We already know that California is on the frontline of the climate crisis. But we can’t talk about climate change without recognizing that Black communities and communities of color are being hit by climate hazards harder than others.
The Greenlining Institute defines frontline communities as “communities—including people of color, immigrants, low-income individuals, people with disabilities, those in rural areas, LGBTQIA+ people, indigenous people, and elderly populations…who face a legacy of systemic, largely racialized, inequity that can influence factors such as where they live and work, the quality of their air and water, their economic opportunities, and their access to transportation, basic necessities, and public services. All of these factors face compounded negative impacts in the face of climate change.”
From droughts and wildfires to rising sea levels and extreme heat events, we must recognize that these impacts are not distributed evenly across all populations: frontline communities of color often suffer the effects of climate impacts more than other groups due to historically and deliberately being excluded from large scale investment and planning decisions. In the East Bay, for example, predominantly Black and Latinx West Oakland residents face worse health outcomes than almost all other Alameda County residents. This is due to a systemic and intentional history of exclusionary zoning and growing income equality among Black populations and other people of color.
Throughout the Bay Area and nationally, environmental organizations are leading equity work that advances climate justice actions and nature-based solutions in frontline communities led by and benefiting people of color that expands their access to clean air, healthy food, health care, and the outdoors—in addition to advocating for homes and landscapes free of environmental toxins.
This work must be Black and brown-led to truly center equitable and community-driven solutions. As Intersectional Environmentalist writes, “When communities of color, who are impacted the most by environmental injustices and are also leading the way in creating solutions, are included in environmental decision-making, movements, and educational systems, environmentalism will be brighter, more equitable, and more revolutionary for all.”
Every month is Black History Month. But this February, we encourage you to learn more and donate to these Black-led and/or environmental justice organizations and community groups:
1. Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT)
With a mission to create “Equitable access to outdoor experiences for BIPOC and low income youth”, BAWT is doing invaluable work to not only protect our environment but also make sure everyone gets equal chances at learning about it and enjoying its beauty too!
BAWT offers training, gear loans, technical assistance grants and other resources that help bridge the gap between urban communities and nature’s many wonders. The team also provides professional development opportunities such as Wilderness First Aid training.
2. Justice Outside
Justice Outside is a San Francisco Bay Area organization dedicated to creating equitable access to green spaces for people of color. They work with local communities by providing education about racial justice, developing leadership skills among youth of color, advocating for policy changes that support equitable access to nature-based activities and more.
Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Learn more: https://justiceoutside.org/
3. Intersectional Environmentalist
Intersectional Environmentalist (IE) is a climate justice collective that works to create an equitable and diverse future of environmentalism. This organization strives to challenge systems of oppression in order to build a more sustainable, just, and inclusive world. The core values of IE center around intersectionality—understanding how different forms of injustice overlap with one another. Their mission is rooted in creating meaningful solutions towards a greener tomorrow where everyone can thrive together without fear or harm caused by our actions today.
Location: United States
Learn more: https://www.intersectionalenvironmentalist.com/about
4. California Environmental Justice Alliance
California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) is an organization that works to bring environmental justice to the state of California. Since CEJA’s inception in 2001 as a grassroot community-led alliance, they have mobilized thousands of people to fight for strategic policy changes.
Their mission is to “build the political power of communities of color to advance environmentally and socially just policies in California”—an important goal given how often marginalized populations are disproportionately affected by environmental issues like air pollution to clean water.
Learn more: https://caleja.org/
5. Black Earth Farms
The Black Earth Farms Collective is an “agroecological lighthouse” organization composed of Pan-African and Pan-Indigenous farmers, builders and community members. What started as a guerilla farming project on the UC Berkeley campus has grown into a volunteer-led fresh food distribution project throughout the East Bay. In recent years the collective has focused their effort to feed Black protestors in the ongoing uprisings against police brutality.
Location: Berkeley, CA
Learn more: https://www.blackearthfarms.com/
6. Urban Tilth
Urban Tilth hires residents to cultivate a sustainable food system in the Richmond, CA community. Founded in 2005, the organization leads a number of farming, foraging, and education programs aimed at providing residents with the tools to grow their own food and restore relationships to land. By forging partnerships with small local farmers, Urban Tilth is increasing demand for their produce while teaching residents about the intersection of food, health, poverty, and justice.
Location: Richmond, CA
Learn more: https://urbantilth.org/
7. West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP)
WOEIP is a community-based environmental justice organization working to achieve healthy neighborhoods for anyone who lives, works, and visits West Oakland. The organization focuses on building relationships between residents and the decision makers behind environmental policies so that community members become active participants in shaping their own future.
Location: West Oakland, CA
Learn more: https://woeip.org/
Did we miss any environmental justice that you think we should shout out? Email Justin and we’ll update this list.
Want to expand your support? Please check out this list of national environmental justice organizations.