Poor communities shoulder the worst burdens of unaffordable water service, environmental destruction and climate change, and a new movement is doing something about it.
The Poor People's Campaign (PPC), originally cofounded by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 and recently relaunched, is a movement that aims to shift a national narrative. It lifts up the demands of poor people across the country to address systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy.
Uniting people around the shared values of dignity, justice and equality is essential to our work at Food & Water Watch, and we are proud to stand alongside the Poor People's Campaign in this fight.
That's why when we got a call about helping people in the impoverished county of Martin County, Kentucky, earlier this year, we got busy working to stop an unfair rate hike for water that isn’t safe to drink. In Martin County, 27 percent of households live on less than $15,000 a year. Recently, we joined together with the Martin County Concerned Citizens and the Appalachian Citizens Law Center to call for an investigation of this crisis, and the Kentucky Attorney General answered our call and launched an investigation.
We continue to stand with Martin County residents, and people in lower-income communities across the country who suffer disproportionately from unsafe and unaffordable water service.
We have joined thousands of protesters who have been gathering on the doorsteps of state capitals across the county for the Poor People Campaign’s 40 days of action.
The Big Ask
We’re calling for a newly reframed moral agenda founded on fundamental human rights.
This year, in the wake of climate catastrophes such as Hurricane Irma and the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, the PPC’s call to stop destructive fossil fuel extraction and to justly transition to 100% renewable energy has global urgency.
Protesters gathered in state capitals across the country to focus for the “Rally for Healthcare and Ecological Preservation.”
The rally honed in on the ways environmental issues impact poor communities.
Although climate change's effects have permeated the whole of society, they particularly impact poor people.
Environmental racism, the phenomenon in which communities of color are disproportionately impacted by exposure to pollutants and limited access to natural resources, is pervasive in our country.
Combined with the minimal or inadequate healthcare, poor people and people of color have heightened risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases and other health problems.
13.8 million U.S. households cannot afford their water bill (a sad truth felt by all too many Baltimoreans in particular who have seen water bills skyrocket in the past few years alone).
These stats are unacceptable.
The PPC campaign demands are founded on recognizing that access to clean water and a healthy environment are fundamental human rights.
The PPC outlined four main environmental justice demands:
- A shift to 100 perfect clean, renewable energy to create jobs and lessen fossil fuel emissions;
- Public water and sanitation infrastructure that prioritizes the needs of vulnerable populations and communities of color;
- Total bans on fracking, offshore drilling, mountaintop coal mining, and coal ash ponds;
- And the protection of public lands that cannot be used for pollutive industries.
Food & Water Watch endorsed the PPC because fighting for environmental justice is a key part of fighting climate change in the 21st century.
We believe in working towards a safer world for everyone, including low income communities and communities of color.
The demands of PPC hold true to our demands – it’s time for environmental justice, to fight climate change for all, and to guarantee a better future for all people.
To build a world where everyone has access to clean water, healthy food and a safe climate future, we must do more to address the extreme inequalities and injustices harming our people and democracy.
Samantha Nelson is a summer communications intern at Food & Water Watch.