June 2020
"I Can't Breathe":
Racial Justice & Climate Justice
Dear friends,

If you're like me, this month has been exciting and challenging all at once. In the wake of George Floyd's murder, it is energizing to see people coming together to demand the change of unjust systems, particularly in relation to the treatment of African Americans. It has also been an opportunity for challenging reflection for those of us with European heritage to listen and learn regarding how to be white allies in not only this moment, but in the months and years to come.

As many of you know, race and environmental concerns are integrally connected , and the church has been involved in identifying and working toward environmental justice (and against environmental racism) for decades. If you haven't already read it, check out the 1987 " Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States " (Benjamin Chavis, Jr. and the United Church of Christ), and the follow-up, " Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007 " (Robert Bullard et al. and the UCC).

The phrase, "I can't breathe," which has become a defining outcry in movements for racial justice because of the last words of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Elijah McClain, and others, also relates to issues surrounding environmental health, environmental racism, and the disproportionate impact of the Coronavirus on communities of color in the United States . Facilities causing air pollution such as factories, refineries, chemical plants and incinerators (Locally Unwanted Land Uses, or LULUs) are overwhelmingly sited near communities of color--race/ethnicity is significantly correlated above and beyond economic status. Air pollution causes many more incidences of asthma and other respiratory diseases, including this pandemic's novel Coronavirus, in communities located near these facilities. Check out the National Catholic Reporter's EarthBeat interview with Robert Bullard from June 19 to learn more about the connections between racial justice, "I can't breathe," and environmental issues. You can also watch an Earth Day webinar with The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. and the UCC .

One way we can work toward caring for creation together in Oregon is to learn more about the groups working on environmental justice issues in our state. We're going to be hosting a series of environmental justice webinars beginning in July to amplify the work being done in Oregon at the intersection of environment and race, and to encourage collaboration between people of faith and those working toward justice for all God's children and other parts of creation. See more information about EMO's Oregon Interfaith Power & Light Environmental Justice Webinars below, and fill out this form if you would like to suggest a topic or speaker.

Another way you can be involved in our work this month is to write to your Oregon legislators and encourage them to keep clean energy and jobs, climate change, and environmental justice at the forefront of their minds as they are creating legislation around relief and recovery from the Coronavirus, budget reductions, and prioritizing community resilience as they are addressing police reform in this summer's special sessions. See below for more details.
Cherice Bock
Creation Justice Advocate
(503) 221-1054, ext. 228
Welcome EMO intern Meg Bender-Stephanski!
Meg is joining EMO for June and July as our Public Policy & Environmental Justice Intern, and is helping organize our environmental justice webinars. See below for details.
Hello everyone! My name is Meg Bender-Stephanski and I am a student at the University of Portland. I am majoring in Environmental Ethics and Policy and minoring in Social Justice and Theology. This past year I co-led the Environmental Justice Immersion where we traveled around Portland and the Columbia River Gorge, meeting with individuals and organizations passionate about environmental issues and their intersections with race and class. I also participated in a year-long research project that focused on discrimination against people with disabilities in the environmental movement and how it is important for faith-based institutions to bring disabled voices to the table more often.
 
Growing up in San Francisco, I didn’t spend a lot of time in nature but became oriented toward the environment because of how conscious the city tends to be. My high school focused a lot on Catholic Social Teaching, which allowed me to see many different justice concerns as interrelated. Coming to college, I was so excited to be in Portland, a city with incredible urban nature, not to mention all of the nature just outside of the city! I think the environment is incredibly important as a part of the common good, but also personally it is really important to me and my faith. I often find myself most at peace and connected to myself and others when in nature.
 
While my time at EMO may be brief, some of the projects I’ll be working on include EMO's Ballot Measure Guide for the fall election and Environmental Justice programming. Political advocacy and organizing are two of my passions I have discovered during my time in college, and I hope my time here will serve to inform me as I move into my final year at UP.
Environmental Justice Webinars
Join EMO's Oregon Interfaith Power & Light (OIPL) for a webinar series about environmental justice in Oregon! These webinars will address the intersections between environmental concerns, race/ethnicity, and human and ecological health. We will frame the work toward environmental justice as a concern rooted in our faith. In addition to hearing from a speaker, we will pray together and share ways we are feeling nudged to work more directly to enact environmental justice.

We are starting with organizations in the Portland metro area, and we will expand to other areas of the state and other topics you're interested in learning about.

Please fill out this survey regarding webinar topics or speakers you'd like to see, and organizations you suggest.

We will send out a link to the webinars in a special e-newsletter. Mark your calendars now for these dates:
Wednesday, July 22, 7-8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 5, 7-8:30 p.m.

Our first webinar will showcase the work of the Portland Harbor Community Coalition (PHCC). EMO is a member of the PHCC, and the Portland Harbor is one of the main Superfund sites in Oregon. We would like our statewide community to get to know the issues and contributions of this exciting coalition of community groups. Founded in 2012, the PHCC is a group of individual community groups elevating the most-impacted groups (Native Americans, African-Americans/Black, immigrants, and houseless) in the billion-dollar federal cleanup of the 11-mile Willamette River Superfund site, Portland Harbor.
 Write Legislators: Green Recovery & Racial Justice
Oregon's legislature just finished a special legislative session yesterday, with goals relating to Coronavirus relief and police reform. Another special session will occur later in the summer. Just before the statewide Coronavirus closures, Governor Brown signed Executive Order 20-04, relating to climate change and environmental protection. If you would like to encourage your legislators and those on the budget ways and means subcommittee and co-chairs to fund renewable energy, "green" jobs, and racial and environmental justice in relation to Coronavirus relief, please follow this link .

We are encouraging legislators: O ur current public health crisis, demands for racial justice, and projected budget shortfall are important concerns requiring immediate action, and yet, we must not lose sight of the immediate, sustained, and long term effort needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create an economy that is sustainable .
Support the work of EMO
Do you appreciate the work of EMO, particularly our collective efforts towards caring for the community of creation? If you're in a position where it's possible right now, consider supporting EMO's work financially.

You can now sign up to give monthly! If you even have a spare $5 a month, your contribution can help us be the voice and feet of faith-based environmental work in Oregon, from greening congregational buildings and grounds, to education and activism around inter-sectional environmental justice concerns, to advocacy in Salem and Washington, D.C.

New gifts are matched by a generous grant from the Collins Foundation, so your support can make double the impact.

Learn more about EMO and the work we do through this video, and follow the link to donate .
Have an event to share?
If you're hosting an event related to creation justice, let us know and we will help you publicize it!

Right now, most events are virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital events can be shared , too, so if you want others to join your digital events, please let us know! Email Cherice Bock to share it with our networks.
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
503-221-1054 | emo@emoregon.org | emoregon.org