We are witnessing horrific acts of senseless murders, police brutality, and racial injustice against Black people in America. Greenbelt Alliance acknowledges the heart-wrenching pain and outrage. We stand in solidarity with the Black community in the fight for lasting change to cease this country’s perpetual systemic racism, violence, and injustices.
My colleagues at Greenbelt Alliance and I have been reflecting on the underlying systems that perpetuate racism—in particular in our own fields of environmental policy, planning, and climate activism—and in our own organization and individual lives.
The history of discrimination and institutional racism in our field has led to neighborhoods whose residents are primarily people of color being more vulnerable to flooding, urban heat islands, drought, and wildfires. From policies and practices like redlining to exclusionary local government planning processes, the Bay Area’s frontline communities have long been left with significantly fewer resources and infrastructure and unequal voices in policy and funding decisions that address climate impacts and other environmental challenges in our communities.
We cannot advance any agenda on climate resilience without advancing racial and social justice. Greenbelt Alliance is committed to examining and disrupting our role in perpetuating structural inequities and environmental and social injustices. Starting immediately, we are forming an Equity in Climate Resilience Committee including staff and Board members.
This group will institutionalize the fact that we can only forward climate justice if we:
- First, commit to creating an anti-racist culture by taking responsibility for where our current or past actions are continuing inequities and creating the space for our entire team to further our learning, awareness, and identification of individual biases and the structural ways our institutions and policy-making processes and outcomes are upholding the inequities that we must consciously work to dismantle.
- Identify concrete pathways in our existing and future projects to address climate resilience for low-income and communities of color disproportionately impacted by climate change.
- Deepen the breadth and partnerships of our Outings Program, inspired by recent efforts such as #blackbirdersweek.
- Where appropriate, share our expertise in local government advocacy—lessons we have learned over 60 years of influencing local mayors and city councilmembers to adopt policies and budgets that reflect our priorities—with allies and partners who are working on other aspects of local government policy and funding related to dismantling practices that perpetuate injustice.
These are just a few of the articles written by Black climate activists and policy experts that we have been discussing as a team as we examine how working on the climate crisis is critically linked to working on our racial inequity crisis.
As we build on these initial steps, it is our intent to add more actions and demonstrate Greenbelt Alliance’s commitment to racial equity, social and environmental justice not only in word but in our everyday work to ensure the most vulnerable communities across the Bay Area are centered in regional and local efforts to build climate resilience. We know that we cannot merely strive for planning, investments, and services that help vulnerable communities bounce back from climate impacts. Rather, we embrace the critical need for these efforts to empower communities to “bounce forward” via inclusive participation in planning and policy processes that drive adequate resources for frontline communities to thrive before, after, and despite climate impacts. We believe this is the only path that will ensure that the Bay Area is a healthy, thriving, resilient place to live for everyone.