Environmental Justice

The Importance of Community Advocacy

On the morning of March 1, 2017, 150 community advocates from around the state joined the Coalition of Communities of Color at the state capitol to share concerns with their representatives and senators. The atmosphere was full of excitement as we learned about a bold, cross-cutting legislative agenda that will help advance racial equity in Oregon through healthcare, education, environmental justice, housing, racial justice and civil rights, and economic stability. Communities of color worked in tandem with allies on these issues that affect all Oregonians. These issues, driven by compassion and concern, offered real solutions for some of the greatest challenges being faced by the state.

For many of the attendees, it was their first time visiting the state capitol. As they were being trained on the issues, participants shared deeply personal stories about how state policy affected Oregon families-- from evictions to lack of health care to wage theft to increased pollution-related asthma and cancer in their communities. Tokenization, disparate impact, marginalization, and exclusion were common themes that continued to surface. However, if one main lesson was emphasized in the training, it was that personal stories are the most powerful advocacy tool to drive change and fight for justice.  Throughout the day, over 50 legislators heard these stories and demands for equity loud and clear.

In the afternoon, a Clean Energy Jobs rally was held on the steps of the capitol.  Environmentalists and social justice advocates spoke about a path forward for holding major polluters accountable while investing in those Oregonians most impacted by pollution and climate change. Participants chanted, “Clean green economy, this is what we want to see!”  These chanters carried their passion and stories to a Joint Legislative hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs bills, which would put a cap and price on pollution, and reinvest those proceeds into a new clean energy economy and rural, people of color, and low-income communities throughout Oregon.

It is clear: no matter the area, policy needs to address the needs of all Oregonians and provide benefit to those who are most vulnerable to negative effects. The stories shared throughout the day in Capitol offices reflected these experiences.

As we were gathering to take group photos and as I spoke with individual participants about their experiences, the words of Dr. Cornel West kept resonating: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Truly, this lobby day was an embodiment of the pursuit of justice in Oregon.


Simon Tam is marketing director for Oregon Environmental Council and serves on the board of directors for the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Know Your CIty, Portland State University’s Cultural Resources Center, and is on the steering committee for the Jade District.

For more information about the Coalition of Communities of Color and their racial justice agenda, contact Maggie Tallmadge, Environmental Justice Manager at maggie@coalitioncommunitiescolor.org.


Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders

Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders—In December 2015, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the CCC, and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon were awarded a grant from the Kresge Foundation to implement Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders.  Tyee Khunamokwst is our three-year climate resilience plan for the Portland metro region that articulates how communities of color can shape public processes related to climate resilience.  We prioritized cross cultural climate action capacity, housing justice, transportation justice, green infrastructure and disaster resilience.  Additionally, our collaborative is working with national grantees to make the case of anti-displacement as a pillar of climate resilience. To see the full and abbreviated version of the plan, please click here.

The Nation :: Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate

The Nation :: Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate: What would governments do if black and brown lives counted as much as white lives?

Communities for a Better Environment :: California Latino Voter Environment and Climate Poll

California Latino Voter Environment and Climate Poll

Environmental Justice Poll Results show Latino voters in California want state government to do more when it comes to combating climate change and pollution

Kresge Foundation :: Everybody’s Movement: Environmental Justice and Climate Justice

Kresge Foundation's Environmental Support Center

“Everybody’s Movement: Environmental Justice and Climate Justice,” Angela Park

USC Dornsife - Program for Environmental & Regional Equity :: The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap

The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap

Hurricane Katrina: Remember and Act for Climate and Racial Justice

Saturday, August 29th will mark ten years since Hurricane Katrina. Its devastation highlights painful histories and issues of racial injustice and inequity in this country—policies, planning and investment that are not entirely unique to New Orleans. 

Katrina also shone a bright light on segregation, disparities in physical and economic mobility, as well as inequitable emergency response and climate policies. And, it showed us how a natural disaster can increase gentrification and displacement.  

We know that climate change makes things worse for low-income communities of color, that it exacerbates existing inequities and reinforces systemic racism.  In the case of New Orleans, not only were low-income communities of color the hardest hit, but inequitable planning and investment dramatically changed the demographics of the City.  Both African Americans and Whites left New Orleans, but many fewer African Americans had the resources to return.  There are nearly 100,000 fewer African Americans in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina—an exodus of 8%.  The share of whites, on the other hand, increased from 26.6% to 31%.[1]   Not only has this exodus clearly contributed to family and community instability, but also has had impacts on the City’s cultural diversity, political representation, and economic opportunities.

Portland’s communities, too, experiencing clear disparities in economic wealth and public investment, are susceptible to impacts of climate change including droughts, floods, and forest fires.  Slower but real emergencies—lack of affordable housing, poor access to healthy or culturally significant foods, or increased exposure to dangerous air quality and toxins—will only accelerate with climate inaction and business and planning as usual.

It is vital we push for change now, because of climate change, because more powerful storms are predicted, and because the painful effects of Katrina are still alive.  We must act on climate, push for equitable investment, and design policies and planning around those most impacted—low-income communities of color. 

This article was featured in Street Roots: http://news.streetroots.org/2015/08/29/hurricane-katrina-remembering-and-acting-climate-and-racial-justice

[1] Shrinath, N., Mack V. & Plyer A. (2014).  Who Lives in New Orleans and Metro Parishes Now? Data Center Research? Louisiana: The Data Center. http://www.datacenterresearch.org/data-resources/who-lives-in-new-orleans-now/

Oregon House Bill 2564A

Oregon HB 2564A is a priority bill for CCC. We support repealing the ban on inclusionary zoning—one tool to help jurisdictions ensure equal housing opportunity for all families and communities. Oregon’s continued prohibition of this well-established tool, continues to foster racial and economic divide, leaving behind communities of color and immigrants and refugees.

Communities of color are growing: currently comprising 25% of Oregon’s population, including 40% of children aged zero to five. Lifting the ban on IZ allows a tool to jurisdictions, should they choose, to promote housing mobility for growing communities that that have historically and are increasingly left behind. Lifting the ban provides a tool to address priorities tied so close to housing stability: reducing health disparities, closing the education gap, reducing income inequality, and supporting diverse, sustainable and community-oriented neighborhoods. Help us repeal the ban on Inclusionary Zoning, and support HB 2564.

For more information, please visit the Oregon State Legislative website.

2015 Oregon HB 3470: the Climate Stability & Justice Act

2015 Oregon HB 3470: the Climate Stability & Justice Act

Sets a framework to fairly phase out fossil fuels and meet existing Oregon greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for 2020 and 2050.  Uses multiple consulting bodies to develop an action plan and timeline based on best science and to provide social and economic benefit to historically underserved and underrepresented communities.  The action plan may include regulations and market-based compliance mechanisms, such as an enforceable safety cap.