The Baltimore Peoples Climate Movement

A Brief History

In February 2017, a group of organizations, advocates, local artists, faith leaders, and Baltimore residents gathered to lay the foundation for what would become the "Baltimore Table" of the People's Climate Movement. We decided at our first meeting that the 2017 Peoples Climate March would be a catalyst for bringing together formerly disconnected organizations, issues, and campaigns into an intersectional climate justice movement for Baltimore -- not to launch any new campaigns per se, but to ignite and infuse energy into ongoing work that aligns with the People's Climate Movement platform. Our coalition quickly grew to include over 25 organizations including representatives from communities centered on: faith, labor, criminal justice, workers rights, fair development, environmental protection, public health, students, transit equity, economic justice, and more.

At our second meeting, our purpose emerged: “We are building the New Energy & Economic Future by undoing environmental racism.”

We grew our table and deepened our bonds over the 3 months leading up to the march with an emphasis on “relationship over task.” Yes we worked tirelessly together to mobilize over 600 Baltimoreans to the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC on April 29, 2017 -- no small feat. Yet, the journey to make that possible was perhaps more important for our movement than that one day of mobilization because we built a community. We demonstrated how we can depend on one another, and we had fun with it!

As a result of that journey, we’re still here after the march -- bound to one another for climate justice in Baltimore. In June 2017, less than two months later, we worked together with our community’s young people at the vanguard to secure a unanimous commitment from Baltimore City Council to an ambitious, comprehensive and necessary climate justice agenda for the city. Now, as we work to make sure our local leaders deliver on their promise for climate justice, we continue to show up for one another in solidarity as we collectively struggle for justice on every front.

Our Principles

Note: these principles are built on the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing, adopted by participants in the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice at their Working Group Meeting on Globalization and Trade in 1996. Below is each of the 6 Jemez Principles, and thoughts about how our structures can reflect them. Please add your thoughts!

We are a decentralized, leader-full group of organizations, activists, and residents working to build the New Energy & Economic Future by undoing environmental racism in Baltimore. Our table of partners meets regularly to support one another in our collective struggle by directing energies toward ongoing work. In this work together, we will:

Preamble 

This is a working document that will evolve along with our collaborations. It is a collective document that invites your input.

Climate change affects Baltimore’s air, water, and land, worsening existing environmental, economic, and social injustices that affect the health of all our residents but are most drastically felt by communities of color. Because of the history of redlining, white flight, deindustrialization, and systemic disinvestment, these environmental injustices affect Black communities disproportionately and exacerbate the multitude of injustices that Baltimore’s Black communities face. Climate change exacerbates existing inequities in Baltimore, including energy systems, health, and infrastructure.

Climate change and the reliance on fossil fuels that are warming the planet make it harder for Baltimoreans to afford energy.  Subsidies for dirty energy mask the true costs of fossil fuels to ratepayers and allow big energy companies to externalize risk on frontline communities.  At the same time, energy unaffordability forces tens of thousands of Baltimoreans to make impossible choices between paying for food, medicines, rent, or energy bills. A fossil-fuel-driven food system contributes to the phenomenon of food deserts across Baltimore, placing foods that are healthful, local, or low-emission out of reach for many Baltimoreans.

Climate change increases key drivers of inequitable health outcomes in Baltimore. The energy sources that cause climate change also create the local air pollution that sickens Baltimoreans with air-pollution-related ailments and makes asthma the leading cause of school absenteeism among Baltimore’s students. Temperature increases may further stress the health of vulnerable peoples through factors including extended allergy seasons, surges in heat stress, heart disease, asthma and other lung diseases, and the spread of vector borne illnesses like Lyme disease and the Zika virus.

Sea level rise and warmer temperatures increase the frequency and severity of storms in our region, increasing polluted stormwater runoff, exacerbating floods, degrading local water quality, and stressing our underground infrastructure. Increased moisture and flooding creates indoor mold, contributing to vacancy, bad indoor air quality, and adverse health outcomes. More rain will allow raw sewage to escape our sewage and stormwater pipes into our streets, streams, and basements during storms, damaging local waterways and harming people’s health and homes.

These impacts are ongoing, interconnected, unequally distributed, and will worsen in the future. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (roughly 3 degrees Fahrenheit) will not resolve these problems, but would prevent the worst possible impacts of the climate crisis. Emissions reductions must benefit the most impacted communities. Overall emissions reductions that continue to sacrifice frontline communities are not acceptable.

Our Platform

We are building the New Energy & Economic Future by undoing environmental racism.  We will act to:

Reduce greenhouse gases and pollution from sources in Baltimore to slow climate change and improve public health in the most impacted communities while ensuring that clean energy is accessible to everyone, local, and democratic.

Build a just transition that gives power and opportunity to post-industrial Baltimore communities left behind during the last economic shift from manufacturing to service sector jobs and failed development, with pathways to good jobs and economic power for Baltimore's disenfranchised, including but not limited to: Black people, Latinx people, Indigenous peoples, low-income people, returning citizens, women, laborers, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBTQIA.

Demand that every job pays a livable minimum hourly wage of at least $15. Jobs must protect workers, provide a high standard of living, eliminate working poverty, and provide a right to organize independently.

Create thousands of jobs in the public and private sector by making bold investments in Zero Waste systems that eliminate incineration and avoid landfilling.

Protect the human right to safe, healthy, affordable housing. Establish community-controlled development processes like land trusts and eliminate the use of tax lien sale. Renovate existing and construct new homes and businesses to be energy efficient and resilient to the more extreme weather that climate change will bring.

Invest in Baltimore’s infrastructure to ensure that every Baltimorean has clean, safe, affordable drinking water and natural waterways, sewer systems that eliminate contaminated overflows into streams and homes, stormwater systems that reduce flooding and erosion, and access to green spaces.

Transition to a modern, efficient electric grid that maximizes renewable energy resources to lower costs and increase reliability and resiliency.

Design and build streets that are optimal for all road users regardless of age, ability, income, race, ethnicity, or chosen mode of travel. Transit systems, including Baltimore’s bus system, light rail, bicycle infrastructure, and the revived Red Line, must provide sufficient transportation to the 33% of Baltimoreans without access to a car and incentivize use of public transportation for those with cars.

Support former offenders and returning citizens in securing gainful employment, particularly in public and private clean energy jobs. Ensure environmental justice and public health/safety within prisons, bail reform, prisoner/inmate rehabilitation, and an end to police brutality and corruption.

Demand that all Baltimoreans have access to fully funded community schools that improve educational outcomes for youth. Ensure that families and school communities are healthy and successful while deliberately excluding interactions with the criminal justice system.

We serve to draw connections between seemingly disparate issues in Baltimore and climate justice in the spirit of equity solidarity.[2] Policies and actions taken to address climate change in Baltimore must also address other justice issues.  

By making these values a reality in Baltimore, we will build the New Energy & Economic Future.

Members

We commit ourselves to working together to embody the above-stated principles. If you share these principles, we invite you to join us in fulfilling them.

Alexa White (Patterson Park Audubon Center)

Anna Scott

Baltimore BioDiesel Cooperative ( Ted Rouse )

Ben Marks (HeadCount Baltimore)

Center for Emerging Media (Marc Steiner & Valerie Williams)

Chesapeake Climate Action Network (Taylor Smith-Hams)

Clean Water Action (& Jennifer Kunze)

Communities United

Cortez Elliott ( Sierra Club)

Crystal Hall (Sierra Club)

Energy Justice Network

Iliana Sanza

Kevin Antoszewski

Marylanders for Energy Democracy and Affordability

Maryland Working Families (Rebecca Mark, MD organizer)

Navitas Solar USA (Neville Henry & Reynard Parks)

Sierra Club MD Chapter

Maryland Environmental Health Network


[1] For more about the nonprofit industrial complex, please see:

[2] The Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition defines equity solidarity as “the concrete collaboration among groups and individuals actively seeking to establish just, healthful, and democratic policies, programs, and conditions in pursuit of an equitable society.