“We gotta stop looking for the easy answers and instead join the hard work. Please and thank you. Be good to yourselves. This is a marathon that no one wants to run. #BlackLivesMatter #GeorgeFloyd.” -- Alicia Garza, Co Founder, Black Lives Matter
In late April-- which now seems like such a long time ago--my colleague Christopher shared how we conducted listening sessions across the state to better understand priorities at the local and regional level, and allow that work to shape our statewide priorities and actions. At that time, we were in the midst of a global pandemic, the coronavirus. Now, as the New York Times said, we are living in a pandemic within a pandemic. For black people--as an organizer in the article says--the question is “Am I going to let a disease kill me or am I going to let the system--the police?”
The weight of this question is immense. I can attest how easy it is to slip into hopelessness and despair. Will anything ever change?
- It’s 2020, and I’m talking to my son about George Floyd, fielding his fear and tears. I’m explaining why we are joining virtual town halls and protests in the streets. It hits him hard, especially because a black man who lives down the street from us was recently arrested for “dancing in the street.”
- It’s 1992, my dad sat me down and explained why people were protesting in Watts. Rodney King is where my life long fear of police officers begins. My parents took my sister and I to see Spike Lee’s Malcom X on opening night because my dad wanted us to see the power that we as the black community could harness.
- It’s 1963, my grandmother talked to my dad about Meager Evers, why the work he was doing was so important that he risked his own life. My dad still remembers the day that Martin Luther King was assassinated--his entire school was shut down that day as his teachers openly wept.
What is the hard work?
In some ways, it’s easier to compartmentalize; to think that the work that ClimatePlan is doing doesn’t address police brutality. And that we should “stay in our lane” by focusing on reducing emissions from the transportation sector, developing better land use plans that reduce sprawl, and advancing regional and statewide policies that make it easier to build infill and transit-oriented development.
But that’s not doing the hard work. What is the hard work? As Alicia says, changing the laws and changing the people who make them. Hold the police and all systems that perpetuate systemic racism and oppression accountable.
At ClimatePlan, all of us are engaging in an on-going process of deep interrogation to figure out means to show up authentically and do the hard work. What does this mean?
- Centering those most impacted: For the priorities and actions that ClimatePlan staff are advancing, we want to make sure that those who are most impacted hold the most power in decision making (thank you Ariel Ward for this powerful lesson).
- Support and amplify network partners’ work: For the ClimatePlan network, we want to make sure that we are supporting and amplifying the powerful work that our partners are doing to combat systemic racism and oppression.
- Elevating those who are teaching and informing our work: For those that continue to teach us and inform our work, we want to make sure that we credit those teachers. All too often, organizations can unintentionally appropriate the work of others, without giving due credit or acknowledgement. There are so many people and organizations that are informing how we at ClimatePlan show up in this space, and we want to make sure that those teachers are acknowledged and celebrated.
ClimatePlan’s Current Priorities and Actions
These are ClimatePlan’s current priorities and actions. 2020 has embodied that the only constant is change; we acknowledge that these priorities may shift and/or change depending on what’s happening. As things change, we will continue to update these priorities and actions--and keep our network informed.
In all of the actions listed above, we are committed to doing the hard work. Whether it's pushing for an Equity Advisory Committee at the California Transportation Commission or implementation of SB 743 or more equitably integrating water into land use in the San Francisco Bay Area, we want to make sure that we are centering those who are most impacted. And that we are being clear in calling out systemic racism and oppression when we see it. As a network, we ask that you partner with us and hold us accountable to these commitments. If we aren’t centering those who are most impacted--if we fall into that trap of urgency, we can’t wait to have meaningful conversations with community leaders and share power because this deadline is coming up--gently call us in. If we don’t call out agencies that perpetuate systemic oppression of the most vulnerable communities--whether they are doing it intentionally or not--remind us of our commitment. Most importantly, partner with us to do this hard work. It’s not easy, but we are stronger together.
Supporting and Elevating other networks
We understand that the work we’re advancing (and advocating for) will not solve everything. We understand the power in aligning ourselves with networks and organizations that are working hard to change the laws and the people. Here are a few of the efforts we are proud to support:
- Prevent widespread displacement, foreclosures, and the widening of the racial wealth gap (Stable Homes California, co-facilitated by Housing California and Public Advocates)
- The California Green New Deal, which offers a blueprint for a resilient economy -- one that is built to protect all people, help those most in need, and sustain us through the new crises that lie ahead. (California Green New Deal Coalition)
- A just COVID-19 response and recovery that centers working class communities of color including Latinx, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous communities, who are being hit hardest by COVID-19 and are feeling the impacts of the collapsing global economy, health system, and social safety net as a result of the pandemic (Led by APEN, SCOPE, The Greenlining Institute, and California ReLeaf)
- Protection of the Habitat Conservation Fund, which has a 30 year track record of providing critical funding across California for a variety of projects that provide resiliency to the effects of climate change, create new jobs, increase public access to communities, and support a tourism economy (Convened by Defenders of Wildlife)
There are many other efforts that we are supporting, because we know if we want to achieve ClimatePlan’s vision for a healthier and more vital California that supports sustainable and equitable communities, preserves iconic landscapes, and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, we must work together. No one organization or network has all the solutions to the problems we face--which is why we are committed to supporting and partnering with other organizations and networks.
Thank you to our teachers
Finally, thank you to all the people and organizations who continue to teach us, and guide us on this journey. Some of you are long-time ClimatePlan partner organizations who have been with us since the beginning and helped us on our journey, some of you are people that we haven’t met but follow on Twitter or have been captivated by your books, and some of you are people that we are lucky to call friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish I could list all of you (but I know I would forget someone important!) Know that we are still learning, still growing, and always open to your teachings and partnership.
Let’s continue to do this hard work together.