Frontline Communities on Environmental Justice and Climate Justice: A Just Transition

 

“My great grandfather” begins María Hernández Segoviano, “was a seeker of fighting the fight but making sure that we always heal ourselves in the process.” Maria, Advocacy Coordinator at OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, shared her story among four panelists during our recent Frontline Communities on Environmental and Climate Justice: A Just Transition gathering at the First Unitarian Church.

Panelists gathered to uplift and center the voices of those first and worst impacted by our current extractive economy in a discussion at the intersection of climate change, environmental injustice, and community-led solutions. Engagement of our frontline communities in the struggle toward a regenerative economy should be a celebration of life, sacredness, and healing. However for entire communities faced with constant environmental and economic threats that are in many cases exacerbated by climate change, collective healing can be seen as a privilege rather than a right.

“I always talk about healing and taking care of oneself but sometimes that can be really hard for individuals who don’t necessarily have that time to even reflect or heal because of the day to day responsive attitude they need to have to protect their families”. Maria noted the instances of labor exploitation that affect farmworkers and their families as a prime manifestation of an extractive economy and called for communities to come together to empower a just transition.

“As I think about a just transition, I think about shifting the resources, shifting the power, and changing the game completely”, says Cary Watters, Community Engagement Manager at the Native American Youth and Family Center. “It’s been over the past three years or so that I’ve been articulating the just transition strategic framework as it aligns with the relational worldview at NAYA and through that we’ve been starting to build power in meaningful ways with other communities. We’ve been approaching our work in climate justice and environmental justice acknowledging the interconnected systems of oppression associated with colonization and gentrification.”

When asked what our public and community can do effectively to  support a just transition at this time a few panelists pointed to their engagement as steering committee members for PCEF, the Portland Clean Energy Fund. The Portland Clean Energy Fund would generate approximately $30 million a year in new revenue for energy efficiency upgrades, home weatherization, rooftop solar, job training, local food production, and more green infrastructure. The policy would impose a new 1% business license surcharge on the total in-city revenue of retail corporations that have over $1 billion in previous annual national sales and $500,000 in annual Portland sales. “We are important moment right now for PCEF as we have to gather 40,000 signatures by July 6th”, says Khan Pham, Manager of Immigrant Organizing at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, “Signature gathering efforts and volunteering with organizations as allies working with frontline communities is a concrete first step that everyone can take.”

Other panelist included Reverend E.D Mondaine, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who called for greater access for communities to live longer and thrive in a new economy led by the same people lacking that access. We thank our moderator Jacqueline Keeler, writer and activist of Diné and Yankton Dakota heritage for leading the panel in the start of greater conversations.

Here’s  a gallery of photos from the event.

We urge everyone to take first steps by learning about your local community organizations working toward a just transition, volunteer with Oregon Just Transition Alliance, sign up here, and help us build power for this movement of movements.

For more information about OJTA contact Marissa Naranjo at Marissa@opalpdx.org.