Why supporting community-based organizations may be key to environmental justice
In addition to supporting the most established national or international environmental nonprofits, why do we also need to simultaneously support local, small, and community-based organizations? What's the importance of making sure that key decisions, policies, and solutions are made in the presence of people from a diversity of backgrounds?
Sharing her wisdom with us here is Peggy Shepard, Co-founder and Executive Director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice. You'll hear about how grassroots initiatives can lead to meaningful change for citizens; how large environmental organizations differ in their measures of success and focus compared to community-based organizations; how we can support environmental justice as individuals; and more. Let's dive in!
[2:39] Peggy on what inspired her passion for the environment.
[4:18] Peggy on how WE ACT For Environmental Justice began as an organization.
[5:43] Kamea: "In these instances when you were really able to help drive meaningful change in terms of policy, what did that take?"
[8:18] Peggy: "The environmental justice movement really coalesced around the fact that low-income communities and communities of color were being targeted for polluting facilities, but not receiving environmental benefits like parks and alternative energy options like solar and natural gas."
[9:23] Peggy: "We believe that the voices of the affected residents are the ones that should take leadership on these issues."
[10:37] The environmental issues that WE ACT For Environmental Justice focuses on.
[12:11] Peggy talks about the prevalence of systemic environmental racism in the U.S. that is perpetuated by public policy and the history of inequality.
[15:20] Peggy on how many progressive environmental policies that have improved public health have been removed under the recent administration and how we can begin to address that.
[17:07] Some of the greatest positive changes that WE ACT For Environmental Justice has led.
[19:10] Peggy: "It's unusual to have a position where you can have a vision and actually realize that vision. It's unusual being able to provide leadership, support, resources to community residents who can then take that information and those resources and create change in their communities. It's those kinds of outcomes that are the lifeblood for me."
[24:20] Peggy on the differences in how large-scale, national nonprofits measure success compared to community-based organizations, and why we cannot overlook supporting the latter.
[25:47] Shepard: "We have to ensure that the unemployed in our communities have an equal shot at access for those (green jobs) as well."
[27:20] Shepard: "We've got to have a diversity of perspectives because it enriches all of our policies and it enriches our lives."
Peggy Shepard is Co-founder and Executive Director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice. She's had a long history of successfully combining grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities, and to this day, her work continues to help ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all.
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Note to self: "One person makes a difference and through organizing, we can create change."
Health practice: "I take long, long hot showers where I have all kinds of new ideas and visions."
Sustainability practice: "Trying to go to bed earlier."
Element of hope: "I believe that communities are the answer and that they will organize themselves and advocate for the change they need."
Closing words: "Each one of us can be a leader... We need to really assess for ourselves where our interests are and really begin to take leadership. Everyone can be a leader."