Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day, a day to pause and honor the pastor and fierce organizer who did so much to uplift the struggles of Black Americans and those in poverty, and who achieved genuine progress toward racial equality.
Many will quote Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
There are so many stirring lines in that address Dr. King gave in August 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., but perhaps the unifying theme was this one: “So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Nearly 45 years after Dr. King was assassinated, we have made some tangible progress toward this goal, but so much work remains. Economic injustice, discrimination, institutionalized violence, and exploitation of the environment still disproportionately affect Black Americans, as well as other people of color and citizens of Tribal Nations.
Here at Washington Conservation Action, we believe that social and environmental justice is integral to our mission. We have centered racial equity at Washington Conservation Action, and in how we fight for clean air, water, and energy for all–aiming for a world in which all men truly are seen as created equal.
Like Dr. King, we also have dreams.
We dream of a Washington state in which communities of color, which have too long suffered from industrial and agricultural pollution, have access to more green spaces and to cleaner air and water. We have a dream that these overburdened communities have those burdens lifted, resulting in a healthier landscape for everyone.
In the next two years, it’s estimated that the legislature will disburse approximately $600 million through the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). In this legislative session, we are working to make sure that these funds are equitable distributed, emphasizing environmental justice as the CCA supports climate action and resource resilience.
We dream of a Washington state where Tribal Treaty Rights are honored and upheld. If the members of Tribal Nations truly are able to hunt, fish and gather in their usual and accustomed places, this would mean cleaner streams shaded by trees. It would mean a free-flowing Lower Snake River, with the four lower dams removed. It would mean a Puget Sound that wasn’t polluted with sewage and stormwater runoff. It would mean forests managed for multiple benefits, not solely for timber harvest.
Through political organizing and policy work, we continue to work toward these goals. Our new Tribal Nations Program seeks to build genuine and long-term relationships with Washington’s Tribal Nations. Our partnership with Native Vote WA aims to remove barriers to voting for Native people. When all have access to the political process, better solutions emerge.
We dream of a Washington state that centers the health of people and wildlife and ecosystems. A Washington in which our tagline becomes realized, Protecting People and Nature as One. Washington Conservation Action’s policy and political teams work toward this goal by doing research, by holding legislators accountable, by organizing citizens to comment on bills and government rules, by identifying and supporting environmental candidates.
Our dreams are big, and while those of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr were bigger, we, like Dr. King, believe that “While the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends towards justice.”
In honor of Dr. King, in the hope that we can build a better world for now and for generations to come, let’s get to work realizing his dream and ours.