Virginia Organizing community activism

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

I want to share a role model for impactful change.


For 27 years, Virginia Organizing has quietly – and not-so-quietly – pushed for equity and social justice in and around Virginia.

And for 20 of those years, Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of EHN.org and DailyClimate.org, has been part of the VO family. VO serves as our fiscal sponsor, handling our accounting and finances.

But VO does so much more, pushing us to report on environmental justice and fight climate and environmental inequities as we work to inform the world about the science of our planet and health.

Today, Friday, is our last day in that VO home. EHS has grown up: Tomorrow we take our first steps as our own independent nonprofit.

The Virginia Organizing model for change

VO made those steps possible.

In an era of Twitter campaigns and online petitions, VO has focused on grass-roots activism, showing up at city council meetings, building presence in the community and listening to community needs.

Every year the organization holds a "power analysis" – looking at who holds power over issues their constituents care about, and then figuring out how to leverage their networks to shift the power balance toward justice.

It's a remarkably effective approach.

  • VO reformed criminal justice in many localities and the state of Virginia with successful “ban the box” campaigns.
    • Removed the stigma of an arrest record or conviction that disproportionately affects minority communities.
  • It built coalitions that:
    • Brought tax relief to 150,000-plus low-wage earners,
    • Expanded Medicaid,
    • Shut down the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Worth copying: VO's beliefs

There's one other area where Virginia Organizing serves as a role model: Their statement of beliefs.

The 12 point list keeps the organization focused laser-like on its target of social equity, racial justice, and accountability from those in power. They all resonate with me, especially this one:

We believe that community, economic, social, and environmental policy should be developed with the greatest input from the people it is meant to serve, and that the policies should promote, celebrate and sustain the human and natural resources of Virginia.

I admire them all – and when EHS set out to craft its own statement of beliefs, we stood on VO's shoulders.

A legacy of advocacy and justice

So while VO ostensibly did our accounting, in reality their values, over 20 years, have permeated every aspect of EHS, from how we treat employees to the accountability we demand of people in power.

We're leaving VO today, but we're bringing VO's fierce, clear-eyed focus on justice, equity and a healthier world with us.

Photo montage courtesy Virginia Organizing, via Youtube.

LNG gulf coast
Leo Dyson, a retired commercial fisherman. (Credit: Courtney O'Banion for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade)

LNG production comes with a price, Gulf Coast communities warn

US takes the global lead on liquid natural gas production and export, as economic promises and environmental worries collide.

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 2 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Plastics industry's recycling deception
Credit: MPCA Photos/Flickr

Plastics industry's recycling deception exposed

A new report uncovers decades of misleading claims by plastic producers about the viability of recycling, revealing it as a flawed solution for waste management.

Dharna Noor reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
highway expansion climate concerns
Credit: Storm Crypt/Flickr

Rethinking highway expansion in the face of climate concerns

As the U.S. grapples with climate change, activists are challenging the traditional expansion of highways, highlighting the environmental and community impacts.

Shannon Osaka reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less

Youth activists demand climate action at Biden's campaign headquarters

Young climate activists from the Sunrise Movement confront Biden's campaign team, demanding decisive climate action and a ceasefire in Gaza.

Keerti Gopal for Inside Climate News.

Keep reading...Show less
Plastics industry misinformation campaign
Credit: Louis Vest/Flickr

Plastics and education: a critical conversation unfolds in schools

Petrochemical conglomerates take to the classroom in a concerted effort to focus responsibility for plastic waste on the consumer while absolving industry.

Evan Halper reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less

Rally for safer work conditions in Queensland

In Brisbane, thousands of construction workers demand improved safety measures following a colleague's tragic death.

Michael Rennie and Antonia O'Flaherty report for ABC News.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
petrochemical shell pennsylvania plastic

Tracking petrochemical accidents across the US

A new database monitors fires, flares, spills and other accidents at petrochemical plants.

petrochemical houston gulf coast

Lives “devastated’ by petrochemical industry pollution in Texas: Report

New analysis illustrates the climate, environmental, and human rights tolls linked to petrochemical production surrounding the Houston Ship Channel region.

LNG gulf coast

La producción de gas natural licuado tiene un precio, advierten las comunidades la Costa del Golfo

Entre promesas económicas y preocupaciones ambientales, Estados Unidos lidera la producción y exportación de gas natural licuado.

Ante la expansión del GNL en la costa del Golfo, la comunidad espera erigirse como un muro de contención

Ante la expansión del GNL en la costa del Golfo, la comunidad espera erigirse como un muro de contención

“La gente no sabe qué haríamos sin el petróleo y el gas. Esto nos sale muy caro”.

extreme heat

Op-ed: We are undercounting heat-related deaths in the US

Knowing how many people die or get sick from heat-related causes is essential for the policy arguments to equitably adapt to and mitigate climate change.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Idalmis Vaquero on turning community priorities into policies

“I wanted to find a way to connect the things I was learning in my classroom with the things I was seeing in my community.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.