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Take the Resiliency Challenge to Move Your Community toward an Equitable, Healthy, and Economically Strong Future

Home » Publications and Media » Resilient Virginia News » Take the Resiliency Challenge to Move Your Community toward an Equitable, Healthy, and Economically Strong Future

Take the Resiliency Challenge to Move Your Community toward an Equitable, Healthy, and Economically Strong Future

Home » Publications and Media » Resilient Virginia News » Take the Resiliency Challenge to Move Your Community toward an Equitable, Healthy, and Economically Strong Future
by Ellen Szymanski

We are delighted to hold our Day 2 Plenary Session on “Equity as a Guiding Force in Resiliency”, with our distinguished speakers:

Matthew Tejada, Director, Office of Environmental Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Curtis Brown, State Coordinator, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM)

Kendyl Crawford, Co-Director, Interfaith Power and Light

Moderator: Renee Hoyos, Director of Environmental Justice, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

Given the climate emergency we are facing, there is a need for bold action to build resilience in marginalized communities across our country.  These communities are the most vulnerable to effects of climate change.   Local, state, and federal governments are taking sweeping steps to address environmental inequities and strengthen these communities.

In his first week in office, President Biden enacted numerous executive orders to address the climate emergency facing our country.  Fundamental to these actions was a promise to address environmental justice in the Justice40 initiative.  The initiative is a whole of government approach with a goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and track performance toward that goal.  In late July, the federal government issued interim guidance on Justice40.  Among federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency has a critical role to play. 

At the state level, Virginia is taking an active approach to addressing environmental justice (EJ).  In 2020, Virginia passed the Environmental Justice Act which created an Interagency EJ Working Group to evaluate state agencies and make recommendations to improve engagement with marginalized communities.  The working group’s report calls out the need for a full environmental justice baseline assessment of the state and recommended hiring 34 more full-time EJ employees across state agencies.  Some of the key agencies in this effort include the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. 

Virginia DEQ is addressing environmental justice in several ways.  In 2019, DEQ conducted a study to address equity in its strategic planning and program implementation.  In April of 2021, they announced the opening of a new Environmental Justice Office.  VDEM is also working on concrete improvements in environmental justice.  It is building capacity among emergency management offices, diversifying the emergency managers, and trying to “connect the dots” to make sure we are getting the resources to communities that need it the most. In December 2020 VDEM received the Governor’s Honor Award for the agency’s commitment to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in response to the COVID emergency. In July, 2021, Curtis Brown, State Coordinator, VDEM, testified in Congress highlighting what is needed to promote equity across emergency services:

…long term sustainability commitment, resources, and a willingness to support innovation to solve complex and deeply rooted inequities in programs and policies.

Working at the Grassroots Level

At the grassroots level, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light is one of the organizations leading the charge on state-level environmental justice by collaborating with people of faith to grow healthy communities and advance climate justice through education, advocacy, and worship. They recently hosted a community town hall with faith leaders and community organizers in order to discuss the environmental justice aspects of President Biden’s call to Build Back Better: Climate, Justice, Jobs, and Care priority agenda. Read more about their event here.

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The Resilience Calendar

  • Integrating Nature-Based Solutions for Effective Hazard Mitigation Planning Workshop
    Date: May 23, 2024
    Location:

    This workshop will empower you with an understanding of the vital importance of hazard mitigation planning and equip you with the knowledge to engage in the planning process and effectively advocate for nature-based solutions.

  • Resiliency Academy
    Date: May 28, 2024
    Location:

    Tools for Climate and Hazard Mitigation Planning

    Learn more and register here

  • FEMA Region 3 Coffee Break Webinars
    Date: May 29, 2024
    Location:

    May meeting: Ensuring Equitable Outcomes Through Hazard Mitigation Planning

    Learn more and register here

  • REGENERATION SERIES: Buildings
    Date: May 29, 2024
    Location:

    Leaders in Energy's Regeneration series is based on the book “Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation” by Paul Hawken & its corresponding website.  Both show how individuals, groups, and organizations can make…

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