Downwinders At Risk

Address:
P.O. Box 763844
Dallas, TX 75376
www.downwindersatrisk.org

Mission:

Our goal is to build a strong grassroots constituency and create new strategies for clean air in North Texas. We do this by informing, connecting and mobilizing citizens to become active participants in the decision-making that affects the air we breathe. In doing so, we improve both the quality of our air and the quality of our democracy.

History:

Downwinders at Risk was founded by Sue Hope in 1994 to oppose the burning of hazardous wastes in local cement plants. Over the course of the next 14 years the group fought in court, in Congress, in the Texas State Legislature, in EPA, in city council meetings, and even PTA conventions to stop 1960’s cement kilns from becoming the nation’s largest toxic waste incinerators. In 2008 Downwinders finally won that fight, and helped pass EPA regulations that cracked down on waste-burning cement kilns across the nation.

The Issues:

We often refer to ourselves as “Last Responders.” After a neighborhood discovers that the EPA and state and local officials are not helping; after they find out that neither Greenpeace nor the Sierra Club has local staff which can assist them; after they try everything and everyone else, and if they haven’t given up, they eventually find us. In a metropolitan area of 7-8 million people, Downwinders offers the only staff devoted to helping residents solve their problems through grassroots organizing. 

Constituency and Leadership:

Downwinders is the only group in Dallas-Fort Worth specifically built to provide assistance to “Front line” or “fence line” communities”, i.e neighborhoods that are in adjacent or close proximity to polluters and suffering health effects from that proximity. In DFW, this means the majority of our constituents are People of Color with low-to-moderate annual incomes.

Tackling Oppressive Structures:

Undoing oppression and racism is at the core of both what our work is, and how we do the work. Dallas, and almost all North American cities, have been zoned to segregate and isolate low-income communities and communities of color. Our goals are to collaborate with the neighborhoods that have born the brunt of environmental racism for decades to 1)create a more equitable process for addressing local environmental concerns, and 2) create equitable neighborhood land use plans to prevent future polluters from invading communities. Our program work is in partnership with the front line communities experiencing the worst systemic racism, oppression, and imperialism.

Movement Building:

We believe in building the broadest base for effective change block-by-block, and group-by-group. We work with grassroots neighborhood associations in both urban and rural environments, and with local grass tops organizations fighting for civil rights. Our major local partners for this Project include the Inclusive Communities Project, an affordable housing advocacy group, and the Southern Sector Rising Campaign for Environmental Justice.

Long-term Vision for Change:

Rather than continue to play “whack-a-mole” with each new polluter, our campaign proposes to use the “forwardDallas” land use review process to change the City Code. We want to re-write the way the City sites new sources of pollution so that already-abused communities are no longer automatically dumped on. A number of factors favor our success in 2020 and our efforts are the first campaign to systematically challenge Dallas’ fundamental land-use planning precepts on behalf of environmental health and justice.

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Organization Budget:  $213,000
Request: $10,000

raised to date this week:

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