Two Year Funding from the Nathan E. Cummings Foundation 20012003
The Nathan E. Cummings Foundation awarded the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Environmental Justice Program two-year funding to assist five major projects in Connecticut, Michigan, Florida, Iowa and California as well as two other smaller projects.
All five special projects were to meet four specific goals:
- To build more comprehensive vision, projects will address multiple conditions as experienced by diverse constituencies
- To address concrete issues which closely link social and economic justice and environmental protection
- To build on broad institutional engagement, coalition with citizen groups, and reliable research
- To integrate broad social teaching and education with direct public policy activity
The CenterEdge Project
The CenterEdge Project was designed to begin a state-wide dialogue focused on the impact of sprawl on low-income communities and on water quality. The Project involved all four Catholic dioceses in the state as well as the Connecticut Catholic Conference. Bishop Peter Rosazza of Hartford was elected Honorary Chairman of the CenterEdge coalition serving as its public spokesperson and was directly involved in many of the key meetings and in planning the coalition’s strategy. With the involvement of so many diverse groups in the goals of this project, the coalition became a major player in the state on these issues.
The CenterEdge project published of the Connecticut Metropatterns by Myron Orfield and Tom Luce. The included “sprawl maps” offered detailed depictions of urban sprawl and subsequent impacts on low-income residents and on the environment.
In addition, the Connecticut Catholic Conference published a pastoral statement on April 1, 2003 Common Ground, Common Good: Toward Greater Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice in Connecticut. It was announced by Archbishop Daniel Cronin (retired), and was mailed to every Catholic pastor in the state. This statement and the Connecticut Metropatterns report generated an enormous amount of dialogue about urban sprawl, the resulting environmental damage of uncontrolled sprawl, and the impact of both on low-income populations.
The project helped swell the ranks of Catholics connected with the state’s Catholic legislative network and they joined a state-wide coalition to identify policies that can move the state in a more positive direction. These included: cooperative land-use planning to strengthen communities and preserve the environment; tax and state aid reforms to stabilize fiscally stressed schools, help communities pay for needed public services and reduce competition for tax base; an enhanced role for state government, councils of government or other regional organizations to help solve regional problems while ensuring that all communities have a say in decision-making. Taken together, the state-wide coalition and the Metropatterns report have provided serious and sustained direction for continued work on a more sustainable, more just and more livable state.
Large-scale Animal Feeding Operations in
This project focused on the environmental, economic and social impacts of large scale hog-farming. As the project unfolded, a broad alliance comprised of diverse constituentsfrom family farm advocates to animal rights groups and from academic research institutions to citizens’ councilsbecame engaged in a state-wide dialogue. The dialogue and resulting coalition has tackled a range of environmental issues including the impact on the quality of community life, human health, as well as safety and sustainability of the water system.
During the second year of funding, it became apparent that the social dimensions of the issue were as prominent as the environmental issues. Many Catholics are directly involved in the controversy: CEOs of large pork processors, small independent hog producers, property owners in proximity to a large-scale feeding operation, local elected officials, and low-income workers in large-scale hog confinements.
The Cummings Foundation grant enabled the lead agent of the project, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, to put together facilitator and participant guides entitled, Swine Production: Who is my neighbor? With these tools, staff traveled throughout the state conducting meetings in parishes and demonstrating how the parish can be a place for civil and reflective conversations on issues of this complexity.
Project staff consulted widely to develop the materials and increase their own knowledge of the issues around large scale animal confinement operations. Consultations included experts from the University of Iowa, Iowa State, North Carolina State, University of Minnesota, and Cornell University. Several other institutions, including the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minnesota, the National Institutes of Health, the Humane Society and Iowa Citizens Council were also brought on board. Many of these groups and have joined with others to form Rural Advocacy 2002, a coalition which worked to represent rural residents at the Iowa statehouse on a variety of issues including environmental issues and regularly convened by the project staff. All four Catholic dioceses in the state are engaged in the effort to combat the negative effects of large-scale animal feeding operations.
Finally, six study papers were developed by staff of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (three dealing with the effects of large-scale animal confinement facilities and three outlining the Catholic Church’s teaching on these issues). These papers became the basis for the ongoing education efforts of Catholics and others across the state.
Trasportation Equity Project, Detroit, Michigan
The first year of this project began with a seminal speech to an ecumenical group (1,200 people) on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by Cardinal Adam Maida, the Archbishop of Detroit. In that address, he highlighted a number of the problems Detroit faces from its inattention to mass transit issues: the lack of economic opportunities for inner-city residents (they cannot reach better jobs in the suburbs), a segregated city, more traffic congestion, increased air pollution, and an inability to attract businesses to the city center, among others. From this speech and groundwork already laid by some of the Archdiocesan staff, Detroit’s Transportation Equity Project began. The goal of TEP was to reach a broad array of groups including citizen and environmental groups, government and academic experts, among others.
As they proceeded, archdiocesan staff targeted three spheres of influence: (1) the leadership of the Catholic Church in Southeastern Michigan, including clergy, laity, and diocesan administration; (2) Catholic leaders beyond the metro Detroit including the five other diocese across the state and the Michigan Catholic Conference in order to replicate their experiences and develop an effective public policy voice in the state capitol; (3) all people of faith and other like-minded secular organizations, i.e., anyone who shares in the principles of Catholic Social Teaching on issues related to land use, the environment, transportation, and economic development.
Through this Archdiocesan leadership and the coalition that is the Transportation Equity Project, citizens have begun to address the social, economic and environmental consequences of sprawl in metropolitan Detroit.
In the first year of the project, Archdiocesan staff engaged over 25 religious and community groups in an effort to move forward with the goal of creating the nation’s largest new mass transit system. From the Sierra Club to the University of Detroit, and from the Farmland Trust to Transit Riders Unitednot to mention nearly a thousand citizens and pastors trained and united to form this coalitionstaff connected with an amazing array of partners all united in the goals of the Transportation Equity Project.
The first objective of the project was to create public support for a tax hike to fund a new public transportation system. Despite a significant setback (the outgoing Governor vetoed a transportation bill) the educational efforts may still pay offeven the mayor of Detroit now talks about regional equity and the need for a top-rate regional public transit system. However, another key policy goal for the project was met: the governor established a task force on land use and equity.
The Inheritance Project, Florida
The Inheritance Project began in response to a massive Army Corps of Engineer water project considered by many to be harmful to the Everglades. The water project never came to pass so the key leaders shifted their focus to address a broader array of water problems in all of Florida. Through educating Catholics and developing a broad coalition of interested organizations, including government officials, many more Floridians are now much clearer about the urgent environmental concerns around water and water quality.
A key early success engaged young people in a contest to name the state-wide project and design a logo. Next, through a series of exploratory meetings, many other citizens and government officials joined the effort and began to explore workable solutions to water quality and sustainability issues.
As The Inheritance Project continued, a seven-member state Environmental Justice Committee was convened under the auspices of the Florida Catholic Conference. The focus was still on water resources, specifically, aquifer depletion and other water quality issues. Through the development of a networking coalition of government agencies, water experts, and secular and faith-based environmental advocacy groups, the state committee has gained a greater understanding of the use of Aquifer Storage and Recovery Units, the need for new and renovated water treatment plants, the threat of emerging contaminants in water supplies and their impact on public health, and the continued need for understanding of better growth management and sustainability practices.
As a result, the Inheritance Project has begun to implement a three-fold approach toward responding to the pertinent issues: (1) The Florida Catholic Conference is becoming more directly involved in environmental legislative advocacy, particularly as it addresses public health issues and low-income and marginalized communities. (2) The bishops of Florida will update and re-issue a pastoral statement regarding environmental stewardship which will include a primary focus on Florida's water concerns. (3) Several diocesan representatives developed and began implementing educational initiatives for parishes and schools in their communities. As a result of a recent state conference, this educational component has expanded to include environmentally sensitive landscaping and building practices in three of seven dioceses (Pensacola-Tallassee, Venice, Miami) individual parishes and, in the case of Pensacola-Tallahassee, resulting in diocesan policy changes where construction and land development is concerned.
As a result of the strong first-year education efforts in Central, Southeast and Southwest, the Inheritance Project helped stimulate efforts to develop and/or renovate water treatment facilities, which have subjected marginalized and fixed-income communities to substandard drinking water quality. In municipal and regional forums relating to water supply, the Inheritance Project joined other advocacy groups in expressing concerns over how increased water rates will impact low-income communities resulting in discussion of the development of community collaborations to enhance these targeted areas. The Florida Catholic Conference also is taking a closer look at Brownfield development projects currently before the state legislature and has taken a leadership role in many of the environmental issues in the state.
Sprawl Education Project, Los Angeles, California
The Los Angeles project focused primarily on the important moral consequences of uncontrolled sprawl, unsustainable development, and economic inequality in this enormous metropolitan region. In the first year, Cardinal Roger Mahony, a recognized major community leaderand spiritual leader of over 3 million Catholicsprovided a vision of how the Los Angeles area can begin to address the serious environmental issues facing a very crowded metropolis. He did so by convening major stakeholders to initiate a serious dialogue around environmental and economic equity. The Archdiocesan Office of Peace and Justice continues to engage community leaders to discuss issues about regional economic equity, sprawl and associated environmental issues in light of Catholic social teaching.
Over three million active Catholics in the Los Angeles region are a potent force for change in this sprawling metropolis. The impact of sprawl has created many problems in the area including: diminishing the amount of available green space in undeveloped land, increasing the spiraling cost of housingmaking it unaffordable to low-income residentsincreasing the number of poor working families, stressing the ability to sustain the area’s natural resources, and fragmenting government structures and services. These issues, as well as sprawl’s impact on health care, education, and social services, were surfaced by policy staff when invited as a respondent to a seminar convened by the University of Southern California’s Urban Policy Center.
The project has place a primary emphasis on the development of a school curriculum on environment and sprawl issues. This curriculum flows directly from the mission of the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission which is to educate, advocate and build a constituency for justice. Focusing the curriculum on poverty, pollution and participation, created a vision which clearly links justice and the environment.
Two Catholic high schools in the Los Angeles area, and with the inspiration of the environmental awareness curriculum, identified concrete issues within their own communities that link environment and justice. As they gathered information about which issues strike the deepest chord, they came up with innovative, community-based solutions to address the problem.
The possibility of a pastoral letter on environmental justice in Southern California continues to be discussed among members of the Peace and Justice Commission. They envision a process that: 1) identifies concrete issues that clearly demonstrated the relationship between social and economic justice and the environment; 2) facilitates listening sessions in each of the five pastoral regions throughout the Archdiocese to hear the lived experience of the diverse communities around these issues; and 3) the production of a pastoral letter that contains specific public policy recommendations to respond to the ethical dimensions of the regional environmental justice issues facing Southern California. The Commission believes that this process is as important, if not more important, than the product. The listening session process will promote broad institutional engagement, as well as build a constituency around environmental justice issues. The product will connect Catholic social teaching to these issues and will inform and influence the public policy debate. The pastoral letter should have a positive impact on ensuring that the poorest members of the community do not suffer disproportionately from congestion, pollution, unemployment, lack of recreational opportunities, and segregation.
Additional Projects Funded through the Cummings
Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton: With the support of the bishops of these three dioceses, a project is underway to study and convene stakeholders in a major project to create more dialogue and less vitriol about California’s scarcest resource: water. Recognizing the tremendous water needs of people in expanding urban centers, of farmers in the country’s “salad bowl,” and of developers trying to address the housing and business needs of the nation’s most populous state, the Church will assume the role of bringing all parties together so that more understanding and appreciation of the many facets of water in California’s Central Valley can come to light.
Santa Fe: The Archdiocese of Santa Fe received a substantial grant from another foundation to organize the Catholic dioceses of Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Gallup, and the New Mexico Conference of Churches in an Eco-Justice Task Force. The task force partners formed a “Stewards of Creation Training” program and funds Cummings Foundation has enabled the program to continue expand recruitment. The first training session involved 18 participants who continue to meet bi-monthly to share ideas and projects. One positive result was the development of an environmental responsibility curriculum for middle-schoolers using water as the theme. This training program is a direct result of the pastoral statement on the environment issued in May of 1998 by three bishops of New Mexico and the ensuing River Stewardship Conference in Albuquerque.