FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2017
Interfaith Leaders Confront Environmental Racism in Virginia
RICHMOND, Virginia – On the heels of the efforts to begin repealing the Clean Power Plan last week, interfaith leaders, academics and community members came together to discuss solutions to environmental racism at Coburn Hall on the Virginia Union University campus on Saturday, October 21. The event was moderated by Dr. Corey Walker, Dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University and featured speakers from the medical community and Christian, Muslim, Baha’i and Hindu backgrounds.
With Trump’s recent statements on race, which victim blame and dismiss experiences of oppression, along with the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt rolling back environmental protections, and with Virginia on the cusp of deciding its direction for the next four years, interfaith community leaders discussed the best paths forward to address impacts of pollution and climate disruption on people of color.
“As Virginians we need positive, proactive policy that cares for all of creation – both people and the land,” Rev. Dr. Faith Harris, Co-Chair of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, said.
“We need elected officials that understand and appreciate that.”
In recent weeks and months, we have seen the devastating and deadly impacts of hurricanes and wildfires on communities in the United States, like Puerto Rico. The scourge of environmental racism disproportionately subjects communities of color to polluted air, water, and land.
“People of color should understand that we are normally the first and the worst hit when it comes to environmental degradation. Black children are six times more likely to die from asthma than white children and climate change is decreasing air quality further in Richmond, one of the top asthma Capitals in the U.S.,” Kendyl Crawford, Co-Chair of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, said. “It’s time for communities of color to understand the impacts that climate disruption is having right now in Virginia. As a native of Hampton Roads, I’ve experienced consequences of increasing flooding firsthand.”
Creation care was discussed as the concept of humanity’s responsibility to be caretakers of the Earth and all living creatures in response to the Creator’s call. “Our common home is a gift from God; we are called to be faithful stewards of all of creation. May we preserve the beauty and love God’s gift and not destroy it for future generations.” Fr. Jim Arsenault, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, said.
Experts and interfaith leaders discussed how climate disruption and political decisions are impacting communities of color in Virginia and the ways to address environmental racism through Creation care. One of the solutions discussed was encouraging folks to vote in the upcoming election and holding elected officials accountable specifically on environmental justice issues.
They committed efforts toward good works to protect life and to the diverse humanity on this planet by moving forward with faith that a vision of justice and shared abundance will come to fruition when people of goodwill work together with courage and love.
This event was sponsored by Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Richmond Interfaith Climate Justice League, Southeast CARE Coalition, Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), Virginia Conservation Network and Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.
About Virginia Interfaith Power & Light: Virginia Interfaith Power & Light is a community responding to climate change by gathering, sharing, and advocating ecological wisdom through interfaith collaboration on behalf of current and future generations. For more information, visit https://www.vaipl.org.