Over the past week, more than 25 Virginia Conservation Network partners have released statements in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless others whose names we may or may not know. The Virginia Conservation Network joins these organizations in standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Structural racism exists not only within our country but has also historically existed within the broader conservation community. We must take this moment in time to listen, reflect, and focus on dismantling the inequitable structures within our own organizations – organizations which are disproportionately run by white individuals and overly-representative of white communities – while building out a more inclusive movement that lifts up leaders and communities of colors.
Over the past year, VCN began a more focused approach on ensuring that our organization is a more inclusive and equitable workplace. In addition, we have modified our Common Agenda process to better promote conservation policies that are just, restorative, and build up communities that have been suffering from oppression. We acknowledge that these are first steps and are committed to expanding this work. This will include presenting a more comprehensive diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice plan to our 125 conservation partners at our annual meeting this fall.
Network Partners of the Virginia Conservation Network released the following statements in solidarity. This list will continue to be updated as more statements become available. You can find it here.
350 Central Virginia
In dozens of cities across America the streets have been packed with people protesting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Floyd’s murder is yet another reminder of the white supremacist structures that devalue Black life over and over again. As a global organization working to stop the climate crisis, we know that systemic racism is deeply connected to climate change and 350.org is in solidarity with all of those demanding justice.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
We have heard the voices of many — in the cities and beyond — calling for an end to this widespread injustice and racial violence. We have heard the call for a more equitable, inclusive, and peaceful future. Through the anger, sadness, and frustration, we have seen and felt the urgent need for justice, particularly for those who have been pushed to the margins. We, as a Conservancy, join those voices and demand justice but we also recognize the problem exists in our own community.
Black lives matter. We are devastated by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and thousands of other people of color — those whose names we know and don’t know — who have been killed by police brutality and racist violence.
Audubon Naturalist Society
Our work will tackle environmental injustice head-on, because those of us who have always felt secure in outdoor spaces must step up and join forces to work toward ensuring all people in our region have the liberty to access nature safely. In the meantime, our great hope is that all of our friends and supporters will look for ways today, and each day forward, to be that gold that bonds, that heals, that welcomes all.
Center for Progressive Reform
Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Clean air, clean water, and a safe environment are rights we all share. Violence against people destroys any semblance of a safe environment. The most basic human right is the right to live. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation stands in protest to violence against people of any race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or identity. Racism, intolerance, and bigotry have no place in a civilized society. We must all raise our voices for justice.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
In light of the recent murder in Minneapolis, all of us at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are forced again to confront the fact that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Our hearts and thoughts are with the family of George Floyd and the community in Minneapolis. A life has been senselessly taken, and that can’t be undone.
The events of the last several days related to the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd cannot be left unaddressed. We grieve for Mr. Floyd and his family as well as all those that have been unjustly harmed and discriminated against due to the color of their skin. This issue pervades all worthy endeavors, including environmental conservation.
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
The murder of George Floyd and other acts of violence against African Americans in recent years are reminders of the deadly consequences of institutional racism in the United States.
Choose Clean Water Coalition
The Choose Clean Water Coalition staff join the broader environmental and conservation community in condemning the recent acts of violence against the Black community. The recent civic unrest is the result of unaddressed systemic racism in this country. Violence against communities of color will continue until we as individuals decide to make and push for change.
Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth shares in the deep sadness and anger over racial inequality and injustice. We remain fully committed to furthering racial equity and justice through our work on housing, land use, and transportation. We also stand in solidarity with those leading the much needed work being done to eliminate all cases of police violence and abuse of power.
James River Association
The James River has witnessed and facilitated the best and the worst in humanity. But since the James River Association’s founding in 1976, we’ve seen the power of positive change that can happen when people come together for a shared vision. Our vision is a healthy James supporting thriving communities. Communities can’t thrive in the backdrop of fear, violence, racism and bigotry. People of color in America have suffered these injustices for far too long, and too many of us have stayed silent when we most needed to act. All of this must stop, and all of us must act.
Mothers out Front Virginia
Protests have erupted around the country in response to racist incidents and killings of Black men and women. While incidents like these can make us feel helpless, it is the realization that our work that builds a more just, equitable, and livable world for all children which sustains us through these dark days. There is much to do and much to learn.
National Parks Conservation Association
We all are diminished if any of us feel excluded or unwelcome. NPCA stands with communities of color against these unspeakable acts of violence and pledges to continue to work with people of every color toward the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including safe outdoor spaces for all.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Throughout our history, we’ve been called on, as a nation, to rise to a challenge, seize opportunity, and respond to crisis. Not all of us have answered the call, but we’ve been made better by those who have. Today, we face that choice again. The best choice I see is standing up for justice, and it is clear that right now, justice is needed particularly to address the systemic and deadly harm that our society imposes on Black people in America.
The Nature Conservancy
Many will ask why a nature conservation organization is weighing in on this dialogue. Does it really impact our mission? My answer is: yes, it does. And yes, we must speak out. When injustice reigns— whether it is unequal access to nature, unfair and inequitable laws, or police brutality—we must all do our part to push for change.
New Virginia Majority
All of us need to be outraged. All of us need to be angry. But putting a Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media isn’t enough. Changing the name of a Richmond street to Arthur Ashe Boulevard is an honor, but it doesn’t actually provide any relief to people. If we actually want to see results…if we actually want to see a change in how Black and brown people are treated, then guess what? We have to actually do something.
We must resolve that as people who deeply believe in the value of human life and the dignity of all we will work together for the justice and equality that every person and every community deserves. Our commitment to the protection of nature is rooted in our commitment to our shared humanity. They are each essential, and will thrive only when both are honored and protected.
When people of color are not welcome or safe in public settings and outdoor spaces – we are failing. Only by committing to anti-racism work and dismantling systems of oppression can we move forward towards our goals of clean water and healthy lands accessible to all people.
Preservation Virginia is committed to listening and working together with other nonprofit and public partners and individuals to confront racism and the injustice so evident throughout Virginia’s and our nation’s history. This history is not solely a legacy of the past, and it is still present and responsible for the continued harm that is happening in Virginia today, particularly in African American communities and neighborhoods.
Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter is committed to working in solidarity with partners and leaders across our state to condemn police brutality and institutionalized racism that fuel perpetual violence towards communities of color. These same communities bear the brunt of our world’s pollution and are being disproportionately and severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Marcus David Peters and countless other black and brown individuals underscore the urgent need to strike down structures of oppression and injustice.
Southern Environmental Law Center
This is not just about these murders, as tragic as they are—this is about the systemic racism that permeates our country and it’s about all of us. It is the responsibility of each of us, especially white Americans, to acknowledge this racism, to examine our personal and work lives, to confront racism and inequality where it exists, and to seek justice. This is the least we can do to honor the legacies of Mr. Floyd, Ms. Taylor, and Mr. Arbery.
We recognize that this moment is tragic and poignant but this is not a singular occurrence. It is a result of a systemic racism that has been operating for hundreds of years. There is no quick fix, we recognize we have a lot to learn, and we are committed to these efforts for the long term.”
The Trust for Public Land
No one should face a threat of violence while jogging, birding, or visiting with friends. We need a new way forward. In order to do the real work of building a more just society, we must acknowledge the history of racial discrimination, injustice, and violence that has and continues to harm generations of People of Color in this country.
Virginia Interfaith Power and Light
The killing of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color is a moral issue, deeply tied to white supremacy, economic injustice, voter suppression, and even climate justice. Those who suffer first and worst are those living in communities that have historically been marginalized and excluded from policymaking and opportunities for growth.
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
We at Virginia LCV and the Virginia LCV Education Fund acknowledge our failings and commit to holding ourselves accountable to the hard work necessary to advance a more just and equitable environmental movement in Virginia. If we are to be good stewards and protectors of our earth, and advocates for its protection, then we have a responsibility to each other to fight for racial justice.
To stop racism, we must be anti-racist in not just our words but in our actions. We urge you to have a conversation with friends and loved ones about the realities of systemic racism; make a contribution to an organization working to fight it; and seek out more education about the legacy of race and policing in America. The staff of Waterkeepers Chesapeake are united with our impacted communities here and across the country, and are committed to ensuring these communities’ voices are heard.
Wildlands Network works to reconnect, restore and rewild North America so that life—in all its diversity—can thrive. Our mission and our work is grounded in the belief that we must rethink the legal and social systems that impede nature. But our vision is expansive and relies on systemic change within and throughout human communities to reach a more just, equitable and inclusive future. We stand in solidarity with those seeking to challenge, disrupt and remedy the status quo of oppression.