In November of 2018 the NRA told Doctors to “stay in their lane” in response to a gun reform stance taken by many members of the medical community. It would be a fair question to ask about the connection between the Black Lives Matter movement and water pollution prevention work that we do here at Salix Solutions. We would reply “This is our lane”, for the following reasons:
1. Responsibility for the creation of a just and sustainable society is not only held by activists and policy makers. Businesses can collectively make a tremendous impact by considering deeply the implications of their internal policies and operation practices.
As a business, we at Salix Solutions strive to ensure that all interactions within the organization, with clients, with partners, and in the community at large are enacted on the basis of respect, openness, and celebration that we are working together to protect water resources for all that depend on them. Our services are available to all properties in the Lake Champlain and Connecticut River watersheds, and we encourage culturally and economically nuanced conversations about pollution pressures within the communities in which we work.*
2. Black Lives Matter is not a campaign for a portion of society, it is our M.O. It is our friends’, colleagues’, neighbors’, clients’, and partners’ lived experience. We are invested in sustainability - environmentally yes - but socially and economically as well. For no business can operate with integrity that optimizes profits and benefits for a few while others are excluded, exploited, or otherwise harmed by their operations.
3. Environmental justice work must be embedded within water quality work. When upstream pollution results in downstream closed beaches, the affluent among us can hop in a car and drive to clear mountain streams, while those dependent on public transportation have to forgo their day at the beach. When public drinking water supplies are contaminated, the wealthy can choose to install expensive personal filtration systems, while the economically underprivileged (disproportionally communities of color) have few choices to avoid toxic exposure.
Flint, Michigan, a city where African Americans are 54% of the total population, still does not have clean water or safe infrastructure.** Nationally, communities with high percentages of black, indigenous, and people of color are 40% more likely to have drinking water systems in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The water quality crisis cannot be solved without actively addressing racial injustice.
The work we do at Salix Solutions is an effort to reduce chemical and nutrient pollution in all of Vermont’s waters, but especially preserving the drinking water supply that 200,000 of the basin’s residents depend on.
Rain is pouring down while this is being written, and just as we know that our work will involve alleviating sewage overflows and flooded homes, we also know that our lane is right here, in solidarity with our communities of color who deserve justice, equity, and a voice in the design of our future.
- The Team at Salix Solutions
*Sometimes these conversations are difficult to have. Addressing accountability for pollution can be a contentious issue, but one which is imperative to address for the health and safety of all members of our communities. We recognize the challenges embedded in creating change amid an economic culture where environmental consequences are often ignored, and we support landowners and business owners on the path to a more sustainable future.
** Ninety cases and at least twelve deaths from Legionnaires Disease have been linked to the Flint water quality crisis; 30-year old Jassmine McBride experienced complications due to Legionnaires disease, stemming from the Flint water crisis and died in 2019. The complications included kidney failure, heart failure, and respiratory failure, and like Eric Garner and George Floyd, Jassmine McBride died while struggling to breathe.