We need racial equity and access to clean water for all now.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and continuing protests across the country and globe require each of us to re-examine our basic principles and to envision anew the diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just society we must seek together. This is no less true of FLOW than of other organizations with a public-interest mission.
At its heart, the environmental movement is about ensuring that future generations are not shortchanged of their right to a sustainable society. We cannot achieve this mission without addressing the many ways in which people of color — our fellow neighbors, friends, family and community members — are deprived today of economic and social opportunity and of their very lives.
The eyes of the world are on nightly demonstrations in American cities. The lack of racial equity is once again laid bare for all to see. George Floyd is one of countless African-Americans and other people of color sacrificed by a system and society that devalues their lives and humanity.
Our social institutions — from police departments to drinking water utilities — need to deconstruct and rebuild their practices now. And all of us need to open our hearts to each other. That’s what we hear in the growing protests.
Our Great Lakes region includes many communities of color that bear a disproportional burden of environmental contamination, lack meaningful opportunities to participate in government decision-making, and cope without access to clean water, air, and basic living conditions. The growing threat of climate change poses a disproportional risk to many of these communities as well.
A key priority of FLOW’s current work is partnerships with affected communities of color and low-income populations whose health is put at risk by punitive policies that deny access to the most fundamental public service of all — safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. These water-shutoff policies are particularly deplorable at a time when a global pandemic makes water for basic sanitation critical to health — indeed, to survival.
FLOW and our allies and partners in front-line communities are working hard right now to develop policy solutions and funding sources that ensure affordable drinking water for all and the revenues that water departments need to keep the water flowing.
And we are committed to helping bring about the broader social change that leads to true social and environmental justice.
This is only a beginning. All of us must hold a mirror to ourselves to see the responsibility we bear to recognize and help end systemic and structural racial inequity. FLOW will strengthen and undertake additional initiatives to do so within our stated mission of assuring that the public trust right to access water is secured for all.
Please join us in committing to the work ahead to dismantle the societal assumptions, institutions, laws, and practices that deny our fellow citizens their fundamental rights to the lives and livelihoods that are consistent with human dignity.
The FLOW Team