Activists pressure Bezos to channel more money to the communities most affected by climate change.
Jeff Bezos’ $10billion Earth Fund has just given millions more funding to organizations fighting climate change. Much of this money goes to groups advocating for communities of colour or low-income neigh bourhoods that often suffer the worst effects of climate change.
The fund announced a total of $203.7 million in new grants today. More than $53 million will be used to fund communications and initiatives to reduce emissions from businesses. An additional $20 million will be given to groups that work on climate justice, a movement to prevent climate change from taking a disproportionate toll on communities already marginalized.
A MOVEMENT TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE FROM TAKEN A DISPROPORTIONATETOLL ON ALREADY MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES
The Earth Fund will work with the Biden administration to distribute $130 million of funding by the end of the year. That’ll go to organizations supporting a Biden administration initiative called Justice40 that the White House announced in January. This plan ensures that the “overall benefits” of federal investments in climate solutions and infrastructure go to disadvantaged communities at 40%.
The announcement comes after Bezos faced flak from activists for not earmarking enough funding for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The fund allocated $791 million to environmental organizations in its first round of giving last year. Most of this went to large green groups like the World Wildlife Fund or Environmental Defense Fund with larger pockets than less-financially-focused organizations that focus on climate justice.
Dwain Tyndal is the executive director of Alternatives for Community and Environment, a Boston-based non-profit. “We do so much of the work relative to the resources we have. Many of our groups are Black, Brown, Indigenous groups. Unfortunately, the money has not trickled down.
“MANY OF OUR GROUPS ARE BROWN AND BLACK, INDIGENOUS GROUPS, AND SOMEHOW MONEY HASN’T TRICKLED DOWN.”
Although activists claim today’s announcement is a significant step forward in climate justice, it falls far short of what they want to see when it involves investments in the most vulnerable populations.
Maria Lopez-Nunez is a deputy director for organizing and advocacy at Ironbound Community Corporation, Newark, New Jersey.
She would like to see at most 40% of Bezos’ Earth Fund investments and Biden’s Justice40 initiative go into communities hardest hit by climate change and pollution. Currently, around 30 per cent of all Earth Fund grants (including the pledge to donate an additional $130million later in the year) go toward environmental justice initiatives.
One of the Earth Fund grantees today is the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. It advocates for Gulf Coast communities such as Louisiana’s “cancer alley”. Because of the way its residents have dealt with cancer, Cancer Alley was given the title. More than 150 chemical plants and refineries can pose dangers in the region. after the area was hard hit by Hurricane IdaLast week, RISE St. James and other local organizations were scrambling to document the storm unleashed chemical and oil releases, as well as oil spillages. The aftermath of Ida shows why similar grassroots groups require funding, activists sayThe Verge.
“WE WANT THE REAL DEAL.”
Bezos’s new funding round is just one part of a larger national debate about making sure that Justice40 serves the most vulnerable. Activists and policymakers are still working to define what constitutes a disadvantaged community. Once they have that figured out, they will need to determine what it means for these communities to receive 40% of the “overall benefits” from federal investments. Although the language does not necessarily mean they will receive 40 per cent of actual funding, community organizers such as Lopez-Nunez don’t know what they would be getting.
“We don’t want to be a part of byproducts.” Lopez-Nunez says that they want the “real deal”. Lopez-Nunez believes direct investment in vulnerable communities is the real deal and not the vague “overall benefits” of funding streams that communities don’t control.
Even though Bezos has stepped down from his role as Amazon’s CEO, his climate legacy is still marred by the retail giant’s pollution, say activists like Lopez-Nunez. The company has been the target of the campaign after campaign by residents living with pollution from Amazon’s warehouses.
Lopez-Nunez explains that the Earth Fund is complex because Bezos made his money on exploiting workers and the environment. “[The money] comes out of our communities. It’s been taken from our communities at the expense of our health.