According to the March 14, 2018, cover story in Grist, The Koch Brothers vs. God, the fossil fuel lobby preached its gospel in Virginia. Now, black churches are fighting back.
“Rev. Paul Wilson fastens enough buttons on his jacket to stay warm on a chilly fall afternoon but still keep his clergy collar visible. He’s whipping up a crowd of demonstrators in downtown Richmond, Virginia, where they’re waiting to make a short march from Richmond’s Capitol Square Bell Tower to the nearby National Theatre. His eyes covered by sunglasses, and his head by a newsboy hat, Wilson speaks to the assembled about their Christian responsibility to protect the planet. …. The pipeline’s proposed route runs directly between Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist churches, the two parishes where Wilson serves as pastor in rural Buckingham County, 70 miles south of Richmond. The proposed site for the pipeline’s 54,000-horsepower, gas-fired compressor station is also set to be built right between them. Wilson fears the station could put his congregation and the surrounding community at risk of a range of ailments, especially asthma, because those living near natural gas facilities often suffer from chronic respiratory problems. …. [I]n response to the Koch brothers’ attempt to sway their flocks, Wilson and others affiliated with black churches in Virginia have channeled their outrage into a new calling: climate advocacy. For Wilson, environmentalism has become a biblical mission. ‘The climate is changing,’ he says. ‘And it’s black folk in Virginia who will lose the most.'”
Rev. Wilson and Rev. Faith Harris discuss the ways in which Koch-brother-funded groups like Fueling U.S. Forward work to convince poor and minority communities that increases in cheap fossil fuels make good economic sense, using what Rev. Harris calls a “purposeful misinformation” campaign.
Antonio Branch, a community organizer with Richmond-based Virginia Civic Engagement Table, “considers the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline ‘part of a larger environmental attack’ on minority communities in Virginia and neighboring North Carolina, two states on planned pipeline route. Many of the region’s proposed oil and gas projects sit near poor and rural areas. In Virginia’s Buckingham County, home to Rev. Wilson’s churches, the community closest to that facility is 85 percent African American. By contrast, the state’s overall black population is 19 percent. ‘This isn’t a coincidence,’ Branch says.”
Kiquanda Baker, the Hampton Roads organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, says, “Our role as community leaders is to show that all of these issues are connected…The more aware we are of environmental injustices, the less likely our communities can be tricked into rallies by the Koch brothers.”
Read the full article here.