Why We Went to The Peoples Climate March

 

On April 29th, 2017 while 200,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March, there were also 500 sister marches around the world. As soon as the march began, a very strong and apparent message was sent. In the forefront of the march were young people, accompanied by a banner held by African American youth from Newport News, Virginia. The next contingent was made up of indigenous people from across the country, then came the environmental justice communities, very evident in their blue t-shirts and banners, demanding healthy communities and environmental justice. There were also EJ representatives from WEACT and the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum, Black Lives Matter, historically black colleges and universities, and representatives from environmental justice communities from Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia as a southeast environmental justice coalition. Several groups from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi have already been involved in regional programs and activities.

As a follow-up to the People’s Climate March, these southern environmental justice organizations are committed to moving from mobilizing to organizing. They will be working together on several tactics an on an overall strategy in the coming months. Stay tuned for additional information.

 

Reflections from those in attendance:

“The People’s Climate March gave me hope for the future. The tens of thousands of people that were in attendance were overwhelming in the best way, and reiterated that the work we do is not in vain. It is moments like those that keep us all going.”
-Chynnah Tomlin, Made in Chynnah Creatives, Florence, SC

 

“I felt a lot of togetherness. We need to unite in the follow up work, and not let our efforts fall off by the wayside. We need groups to work together to keep things going forward in the future.”
Loretta Slater, The Whitney M. Slater Foundation, Florence, SC

 

“I was overwhelmed with amazement at the variety of people that came together for the cause. If we can get that many people to join together for the greater good of our country on ONE particular day just imagine what we the people could accomplish as a whole! Phenomenal experience–no question!
Brittany Newton, Student, Florence, SC

 

“The March was rejuvenating for my soul. I love the fact that with all the racial tension we came together as one. We want to save our planet so that future generations, our kids, can live on a safe planet.”
Jalen Washington, Entrepreneur, Florence, SC.

An Energy Efficient Future

In 1999, members from my congregation and the greater community gathered to discuss the overwhelming need for safe and energy-efficient houses in Marion County, SC. We developed the Eastern Carolina Community Development Corporation, now the New Alpha Community Development Corporation, and with support from the South Carolina Housing Trust Fund, we were able to improve 84 homes for low-income and fixed-income families. Funding, however, was a constant challenge. After repairing roofs, replacing plumbing and floors, there was never enough money to put in new water heaters or other energy-efficient systems.

When the 2008 recession hit, our resources — and our impact — were further reduced.

With the EPA’s newly proposed Clean Power Plan, however, this could dramatically change. Each state is required to submit an energy proposal, explaining how it will cut carbon to meet national standards. As South Carolina develops its own 2030 energy plan, it is imperative that it includes energy-efficiency programs to support just and equitable access to safe, comfortable living conditions. The South Carolina Energy Stakeholders Group is a coalition of utilities, conservation groups and government agencies. As a member, I can say that one of our primary goals is to make sure communities, especially low-income communities, are involved in the development of South Carolina’s energy plan. The effects of climate change often hit people of color and low-income communities hardest, and this is an opportunity for these communities to engage in and benefit from climate action. To ensure a clean energy future, all stakeholders need to be part of and benefit from the process.

The New Alpha Community Development Corporation has recently developed new partnerships with Duke Electric Cooperative and the American Council on Energy Efficiency Economies (ACEEE). With more funding and partnerships, we can expand our outreach to repair more homes, improve their energy efficiency, and explore opportunities with solar power generation.

Jay Kirby with Help My House and Terese Patterson’s home that underwent Energy Efficiency Upgrades, South Carolina.

One of these programs is Help My House, an on-bill financing program designed to improve members’ comfort and efficiency in their homes. Paying for the upfront costs of home repair and energy-efficiency retrofits can be challenging. With on-bill financing, however, a utility covers these initial costs, and the homeowner pays back a low-interest loan that’s added to their monthly energy bills. The goal is net neutrality, meaning that the energy saved from the efficiency improvements would cover the monthly loan payment.

This type of program results in lower energy bills, a more comfortable home environment, and a decrease in the amount of energy generated to meet regional demand. Another benefit is that the loan stays with the house instead of the homeowner. A lot of the people who would benefit the most from this type of program are paying the highest electric bills, sometimes as much as $2000.

Participating in Help My House or one like it means that people don’t have to decide between buying medicine and paying bills.

I have seen South Carolina undergo great changes in my lifetime, and as I look to the future, I envision vibrant communities, boosted by job opportunities in wind, solar and geothermal. I envision healthy communities, free from pollution caused by the fossil fuel industries. But most importantly, I envision equitable communities.


To learn more about on-bill financing programs, visit:

http://aceee.org/sector/state-policy/toolkit/on-bill-financing

For examples of on-bill financing programs in other states, visit: