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August 29, 2013

Why Greens Are Commemorating the March on Washington


By Quentin James, National Director of the Sierra Club Sierra Student Coalition

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. - John Muir

Recently, the environmental movement has been organizing to effectively build a larger and more inclusive constituency. We're working to achieve this through the incredible work of the newly formed Democracy Initiative, a partnership launched with Greenpeace, NAACP, the Communication Workers of America and the Sierra Club - groups fighting together to protect voting rights and stop the flood of money in politics. We also saw this back in January when over 50,000 environmentalists from all ages and backgrounds showed up on the national mall to demand President Obama move forward on Climate action.

However, there is a lot more work happening under the radar and across the environmental movement, ensuring that events like our partnership on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington have become the new normal.

The fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress have worked hard over the past few years to try and put a wedge in the nation, attempting to convince Americans they have to choose between good jobs and clean air and water.


Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in 2006 the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers launched the Blue Green Alliance -- an organization now comprised of 14 of the nation's largest labor and environmental groups dedicated to building a "cleaner, fairer and more competitive American economy." Through this alliance, we're standing up for the clean energy economy that's growing nationwide and proving we don't have to sacrifice our planet for good paying jobs.

The work doesn't stop there. Years ago, the fossil fuel industry started placing some of the world's most dirty and dangerous extractive facilities right in the heart of low-income and minority communities, bringing with them toxic pollution, filthy air, and contaminated water that threatens neighboring families. These communities have always been on the frontlines resisting these industries and their expansions - and they remain a critical part of the environmental movement. Groups like West Harlem Environmental Action (WEACT), celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, are helping lead efforts across the nation for communities to raise their voices and stories to help shape local, state and federal policy. Also, in the year 2000 the Sierra Club launched its Environmental Justice Program, becoming the only large environmental organization to do so. This program is organizing to help support local fights in cities and communities like Memphis, Detroit, Washington, D.C., the Appalachia region and in the Southwest.

By working together, what we have come to realize is that when big fossil fuel polluters support groups like ALEC, who work to disenfranchise voters and support Stand Your Ground Laws, we have to step up and call a spade a spade. That's why the climate movement stood in solidarity with the Justice for Trayvon movement, and we continue to build bridges across issues.

Today, the Sierra Student Coalition is co-covening a climate justice workshop as apart of the Black Youth Vote! Civic Leadership & Organizing Conference. Hosted at the NEA, the conference will train and empower young people to go back to their communities and kick the school year off by launching campaigns and working to protect the right to vote. While we're excited to partner with this event and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, with a long list of common enemies, our partnerships with the civil rights community has become our new normal.

(Photos by Lauren Lantry)

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