We are being called to renew and intensify our work to combat environmental and social injustice. 

The protests and unrest in recent days have made clear to us at Sound Rivers that we must reflect more deeply on our work and our communities.

Our hearts are heavy for the suffering that black and brown people continue to endure in this country. The horrific deaths that have set the country to protest cannot be undone. To heal, we must all confront the systemic racism that has blighted our country for far too long. Together, we must work for change, work for justice and create an equitable society that truly allows everyone to participate freely and fully.

At Sound Rivers, our work is rooted in the firm belief that access to clean water is a basic human right, the natural world should be accessible for all, and people should have a voice in decisions that affect their environment and health. No group of people should disproportionately bear the burden of pollution; unfortunately, for people of color in our country, and specifically our region, this is still the unjust reality.

An even more painful unjust reality is the undue burden a biased society places on our communities of color. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor focus our attention on the extreme social injustice that is precipitating demonstrations occurring across the country. We are being called to renew and intensify our work to combat environmental and social injustice.

As Bob Irvine from American Rivers stated so well, “we cannot fight for the environment without also fighting for justice.”

Our staff, as white individuals, must listen to members of communities of color. We must continue to grapple with our own explicit and implicit biases. We must define concrete and specific actions that are guided and informed by people of color. We must, with renewed energy and focus, continue the hard work of remediating social and environmental injustice.

The Sound Rivers family recognizes that there is much, much, more work to be done. Injustice remains when so many do not have equal access to clean water and are negatively impacted every day by pollution. We recognize the undeniable obstacle that social, racial, economic, and environmental injustice presents to our vision for a clean water future for all – for any equitable future.

Real change is needed to bring communities together. We believe compassion will show us the way forward. We know we must continue to listen, learn more, and work harder to understand the depth of systemic racism, not only in relation to environmental justice, but in all aspects of life. We must not only say we work for all – we must specifically use our platforms to work towards equity for people of color. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better.” Our organization will endeavor to know better, and do better.

I welcome anyone who would like to have a personal conversation to email me at heather@soundrivers.org.

 – Heather Deck, Executive Director   Joseth Bocook, President, Board of Directors