To strengthen climate resilience in the South, where poor communities and those of color are forced to live on land most vulnerable to flooding, pollution, and other forms of dislocation, foundations need to step up their funding of grassroots efforts, a report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Grantmakers for Southern Progress finds.
The third in a series of reports about opportunities for philanthropy to improve the lives of underserved communities in the South, the report, As the South Grows: Weathering the Storm (42 pages, PDF), found that between 2010 and 2014 foundation funding for communities in eastern North Carolina and southern Louisiana neither helped meet the region's environmental challenges nor capitalized on opportunities to support grassroots organizations working to effect long-term structural change. Indeed, only 26 percent of the grant dollars allocated to eastern North Carolina and 43 percent in southern Louisiana benefited marginalized communities, while only 4 percent of foundation funding allocated to eastern North Carolina and 8 percent to southern Louisiana — nearly all of it in New Orleans and only 0.3 percent outside of Orleans Parish — supported systemic change strategies such as community organizing, advocacy, or policy change efforts.
The report, which profiles nine community leaders who are at the forefront of a growing movement for climate resilience, calls on national and Southern grantmakers to invest in climate resilience by supporting "leaders who seek to build that community cohesion necessary to overcome environmental threats."
"When foundations prioritize protecting communities from climate shocks, those communities will be empowered to lead on other environmental goals like protecting physical ecosystems and regulating harmful industries," the report's authors argue. "In the end, environmental self-determination is the most sustainable and effective path to climate resilience."
"As we contend with the very real and devastating impacts of climate change in the region, philanthropy must not only name equity and inclusion as a strategy, but commit to deep institutional learning and practices that center [on] people of color [and] low-wealth communities," said Lavastian Glenn, co-chair of GSP and program director at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. "In particular, funders of the environment and concerned with climate change must engage the people who have been pushed to these low-lying lands prone to flooding, or exposed to toxic dumping from coal-fired power plants because of institutional racism, as allies and as part of the power-building equation that saves us all in the end."