Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships
Minnesota: More About Our Programs
Since 2004, the Sierra Club's Minnesota Environmental Justice Program has addressed environmental injustices that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities by working in collaboration with partners, like the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM) and the Minneapolis NAACP, as well as, community members and youth.
Sierra Club Partners with Minneapolis NAACP on Earth Day Clean Air Celebration
Over 100 people turned on a dreary day for a fun-filled day with hip hop performances by the Green Crew from the High School for Recording Arts, a panel featuring Representative Keith Ellison, youth and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Commissioner Paul Aasen discussing air pollution in Minnesota and what communities can do to promote clean air, and a keynote by Vernice Miller-Travis, an inspirational national EJ leader who shared her personal story fighting for clean air in West Harlem. The event concluded with a youth roundtable and a clean air advocacy roundtable for attendees to plan next steps. Read more about the event on Sierra Club's Scrapbook.
MN EJ Program Participates in President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Listening Session
The Sierra Club's Minneapolis Environmental Justice Program was asked by US EPA to participate in the America's Great Outdoors (AGO) Listening Session in Minneapolis on August 4, 2010. The AGO listening session was attended by over 650 people with comments focused on environmental justice (connections between race, class, poverty and environmental issues); impacts of pollution on public health, water quality and clean air; expanding inner city outings for youth and getting kids outdoors in general; community gardens and food security/sustainability; transit and access to public lands for urban constituents. Representative Keith Ellison, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson were in attendance. Howard Vincent, President of Pheasants Forever, and Mark Ackelson, Executive Director of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, served on the panel with Karen Monahan of Sierra Club's Minneapolis EJ Program. Check out some of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter's programs in Minnesota that address these issues:
Sierra Club and NAACP partner in Minnesota on 40th Earth Day Celebration: Honoring Green Heroes of Color
On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Sierra Club's Minnesota EJ Program partnered with the Minneapolis NAACP to hold an event honoring Green Heroes of Color at the Minneapolis Urban League. Over 100 people attended to learn more about environmental justice projects in Minneapolis, including urban agriculture, access to transit, and the HIRE coalition's efforts for equity in the green jobs workforce. Check out the environmental projects highlighted at this event:
Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota Open New Office
Congratulations to EJAM on opening its new office! In 2009, the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota became a 501c3 organization. For the past three years, EJAM and Sierra Club had a fiscal partnership to support environmental justice organizing work in North Minneapolis and shared an office in the Minneapolis Urban League. We are very excited to support EJAM in its transformation and look forward to continued collaboration on environmental justice work. EJAM can be reached at 612-886-3754 or 3700 Bryant Avenue N, Minneapolis MN 55412. Check out EJAM: Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota
History of Results
Sierra Club's EJ organizer is appointed, along with Senator Jungbauer (R), as co-chair of subcommittee on workforce training and education for the Minnesota Green Jobs Taskforce. The Green Jobs Taskforce recognizes need for "inclusiveness" in developing green jobs training programs, policies and job creation to address equity and access for communities of color and low income communities around the state. Over $9 million in green jobs training programs with a focus on pathways out of poverty are created in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
EJAM leader Boise Jones is appointed to the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG); however, the MCCAG fails to recognize climate justice principles in its final recommendations. The climate justice principles created by community members address key concerns with communities of color and low income communities about the impact of cap-and-trade policies proposed to limit global warming pollution. These principles were shared broadly with other community stakeholders and environmental organizations.
Sierra Club partners with EJAM, Women's Environmental Initiative and East Phillips Neighborhood Organization to assist with cleaning up "Arsenic Triangle" by holding a community forum and advocating clean up with the EPA. In 2007, EPA added this area to the Superfund National Priorities list and clean up began.
Sierra Club partners with Minneapolis Urban League, Clean Energy Now! and EJAM to host the first Public Utilities Commission public hearing in North Minneapolis. Over 200 people attend the hearing in support of cleaning up metro area coal plants. Both Minneapolis' Riverside and St. Paul's High Bridge coal plants were scheduled to be converted from coal to natural gas by 2009.
Climate Justice Principles in Minnesota
The Environmental Justice movement has demonstrated that pollution's effects often fall disproportionately on the health of people of color, Indigenous Peoples, and low-income communities. The effects of climate change, which is caused in large part by fossil fuel emissions, are no exception. Climate change, in fact, could have broader and more severe impacts.
For example, people of color, Indigenous Peoples, and low-income communities are the first to experience negative climate change impacts like heat death and illness, respiratory illness, infectious disease, and economic and cultural displacement. Climate policy must protect our most vulnerable communities. To this end, Karen worked with EJAM to develop ten climate justice principles, derived from the 10 Principles originally developed by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative.
Ten Principles for Just Climate Policies in Minnesota
- Stop Activities that are Changing the Climate. Global climate change will accelerate unless we can seriously slow the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere. To protect vulnerable people and ecosystems, we must find alternatives for those human activities that cause global climate change.
- Ensure Just Transition for Workers and Communities. Reaching the level of emission reductions needed requires a fundamental shift in our society. A just transition must incorporate equity into every step. A just transition would create opportunities for all people and communities to participate and co-facilitate the development of the new economic order. A just transition compensates for job loss, increases in energy prices, loss of tax base, and other negative effects disproportionately felt by displaced workers, low-income, Native and communities of color.
- Ensure a Just New Energy Economic and Social Order. In order to reach these reductions we must acknowledge that it will require a societal transformation and a new economic order. The energy social order should not mirror the existing centralized system of consolidated wealth and infrastructure. We should strive for a more democratic and locally-based economy. Large Hydropower that flood Native nations, carbon offsets that appropriate land, and re-investments in nuclear power are NOT Just solutions to climate change.
- Provide Resources for Adaptation for Vulnerable Individuals and Communities. Low-income workers, people of color, and Indigenous Peoples will be most affected by climate change. We must provide funding and analysis so that these impacted communities can adapt and thrive in a world that is already experiencing the effects of climate change.
- Require Meaningful Community Participation. At all levels and in all realms, people must have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Communities most affected must be engaged as decision-makers in the policy process. The U.S. federal, state and local governments must be accountable to these communities, practice inclusiveness in the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
- Support Local Efforts and Actions. Support community vision, community education, community actions such as greenzones, and other local based efforts.
- Take Responsibility. The U.S. is four percent of the world's population but emits 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. Of these emissions, it is largely the upper and middle class consumptive, growth-oriented lifestyle that is the dominant contributor. Historically, the U.S. has also used up a large part of the atmosphere's carbon sink. We must take responsibility for these historic and current emissions when looking at other countries and within communities here domestically. All people should have equal rights to the atmosphere.
- Stop Exploration, Mining, and Use of Fossil Fuels and Uranium. Presently known fossil fuel and uranium reserves will last far into the future. Fossil fuel and uranium exploration destroy us unique cultures and valuable ecosystems (i.e. Alaska and the U.S. western States). Exploration should be halted as it is no longer worth the cost. We should instead invest those public dollars in renewable energy sources, energy conservation, and community scale renewable energy systems.
- Act Now, not Later. No amount of action later can make up for lack of action today.
- Plan for Future Generations. The greatest impacts of climate change will come in the future. We must make policy decisions on the basis of their impacts on future generations.. We must enact policies for our children, our children's children, and seven generations beyond. Our future generations must have the same rights to the atmosphere and the same opportunities for a sustainable and meaningful relationship to Mother Earth.