As in a natural ecosystem, when one member of the community is harmed, the impact ripples through the environment and damages all living organisms in the community. The murder of George Floyd is another terrible example of the deep injustices experienced by Black members of the American community, including environmental injustices that disproportionately impact Black Americans.
Martin Luther King said, “[i]n the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Thus, the Board of Directors of EcoAction Arlington commits to doing our part to address the racial injustice highlighted by this horrific, violent act. Although the individual staff and board members hold principal values of racial equality, equity, diversity, and justice, the organization never specifically stated this as such. In the coming months, the board will comprehensively review all policies, from procurement to hiring to produce an explicit Justice and Inclusion Policy to guide our operations as an actively anti-racist organization. Our goal is to give breadth and depth to our mission statement connecting each one of us to a more sustainable world.
EcoAction Arlington protects and improves water, air, and open spaces in the Arlington community and nearby areas by promoting stewardship of our natural resources and connecting all residents to practical solutions that achieve a sustainable lifestyle.
Just four days after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, EcoAction Arlington hosted a presentation by Karen Campblin, the Environmental Justice Chair for the Virginia State Conference NAACP and co-chair for the Green New Deal VA. She highlighted the disproportionate impacts that environmental degradation has on people of color, and how these impacts reduce the resiliency of those affected communities to endure other crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Karen shared that the NAACP created its Environmental and Climate Justice Program to provide resources and support community leadership in addressing this human and civil rights issue by advocating to a) reduce harmful emissions; b) advance energy efficiency and clean energy, and c) strengthen community resilience and livability. A recording of the Earth Day Breakfast program, including her presentation, can be found on our YouTube channel.
We agree with Karen and the NAACP that achieving environmental justice equates to linking arms with people fighting for racial justice to make our entire Earthly ecosystem healthy and safe for everyone. We pledge to do so with clear, actionable steps—not just words. We ask our members, volunteers, supporters, friends, and allies to join us in action as we face this task together: become more informed, engaged, and raise awareness of injustice in our community.
This is hard work, but as Frederick Douglass said: “[i]f there is no struggle, there is no progress.”