resist the Trump Administration’s efforts to restrict the agency’s work. While the EPA’s outright elimination is highly unlikely, stay vigilant on more subtle anti-EPA measures that GOP lawmakers are aggressively pushing forward. Email and/or call your representatives and tell them we need regulations that protect the environment. Sample script: Crippling the EPA’s ability to fight the devastating effects of climate change, pollution, and toxic waste will only make our communities of color more vulnerable. You and other members of Congress must oppose any cuts to the EPA and/or regulatory rollbacks.
  • Report and share environmental concerns of your community by filling out the NAACP’s environmental and climate justice survey here. You can also email the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program to subscribe and get the latest news about environmental issues affecting people of color.

DONATIONS

Mainstream environmental groups have historically put issues that directly affect communities of color and indigenous peoples on the back burner. We therefore seek to amplify the advocacy efforts of those most impacted by America’s most polluted environments. Please support the following POC and indigenous led groups on the front lines of environmental justice:

  • People’s Climate March: Donate directly to one of the POC and/or indigenous groups that are in partnership with the People’s Climate March. Find a list of partners here.
  • Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN): IEN has been leading the coalition movement at Standing Rock and seeks to protect native lands, water, and sacred sites across North America. The organization was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues growing “from the wounds inflicted upon the earth from the collective greed of humanity.” It’s work encompasses education, direct action, and, most importantly, capacity and alliance building within the indigenous community in order to empower indigenous people within the environmental justice movement. Donate to The Indigenous Environmental Network here.
  • WE ACT For Environmental Justice: WE ACT amplifies the voices from low-income, communities of color in the fight against environmental racism and “mainstream, largely white, environmental advocacy agendas.” The organization, founded in 1988 by three Black women community leaders in West Harlem, has been seating people of color at the EJM table for decades. It now has over 16 staff members in two locations (NYC and D.C.). WE ACT also has a long tradition of ensuring that the people most impacted by environmental racism are empowered to lead the movement for environmental justice. Donate to WE ACT here.