People of Color and Unpaid/Underpaid Labor

This Labor Day, Revive EcoVillage calls attention to the unpaid or underpaid labor contributed by people of color throughout American history. The progress of every sector of the American economy and culture has been greatly influenced by this labor: some willing, but often coerced or forced. 

First, please visit our Land Acknowledgement and internalize that none of the progress allowed by the following laborers would be possible without access to the land and resources which were stolen from Native Americans. The genocide (literal and cultural) of our First People is the proverbial block which our country has been built upon. Find whose land you are on and then learn more about how you can support them.


Learn

The following are a list of unpaid/underpaid laborers in the US whom we have historically benefited from and whose labor we continue to benefit from today. Each example includes links to learn more from people and organizations far more qualified to educate you on the respective topic (as well as some causes you can support). In no way is this list comprehensive of every demographic which deserves recognition for their labor, neither are the listed organizations the only ones deserving of our patronage… Please feel free to leave supplementary insight in the comments for us and for others to continue our learning.

People of color are disproportionately likely to be in more physically demanding jobs and service positions where they do not receive fair compensation (as compared to white counterparts in these positions). It is also worth mentioning the intersectionality of the wage gap: women of color are the most disproportionately affected, earning less than both their male counterparts and white counterparts. Latina women are the most impacted by the racial/gender wage gap, earning just 55 cents to each dollar that their white male counterparts earn.

Additionally, the income gap is not the only financial factor that continues to oppress people of color in the US: inequity is also perpetuated by wealth, which is accumulated/saved rather than earned income. As illustrated in the earlier examples, generations of BIPOC in our country have lost income: accumulating into lost wealth for their descendants who are alive today.  “The typical White family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic family.” Even with controls for types of worker, education level, etc., these discrepancies persist. “After controlling for age, gender, education, and region, black workers are paid 14.9% less than white workers.” If you’re a more visual learner, visit Vox’s piece: America’s yawning racial wealth gap, explained in 9 charts.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. Notes: Figures displays median (top panel) and mean (bottom panel) wealth by race and ethnicity, expressed in thousands of 2019 dollars.


Reflect

The collective labor of these peoples – both physical and emotional – allows for many of the comforts, services, and products that we now enjoy. We cannot separate these facts by enjoying these comforts, etc. without acknowledging how we got to where we are. Therefore, it is our duty as Americans to begin with a simple acknowledgement: gratefulness, understanding, and truth-telling in our histories. From there, we must dig deeper to ask ourselves where these inequities persist today. Whose modern labor do we continue to benefit from? How can we support them? In what ways can we give back? Perhaps most importantly, what progressive actions can we take today to swing the pendulum in their favor – to pay back these laborers and their descendents – physically and emotionally – for all they have given this country?

If I felt I had solid answers to these questions, I would profess them here. Alas, correcting inequities is never so simple. The work, therefore, must be constant and consistent. At Revive, we strive for this in every way: from representation to support services for the unhoused (who are also disproportionately people of color) to having conversations like these. This is not to say we are perfect or experts or doing everything right – but none of those are the point. This work is not for us to feel “right,” but for us to do what is right. If you are interested in joining us on our expedition to do what is right, please consider donating or volunteering with our organization. If this post piqued your interest about related organizations and efforts, please consider donating or volunteering with them as a way to take action and express gratitude for the unpaid laborers who have made your way of life possible.


Additional Resources for Giving Back to BIPOC Laborers:

What other resources do you know? What BIPOC-owned shops do you love?

Please send them to us or comment on this post so we can continue the conversation and work together for a more equitable future.


Juneteenth / Black Lives Matter / Our Commitment to Equity

On this Juneteenth, 2020, it feels especially important to write on our support of Black Lives Matter and the worldwide protests for racial equity. We are proud of our organization’s commitment to equity, but we simultaneously admit that we can always learn more and do better.

Here’s a quick snapshot of some things we are proud of:

  • One of our primary goals – Care of People. This means all people. Permaculture is most needed for the downtrodden. Our greatest impact will (hopefully) be on those who are most vulnerable.
  • Diversity of those we serve (people of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness)
  • Diversity of our leadership (including people of color, women, GLBTQ, and differently-abled)
  • Anti-Discrimination Declaration – this was created with our initial policies in 2016. It is a living document/work in progress that can always be improved, but it is foundational in our processes. When our policies are approved by the Board they will be published on our site: if you would like to read the Declaration in the meantime please Contact Us to receive a copy.
  • Indigenous leaders will be involved in our homestead development. Their history and representation will be woven into our design plans. We will pay “Real Rent” to the Duwamish people (assuming we are on Duwamish land) for the duration of our time on their land.

And here’s a snapshot of some ideas to help us better support our BIPOC community:

  • While our leadership is diverse, we can still improve. Roughly 70% of our Board identify as white, which is reflective of the demographic in Washington state (80% white). That being said, we can always diversify to strengthen and provide more perspectives. Indigenous representation in particular would be ideal and we will seek to expand in this direction.
  • The Board will discuss our support of Black Lives Matter at our Q2 meeting in July, with a focus on what more we can be doing. How can we further diversify? Should we create a committee to focus on this? Should we use consultants? 
  • I am committed to us finding a path for reparations within our policies. I do not know what this looks like yet, I just know that it is important and needed. The Board will weigh in on this and we will develop reparative justice policies as we continue to build our organizational framework. Reparations will be a part of our homestead from the start.

If you’re curious why (or concerned that) we haven’t spoken up specifically about Black Lives Matter before this moment, I will admit that I needed time – as a non-black person who is President of the Board – to find the right words. If you know me personally, you know I speak without abandon on my personal social media accounts, but speaking up on a business account is different. Yes, we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, but what does that mean? What do we do that helps their cause? What do we have to learn? What do we need to do better? How do we speak up without our words being empty?

I must also acknowledge that as an aspiring 501(c)(3) we have to be careful about what we say: it is illegal for this kind of organization to speak out politically. We are not permitted to advocate for legislative measures or politicians that support Black Lives Matter’s agendas as that crosses into political territory. That being said, Black Lives Matter itself and the movement around it is not a political statement – it’s about people, equity, and justice.


By Rebeccah Landerholm

 

 

© THE LANDERHOLMSTEAD, 2020

Chatting Climate Change & Biodiversity with a Molecular Biologist

The Landerholmstead cares passionately about climate change and human impact on the earth. Sustainable ecosystems are essential for our success in helping people and the environment, as our Mission & Vision mandate.

Last week, I interviewed a friend and peer to get his take -as a molecular biologist – on climate change, biodiversity, and mitigating potential threats to sustainability.

Matt Martello graduated from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology (Molecular/Micro/Cell) and Minors in Mathematics and Biochemistry. He has experience in environmental workings and the importance of biodiversity, including previous employment with the Institute for Environmental Health/Molecular Epidemiology Inc. He has worked to reduce his carbon-footprint in the last year by making small but effective lifestyle changes. Matt says, “I look forward to helping the Landerholmstead make a change in our local environments and around the world.”

Understanding Climate Change

Climate change analysis is both an art and a science: one of patience, observation, and statistical investigation. According to Matt, climate change can be defined as weather patterns and temperature changes caused by human interaction including fossil fuels, CO2, and replacing trees with impermeable surfaces like buildings and roads. He characterizes humans as the greatest threat to our climate: through road/industry development, destruction or disruption of ecosystems, and pollution. Our reliance on our current waste-model (landfills, etc.) is unsustainable because of how long unassisted waste takes to break down. And all the while it’s breaking down, it is releasing CO2 and methane, among other wasted gases.

The Necessity of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is what makes functioning ecosystems possible. It increases productivity and stability. Each element in a biodiverse system fills a niche and plays an essential role. Biodiverse systems “support a greater variety of crops, protect freshwater resources,” and promote the formation and protection of soil structures, Matt urges. Nutrients are recycled into the system instead of being wasted. Think of a basic example with animals, says Matt: “Animal feces breaks down into soil, soil makes plant growth possible, the animals feed on those plants, and so it goes on.” Nutrient breakdown can speed decomposition of potential pollutants and contributes to “climate stability.”

Interestingly, Matt also pointed out that biodiverse systems, because they are more resilient, recover more quickly from natural disasters.

A hot subject in (and out of) the science community, according to Matt, is the potential extinction of bees. Pollinators – like bees – make human life possible. Their potential extinction is a threat to our food source: humans would have to hand-pollinate plants in order to sustain our need to eat. Further, the same plants pollinated by bees feed our livestock for meat production, meaning all parts of our food system would be disrupted by their disappearance.

Biodiversity doesn’t only support our food systems, but also our energy production, medicinal research (including pharmaceutical resources), and contributes “environments for recreation and tourism,” Matt says.

Adapting to Change

Extreme weather patterns are seen increasingly and globally. Matt referenced the dramatic seasons Pennsylvania has experienced in recent years – harsher-than-average winters and extremely hot summers. The lack of tree coverage on monoculture farms creates less shade, meaning the surface of the earth warms and heat comes from both above and below. Further, trees are our best method of carbon sequestration, and less trees = more CO2 released, perpetuating the heat problem.

Being a huge agricultural state, these changes dramatically affect food production, requiring farmers to adapt by using more water (or other cooling measures), changing the crops they rely on to be ones better adapted for extreme temperatures, and adjusting planting dates to save crops from late/early frosts or heat waves. This unpredictability makes an already tricky career far riskier.

Plants and animals are adapting to the changing climate, just as humans are. Matt mentions that plants are adjusting their growing conditions in order to survive, including becoming more/less shade tolerant and more drought resistant or flexible to temperature fluctuations. Similarly, animals evidence their adaptations to changing climate through reactionary life cycle and lifestyle adjustments: including shortened hibernations and migrating to new habitats in search of food.

How to Mitigate the Threat

One of Matt’s first recommendations for adapting is increasing our use of solar, wind, and hydroelectric power sources. These stable, renewable  sources of energy can passively collect power without disrupting ecosystems or threatening human lives.

He then referenced international fast food chains that use unsustainable and unnatural food practices. “Stop eating there,” he said, “or eat there less.” Buy local, sustainably produced foods when you can. “Alcohol and other processed foods often have a huge carbon footprint from production to transportation,” he went on, encouraging people to minimize their use of such products.

Next, he urged, “Stop spewing greenhouse gases. Don’t drive long distances if you don’t have to. Use public transport. Avoid flying when possible.”

He also encouraged using less paper. “Apps can do so much these days.” Electronic communications can often do the same work, and they create less waste.

We recognized together that our impacts often feel small, but small influences from many people can have a huge outcome.

My final question for Matt was what message he would pass on to deniers of climate change. He sighed, as it’s a dilemma plaguing the science community. “Climate change is a fact,” he said. “Look at the predicted 2 degree celsius increase and its effect; wild weather patterns worldwide – of massive systems, some the worst we’ve ever experienced and they’re increasing in frequency and intensity; and the melting ice caps.” Alone, they might seem like natural occurrences in an unpredictable world, but when we consider all of these together, in combination with the elements influencing climate – including humans, the facts are undeniable. And that is the duty of scientists: to look at the whole picture (not a single, lab-bound subject) for a comprehensive analysis.


Written by Rebeccah landerholm, © The Landerholmstead, 2018