Centering Frontline Communities in Portland’s Climate Movement

In previous years, environmental groups and social justice groups have operated independently. This has been to our detriment. We know from the many successes of coalition-building that we are stronger when we work together to achieve our goals. Together, we can achieve ecological justice, where our knowledge of how we manage community resources is applied to achieving environmental, economic, racial, and social justice.

This year, the frontline communities of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance (OJTA) are taking a central, leading role in the Portland People’s Climate Movement (PCM). We’re joining in solidarity, led by those who are most impacted by ecological injustice, to advance the Portland PCM Platform.

Oregon Just Transition Alliance builds unity among frontline communities. It’s necessary to center the most-impacted people in discussions of climate justice. The platform states, “people of color, low income communities, and rural and tribal people are at the front line of environmental and climate injustice- our communities must lead the efforts to address climate change. Climate change is only a symptom of much deeper crises that are happening worldwide- the ecological crisis, economic crisis, and the crisis of empire. These crises come from the current dominant economy, created by a system that only works for a few which relies on exploitation and extraction of resources. We must create a system that works for everyone, based on cooperation, close communities, and regenerative processes.” We’re past the tipping point. The threats to frontline communities are present today.

Frontline leadership does not diminish the valued participation of 350 PDX and other organizations who have led and participated in PCM in years prior. This year’s PCM supports the vision and leadership of people who haven’t been centered, from planning to implementation, with the full partnership of allied organizations and individuals. The proper role of mainstream groups in climate justice is to uplift and support the vision of frontline communities. Individuals who want to participate in planning PCM on April 29th are encouraged to come to an Environmental Justice 101 training with OPAL on March 21st to learn our analysis and prepare to take on a role of support for PCM.

White allies and other privileged individuals and groups have an important role to play in frontline-led movements. OJTA needs you to show up, provide background support, take on logistics for PCM, and be present in POC spaces respectfully. Let OJTA and frontline communities and people lead. Everyone who supports climate justice should align with OJTA’s vision, link your participation to the platform, and recruit your community to help grow and support the movement for a Just Transition. OJTA challenges the silos between organizations to come down. Break out of traditional issue areas and see the linkages between housing stability, transportation options, energy transformation, immigrant liberation, farmworker justice, urban-rural partnership, and ecological justice. OJTA challenges the movement’s white friends and family to do internal work, to educate your community and dismantle systems of oppression that exploit everyone.

We’re stronger together, guided by those who are hurt first and worst by injustice.

Post written by Shawn, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.

Ready to Join PCM? Join us on March 21st for Environmental Justice 101 with OPAL to learn more about centering frontline communities and prepare to take on a role of support for PCM.