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A clear-eyed view of history shows us that every system in this country — police, military, criminal justice, agriculture/food, healthcare, education, disaster aid, housing — was designed to oppress Black, brown, and Indigenous people. And because of that, these communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change effects, pollution, and fossil fuels, by food insecurity and disease. That's why a story about the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor (and this week David McAtee) in Louisville, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia — and the protests demanding justice that have been taking place around the country — are related to, entangled with, and inextricable from the topics we report on in Southerly. 

It is journalists' duty to report the full context of all of these murders, and of the many other injustices that still persist and lead to them. It is our responsibility to show how they're intertwined, to reach people who may not want to engage in difficult conversations. There is no tackling the economy, or climate change, or pollution, without first tackling the inequitable and racist systems that have allowed these problems to perpetuate. Since Southerly was founded in 2018, we've been covering environmental injustices in communities across the South, and how those communities are responding and demanding action be taken to protect them — and below I've compiled some of our best work so far on that.

White people, and white-run and owned publications and organizations, have many actionable and immediate steps we can take. At Southerly, we are working to ensure that as we grow, we hire more people of color to write stories and take photos, and also to help build and lead Southerly. We will continue collaborating with organizations and publications who know the places they live best.

I thought I'd share just a few of the things I'm reading and learning from this week. If you have any other important reads, please send them my way.

1. "Over the past half-decade, a wave of bills that criminalize civil disobedience has swept state legislatures across the country — particularly those controlled by Republican lawmakers." Naveena Sadasivam at Grist looks at the legislation that has passed or been proposed in states to quell protests. Also in Grist, an essay by Yvette Cabrera on the role of protests: "If you’re asking why people are so angry, look no further than the vulnerable communities that for decades have borne the brunt of environmental contamination & pollution." 

There's a lot of misinformation out there about who is getting violent at these protests and who is responsible for what. Here's a running list of press freedom abuses this week, which is being updated by journalists. As of this morning, journalist Olivia Paschal counted and found "1 incident was at the hands of white supremacists, 22 were at the hands of protestors, and more than 200 — the vast majority — were at the hands of law enforcement officers."

2. Imani Perry and several others went on 1A to discuss the legacy of protests in America. Perry also has a beautiful piece in The Paris Review on connecting to food and land, and how that relates to this moment: "In the Black Belt of the South of the sixties, where land still stretches as far as you can see, the place where croppers who were kicked off their land for trying to vote, and where young freedom movement organizers were beaten and jailed, folks ate together in the evening. Sheltered from the harrowing night dangers outside, they ate from somebody’s little patch of something. Simply feted and protected by hands accustomed to subsistence labors, they were cared for. I’m remembering all that, looking at my little tray of microgreens, sleepless with fear about the devastation just around the corner, yet hopeful too because the dam holding back rage has broken."

3. For journalists: Press On South, which aims to help journalists and storytellers produce reporting that’s driven by communities that are building power to create transformative social change, has a helpful guide for ethical reporting on police violence. They're also hosting a virtual training on June 24 to learn about and discuss "ethics of factual, rigorous journalism that is also values-based and accountable to community."

4. Emily Atkin of HEATED wrote this week about the climate and environmental movement's failure to include Black communities and advocate for racial justice. 

5. The protests have had another major impact: Confederate monuments coming down all over the place, including in Birmingham and Montgomery. Today, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. "Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said, "it is filled with diversity and love for all – and we need to demonstrate that.”
—Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder, Editor, Publisher

How Louisiana's oil and gas industry uses prison labor 

Incarcerated people are often dispatched to help clean up disaster sites or assigned to work in the industries that fuel climate change. Read our story.

Environmental justice is shaping a new civil rights movement in the South

By focusing on local communities, public health, and economic development, activists start to move the needle on climate change in the South. Read the story.

News flying under the radar 

People are starting to go on summer vacation to the beach. Our latest story looks at how Florida Panhandle towns still reeling from Hurricane Michael in 2018 are weighing how to safely reopen and get some business while reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

Dominion Energy rescinded a request to utilize a North Carolina Department of Transportation right of way along the American Tobacco Trail in Durham for a natural gas pipeline. Lisa Sorg at NC Policy Watch has been diligently reporting on this, and found that "no one from the utility nor NCDOT had notified Durham officials of the plan, even though the pipeline would have been routed through a southern portion of the county. Additional documents obtained from the Town of Cary under the Public Records Act show Durham had been excluded from meetings with the utility and other government officials even two years ago."

Louisiana is temporarily easing rules on oil leases during the pandemic, giving companies a break on payments, production requirements, and some penalties until mid-July.

Houston will reportedly start a new five-year contract in July with NRG Energy to power all of its city-owned properties with renewable energy.

North Carolina released its 2020 Resilience Plan, which "puts in place next steps for implementing and updating resilience initiatives" and establishes a North Carolina Resilience Strategy, including a climate science report, state agency involvement, statewide vulnerability assessment, and enhanced hazard mitigation plan.

More on COVID-19 outbreaks at poultry plants: From Enlace Latino and North Carolina Health News, where Victoria Bouloubasis reported on workers' concerns at a Mountaire Farms plant in Siler City. Tennessee Lookout has a story on cases rising among migrant workers at farms in East Tennessee.

Eight young people in Florida had their lawsuit against the state over climate change dismissed by a circuit judge, and they plan to appeal. 

Climate change is threatening historic African American sites in the South 

Nonprofits and volunteers are working to preserve African American cultural and historic sites vulnerable to flooding and other environmental threats. Read the story.

The promise of the Yazoo Pumps

Devastating flooding has revived talk of a controversial infrastructure project in the Mississippi Delta, but it might not help the communities that need it most. Read the story.

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The disaster recovery groups helping rural North Carolina weather COVID-19

Robeson County is still picking up the pieces from two hurricanes. Now the local government and nonprofits are preparing for potential storms during the pandemic. Read the story.

How the government fails low-income renters after natural disasters

Renters in Texas are suing state and federal agencies, alleging their policies have had a “disparate impact on minority households. Read the story.

Mold, foundation cracks, sinking houses: How a Florida Habitat for Humanity neighborhood fell apart

Experts, lawyers, and residents argue that affordable housing communities should be built with environmental justice and climate change in mind. Read the story.

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