This article is featured in our latest edition of Clean Currents – Clean Water for NC’s quarterly newsletter!
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The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically revealed the massive social, economic and environmental injustices still throttling our nation’s ability to ensure we can ALL thrive and be a part of building a just society in the 21st century. We all have seen that Black and Brown, Indigenous and poor people have taken the brunt of severe illness and death at far greater rates than their proportion in our population. Disproportionately stuck in jobs that force them to be essential front line workers, unable to work remotely, and often not provided with personal protective equipment or able to socially distance in crowded workplaces, these communities also have fewer resources to obtain health care and less job flexibility to stay home even when sick. Along with a greater likelihood of large, multi-generational households, the result has been that Covid-19 has often ravaged entire extended families, and hurt those who’ve taken the biggest risks to care for, transport and feed others during the pandemic.
Within a few years of CWFNC’s founding in 1984, staff member Nan Freeland (photo right) participated in the 1991 First International People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. She brought the shared values of the “Principles of Environmental Justice” back to our organization, and helped to found the NC Environmental Justice Network. Before she left CWFNC to work at NC State University and as a consultant, those values had deeply influenced our organization, and continue to do so more profoundly in our work with communities, striving for more protective policies, while engaging the leadership of those most adversely impacted.
Climate change, as author-activist Naomi Klein has written, “changes everything,” and connects the likelihood of increased disease prevalence with the unequal impacts of disease on People of Color and low income, with the siting and weak permitting of polluting facilities in communities already impacted by health disparities and less access to safe, affordable water. As I step down as Executive Director (but I will stay around in a transition advisory role for a few months), I believe that all of our members, donors and allies will support CWFNC as we become ever more deeply involved in climate activism as linked to our Environmental Justice mission.
Thanks and much love and appreciation to you all,