Seattle Foundation Blog

Earth Day 2020 and Seattle Foundation’s Commitment to Climate Justice

On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we know climate justice is more important than ever for our most vulnerable communities.


April 22, 2020

By Dionne Foster, Senior Program Officer and Elizabeth List, Senior Philanthropic Advisor

On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we know climate justice is more important than ever. This year, Earth Day is being celebrated virtually in light of the global pandemic we are facing. As a partner with Earth Day Northwest 2020, Seattle Foundation is striving for positive change over the #NEXT5 years by committing to invest $1.5 million over two years to advance climate justice for our most vulnerable communities. This support, through our Climate Justice Impact Strategy, recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change on low-income families and communities of color in our region.

COVID-19 and the Correlation to Climate Justice
As we acknowledge the extraordinary work of our grantees on Earth Day, we also hold heavy in our hearts the global pandemic impacting us all. Coronavirus has not only changed how we honor and celebrate Earth Day 2020, it has also shined a light on the long occurring inequities in our communities and our nation.

Climate and environmental justice organizers have long been calling attention to the health impacts of pollution-causing industries operating in low-income communities and communities of color for decades. Early research from Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with more severe health outcomes for COVID-19.

During moments of crisis, like COVID-9, the brunt of economic impacts magnify wealth inequity. We are currently seeing COVID-19’s health and economic impacts hit those with the least capacity to weather layoffs, business closures, and loss of childcare. In addition, higher rates of underlying conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease leave people of color – at any age – more susceptible to contracting the virus. And, long before COVID-19, Black and Indigenous people and people of color (BIPOC), immigrant and refugee communities, workers and low-income people, LGBTQ communities, and people with disabilities have been struggling as of result of current inequitable systems.

Investing in Nonprofits to Advance Equity in the Climate Movement
Seattle Foundation’s Climate Justice Strategy underscores a focus on those most impacted.

We’re proud to invest in organizations working in King County and Washington State to advance equity in the climate movement – slowing carbon pollution, adjusting to changes in our environment, building community resilience, and supporting the leadership of people most affected by those changes.

Our climate justice grantmaking works to ensure a more just climate future by supporting research, advocacy and policy, convening, and coalition building as well as storytelling. Overall, these investments help ensure communities of color and low-income communities are leading and shaping efforts to reduce the disproportionate effects of climate change that they experience.

Today, we spotlight two climate justice grantees working to make communities more resilient to the climate crisis while navigating COVID-19. In addition to driving critical change related to climate justice, these organizations are adapting to work at the intersection of issues in support of vulnerable communities.

Got Green is a community organization based in South Seattle that builds power for climate justice, food access, and youth leadership. Through a grant from Seattle Foundation, Got Green is working to engage and organize working class people of color in South Seattle about how a Green New Deal could improve their lives, develop leaders through a Movement School focused on creating climate activists, and engage local media to tell the stories of localized climate justice.

“In this moment, Got Green is leaning into our history of fighting for the long-haul health, resilience, and power of our communities and the planet. In addition to advocating for and distributing food security dollars to the most vulnerable communities (City of Seattle released an emergency $5 million for food assistance), Got Green has released a visionary platform of demands for COVID response and recovery, safely mobilized hundreds of community members to take action, and is launching a weekly education series starting on Earth Day. Got Green's Emergency Justice platform includes health justice, rent & mortgage cancelation, universal cash assistance, decarceration, childcare for essential workers, tax justice, and an investment in a just Green New Deal -- a green stimulus to bailout people and the planet.”  – Sean O’Neill, Development Director

Front and Centered is a statewide coalition of more than 60 organizations and groups rooted in communities of color and people with lower incomes on the frontlines of economic and environmental change. Seattle Foundation supports Front and Centered in their ability to drive advocacy and policy change as well as develop and guide research to inform the regions approach to advance equitable climate solutions.

“The coronavirus has revealed to many the underlying social and economic inequities that already put communities of color at the greatest risk for climate impacts. To be successful in the fight against climate change we have to maintain strong community networks and that’s why Front and Centered launched the Frontline Response Fund. The fund will support our member groups, as they continue to serve at the frontlines, in their communities, which are all affected and experiencing multiple challenges right now. Front and Centered is making sure all of our communities weather the impacts of coronavirus and work together to change our systems to work better for frontline communities.”Aurora Martin, Co-Executive Director

As we look beyond the effects of COVID-19, we will continue to invest in community-based research, build coalitions that bridge social and environmental justice, and strengthen the capacity of nonprofits working to advance climate solutions.

Philanthropic generosity is vital to the continuation of this work. To learn how you can help, contact a Seattle Foundation Philanthropic Advisor at philanthropicservices@seattlefoundation.org and read more here.

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