Environmental Justice

Making sure our communities have a safe, clean environment is crucial to the advancement and integration of immigrant and refugee communities in America. Unfortunately, immigrant and refugee communities, along with communities of color, tend to be more adversely affected by air pollution, water contamination, climate change and other environmental factors that can cause poor health outcomes. Often, the communities that shoulder the worst of this burden have contributed the least to cause the issue.

Traditionally, solutions to climate change, pollution, and other environmental issues have not taken into account the needs of a diverse community. By building power in Immigrant and refugee communities and building a space for their voices to be heard in policy discussions, OneAmerica is working to provide environmental justice for all.

What we're doing:

Climate Justice: In the fall 2014, a partnership consisting of Puget Sound Sage, Washington Community Action Network, Got Green, the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, El Centro de la Raza, Climate Solutions, Community to Community and the Latino Community Fund created the Principles for Climate Justice [pdf], a groundbreaking guide to carbon pricing policy that is racially and economically equitable.

OneAmerica is a founding partner of the Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy, a broad coalition of labor, environmental, faith, and racial equity organizations dedicated to finding equitable solutions to climate change in Washington State. We also belong to the Communities of Color for Climate Justice Coalition that works to ensure that the voices of communities of color are fully represented in the broader debate on climate change, including within the Alliance.

In 2014, OneAmerica Executive Director Richard Stolz was a member of Washington Governor Insee's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce, a committee of leaders convened to provide recommendations to the Governor on design and implementation of a market-based carbon pollution program. On Nov. 17, 2014, the taskforce delivered its recommendations [pdf] to the Governor, detailing steps he should take to provide an equitable climate solution for all of Washington's residents.

Reducing Hazards: Transporting crude oil and coal by rail is a dangerous but growing practice nationwide. In Washington State, crude oil from the Bakken Formation travels from Eastern Washington, through the Columbia River Gorge, and north along the I-5 corridor to oil terminals and refineries. The half-mile radius all along the rail line is considered a “blast zone,” and the communities living and working within it face both chronic threats to their health through reduced air quality and increased noise pollution, and the acute threats of oil spills and deadly explosions. Nationally, the communities most threatened by this largely unregulated practice are more likely to be communities of color and communities with lower incomes.

In Vancouver, Washington, OneAmerica has joined forces with a broad coalition of advocates working to prevent a new oil terminal in their community. This terminal, the Tesoro-Savage Vancouver Energy Terminal, would take oil off rails and put it on boats. Not only does the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure conflict with our Principles for Climate Justice, this terminal would also put more explosive trains on Washington’s rails, increasing the threats to communities in Clark County and across the state.

Environmental Health: Agriculture relies on pesticides because they kill insects and plants that threaten their crops, but they can cause serious health problems in people. Farmworkers, their families, and people who live near farms that use pesticides are often exposed to these chemicals, and they can get very sick as a result. Over time, these chemicals stay in the soil and get into water sources, threatening the health of everyone in the area. We believe that the people who work hard to produce the food we eat deserve to live healthy lives. We're working to protect the health of all communities by improving the rules around pesticide use.

Pesticide Drift is a preventable issue that disproportionately affects our communities. It occurs when pesticides blow onto neighboring farms or bystanders, exposing them to toxic chemicals. Neighbor notification and a comprehensive public database that keeps a real-time record of pesticide use would be an invaluable tool for public health research and preventative care of our communities. OneAmerica is working toward strong, regulatory legislation that protects farmworkers and bystanders from the poisonous effects of pesticide drift.

OneAmerica Advocacy Manager Ellicott Dandy has been regularly writing a series of blog posts outlining the steps Washington State can and should take to provide environmental equity to all communities.

Immigrant and Refugee Communities Tackle Climate Change
With Environmental Justice For All
Four Ways the Green Movement can Provide Environmental Justice For All
Why Washington State Needs an Environmental Justice Advisory Group
The Frontlines of Climate Change: Part I
The Frontlines of Climate Change: Part II
The Frontlines of Climate Change: Part III

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