As the POWHR Coalition, we are fiercely committed to environmental justice, which envisions a world where all people have access to a healthy and safe environment. Environmental justice is inextricably connected to racial and socioeconomic justice. We are committed to incorporating these intersections into the work we do to protect our land, water, and communities from fossil fuel projects.
We acknowledge the history of Indigenous displacement and genocide and the enslavement of Africans and African Americans on the land and water we protect. We also acknowledge that racial, economic, and environmental injustices perpetrated by this history continues across West Virginia and Virginia. Today, we live and work on stolen land of the Accohannock, Cheroenhaka Nottoway, Cherokee, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Haliwa-Saponi, Mattaponi, Monacan, Nansemond, Nottoway Tribe of Virginia, Pamunkey, Patawomeck, Piscataway, Piscataway Conoy, Rappahannock, Sappony, Tutelo, Upper Mattaponi, and other tribes in Virginia, and the Cherokee, Iroquois, Manahoac, Meherrin, Mingo, Monacan, Moneton, Nottaway, Occaneechi, Saponi, and Shawnee among others in West Virginia. We live and work on land where enslaved people were taken from their homes, forced to labor, and subjected to abhorrent brutality at the hands of white slave owners.
The legacies of these injustices lie in our legal, economic, and social systems to this day and we know we cannot fight for environmental justice without fighting for justice across all these systems. Nationally, Black people are exposed to 50% more pollution than white people and are three times more likely to die from pollution than white people. Globally, Indigenous communities are among the highest at risk for environmental pollution of land, water, and ecosystems, yet they steward 80% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity. We commit to growing strong relationships with members and partners who are Indigenous, Black, and people of color, as well as with institutions led by people of color. We will listen to them, follow their leadership, and uplift their voices.
We acknowledge that racial and socioeconomic injustices targeted at communities of color impact all of us, including specifically the low-income and elderly communities we serve. Appalachia’s coal industry thrived by destroying the region’s economy, environment, social fabric, and people’s health–but these costs are often hidden by politicians and corporations. This history has led the fracked gas industry to believe they swoop in at the decline of coal and continue the destruction of our region for their corporate profit.
Pollution does not adhere to boundaries: we all need clean air and water, and we are all bound together in this fight against corporate greed. Appalachia continues to be a sacrifice zone where the fossil fuel industry unleashes its devastation and waste. But this harm has always been resisted through community-led organizing. Appalachia has a strong history of resistance to oppressors and of solidarity with working people of the world. We will continue this legacy because everything is at stake at this moment.
Through our commitment to environmental justice, we strive to dismantle the systems that oppress us all and recognize the importance of community activism and care in the fight for a livable planet – against the fossil fuel industry and the climate crisis for which that industry is largely responsible.