Sue Altman Endorsed by National Environmental Group

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Progressive organizer Sue Altman has been endorsed by the national advocacy group Food & Water Action in the race to represent New Jersey’s 7th District in Congress.

Altman has a long record of championing progressive issues in Trenton, and challenging political leaders on both sides of the aisle – qualities that will be essential to running an energetic, forceful campaign in a battleground district.

“Sue Altman has proven that she isn’t afraid to speak truth to power to advance the fight for a fairer, healthier and more just society,” said Food & Water Action New Jersey State Director Matt Smith. “Winning a high profile race in a battleground district like this will require a determined and passionate voice for social change. Sue Altman is the kind of candidate who can articulate a vision that will motivate voters to show up this November.”  

Food & Water Action is the political arm of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, which has been deeply in grassroots campaigns across the state to stop dirty energy projects and protect clean water for all.   

How a Single Bill Could Wreak Havoc on Our Food System

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Photo CC-BY FARMWATCH_FLKR
by Mia DiFelice and Rebecca Wolf

This past spring, the Supreme Court affirmed a huge win for state authority to regulate agricultural goods. It upheld a California law that only allows the sale of pork, veal, and eggs from animals raised in improved living conditions.

But Big Ag and its cronies in Congress couldn’t let this go without a fight. In June, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced a bill called the “Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act.”

The EATS Act would stop many states’ regulations on agriculture and effectively deregulate the industry across the country. Everything from worker protections to food safety measures is now under attack. What’s more, deregulation promises to open the gates for Big Ag to get bigger, by giving it free rein to use the cheapest, most destructive practices it can.

Big Ag Has Its Hands All Over EATS

California’s Prop 12 requires that eggs, pork, or veal sold in the state must come from animals raised under certain conditions, like larger cages for birthing pigs. Californians were clearly in favor, with 60% in support of the law. In response, the pork industry took Prop 12 to federal court, claiming that it violated the Constitution. 

The National Pork Producers Council argued that the law interfered with interstate trade by affecting pork production outside of California. However, the Court ruled in favor of Prop 12.

In arguing against Prop 12, Big Ag once again showed its hand — it will stop at nothing to gain even more control over how food in the U.S. is produced, in this case by tearing down state regulations. This isn’t the first time Big Ag has tried to push dangerous policies like EATS. 

In 2018, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced what is informally known as the “King Amendment” for consideration in that year’s Farm Bill. (He also tried to pass a similar bill in the 2014 Farm Bill.) 

The King Amendment was nearly identical to today’s EATS Act and a huge gift to Big Ag. That was no surprise; Rep. King’s home state of Iowa has the largest number of pigs and chickens in the country. Almost all of them are raised on factory farms.

Now, the EATS Act enjoys the support of Big Ag lobbying organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and the Farm Bureau.

The Overreaching Implications of EATS

While Prop 12 galvanized industry and built momentum for a bill like EATS, EATS’ influence would extend far beyond California. 

It would strip states of their right to regulate agricultural products sold within their borders, as it says that if there’s no federal standard, the states can’t make their own.

The approach is “lowest common denominator.” If just one state in the country allows the sale of goods made with a certain practice, every state would have to, no matter how hazardous, destructive, or inhumane the practice may be.

The range of laws that the EATS Act would affect is ridiculously, dangerously broad. The bill broadly implicates “preharvest production,” which could include regulations like:

  • Limits on what tools or chemicals farmers can use on their farms
  • Labor laws that protect workers or prevent child labor
  • Laws that restrict what chemicals can go into baby formula
  • Measures that prevent or contain diseases like bird flu

This poses a huge threat to our entire food system. For example, in Iowa, people cannot bring birds exposed to infectious diseases into the state without veterinary approval. EATS would endanger this law in the middle of a bird flu epidemic that has led to the deaths of nearly 60 million birds.

EATS also defines “agricultural products” so broadly that it could include everything from vaccines to vitamins. In total, the bill could nullify over a thousand state laws.

For years, states have been empowered to enact stronger food and agriculture protections than federal law and carry them out on their terms. But if EATS were passed, states would effectively deregulate the agricultural industry. It would allow Big Ag to use even cheaper, more destructive, and more harmful practices in more places.

The Political Game of EATS in the Farm Bill

As with the King Amendment, extremist politicians will likely push for EATS language in this year’s Farm Bill. And while passing the bill itself would be unlikely, using EATS as an opening move would tip negotiations closer to chaos. This is a terrible show of bad-faith bargaining.

What’s more, it’s deeply hypocritical. The EATS Act contradicts Republican calls for states’ rights. It denies states the ability to protect their citizens with regulations on what gets sold within their borders.

The Act also flies in the face of historical bipartisan collaboration on competition measures. Far from “ending trade suppression” between states, the EATS Act just helps Big Ag get bigger. Deregulation will allow Big Ag to pursue even more cost-cutting measures than it already does. This will in turn hasten corporate consolidation in the name of profit. 

That doesn’t sound like competition to us.

We Must Keep EATS From Passing

The EATS Act is infuriating but not surprising. It’s the latest of many examples of lawmakers bending to Big Ag over the well-being of their own constituents. EATS would gut critical state protections against the whims of powerful ag interests — the same interests already wreaking havoc on local environments, economies, and food systems. 

Even the introduction of the act shows that extreme right-wing politicians are sinking to new lows, throwing out good-faith negotiations. If it passes, EATS would threaten a variety of vital regulations and cut off a crucial avenue for reining in Big Ag. We need to ensure that this bill dies in Congress.

Call on your Congress members to say “No” to the EATS Act!

How Food & Water Action is Fighting For a Fair Farm Bill For All

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by Mia DiFelice and Katy Kiefer

Update (November 16, 2023): This month, Congress extended the deadline for the 2023 Farm Bill to September 30, 2024 as part of a continuing resolution to push back deadlines on must-pass spending bills. In the next 10 months, Food & Water Action will continue building support for a fair Farm Bill for all.

Decades of bad farm policy have made our food system unsustainable — for farmers, for rural communities, for families across the country, and for the planet. But this year, we have an exciting twice-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape that policy. 

The Farm Bill passes through Congress every five years, disbursing billions of dollars for nutrition and agricultural programs. As lawmakers negotiate the 2023 Farm Bill this summer and fall, Food & Water Action is seizing the moment. Our volunteers are working hard around the country to rally support in their communities and help us get the food policy we need.

Why We’re Fighting for a Fair Farm Bill

For decades, Big Ag has hijacked the Farm Bill and federal food policy to benefit corporations over families and farmers. 

For example, the Farm Bill has spent billions a year incentivizing harmful agricultural practices instead of supporting small- and medium-sized, sustainable food production. It also provides funds for infrastructure on factory farms that pollute our air and water and threaten our climate. 

Previous Farm Bills have helped Big Ag get bigger by encouraging record profits and rampant market concentration. As a result, a few mega-corporations rack in the cash, hollowing out rural economies and forcing small independent farmers to get big or get out.

A Fair Farm Bill Works for Families and Farmers, Not Big Ag

We need a Farm Bill that works for farmers and families; for local rural communities and everyone at the grocery store. Through this legislation, we can help shake loose corporations’ stranglehold on our food system, fostering good livelihoods, lower food prices, and greater access to healthy food.

Moreover, the Farm Bill could be a powerful tool to help protect our climate, environment, and public health. It could pull support for destructive practices and megacorporations, then direct that funding toward actually sustainable agriculture.

If the Farm Bill is to serve us and not Big Ag, here’s what it needs to do:

  1. Ban factory farms, which wreak havoc on the environment and rural economies; 
  2. End subsidies for factory farm infrastructure, while directing more funds toward sustainable farming practices;
  3. Create a federal farm safety net that protects small from unpredictable markets;
  4. Break up mega-corporations and stop consolidation; and
  5. Create fair and competitive markets where small- and mid-sized farms can thrive.

Bringing the Farm Bill to Our Communities

As lawmakers negotiate on the farm bill, they need to hear from constituents. That’s why this year, Food & Water Action volunteers across the country are bringing the Farm Bill to their communities. 

We’re tabling at farmers’ markets and other local events. We’re educating neighbors about the Farm Bill and gathering petition signatures to send to lawmakers. And this fall, we’ll meet with legislators to deliver signatures and speak with them about the farm policy we really need.

Katie Olsson has served as a volunteer leader with Food & Water Action for the past year. This summer, she’s joining our Fair Farm Bill Action Team in Michigan, and she shared a bit about what she’s learned with us.

“I can speak about agriculture and the Farm Bill much more intelligently than I could a few months ago and can confidently share that information with others. It has been fun going to farmers’ markets and collecting signatures, too!”

Katie Olsson, FWA Volunteer Leader

Through her work on the team, Katie has learned about the importance of the Farm Bill and how her own state’s senator helped to pass measures supporting small farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

“I have also learned how bad Big Ag is on so many levels and how important small and particularly indigenous farmers are on all those levels,” Katie said. “Small and indigenous farmers care for the earth. Big Ag destroys it!”

Food & Water Action organizer John Aspray tables at a vegan market in Des Moines, Iowa.

A Fair Farm Bill Benefits All of Us

Kathy in Nyack, NY, is a public health nutritionist who has kept her pulse on food policy for years. Since joining the Farm Bill Action Team in June, she’s collected more than 900 petition signatures.

Kathy became interested in food policy thanks to her work and her concerns about the environmental impact of factory farming. But she emphasized that the Farm Bill is important for everyone. It touches so many parts of our food system and, as Kathy said, “We all eat!” 

“So food is a good way to reach people,” she went on. “And that’s what we’re trying to do — reach people and educate people about the food they are eating.” 

A fair Farm Bill would help us ensure the food we eat is affordable, healthy, and supportive of small farmers and rural economies. And it’s not too late to join our fight for it!

Get involved with our Fair Farm Bill Action Team!

The Biggest Threat to the Colorado River: Thirsty Corporations

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by Kat Ruane and Mia DiFelice

Over the past few years, the Colorado River has plummeted to crisis levels, setting off alarm bells for the 40 million people who depend on it for water. 

But recent proposals for cuts on water use have completely ignored a major driver of the crisis: Big Ag. Thirsty mega-dairy cows and cash crops are guzzling the Colorado River at a reckless rate. 

Bad policy and Big Ag’s reign over the Colorado threaten the future of the entire region, especially for those already vulnerable to climate change and water scarcity. To secure a livable future in the Basin, policymakers must completely rethink water use and rein in Big Ag’s water abuses.

Decades of Mismanagement Have Brought the Colorado River to Its Current Crisis

Water on the Colorado River has been tightly managed, going back a century to the passage of the Colorado River Compact. 

Under the Compact, the states split 15 million acre-feet* a year. The Lower Basin states (Arizona, California, and Nevada) get 7.5 million acre-feet, while the Upper Basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) take what’s left. 

Additionally, the Basin is home to more than two dozen American Indian tribes, whose recognized rights make up about a quarter of the River’s flow.

However, the 1922 Compact and its allocations were based on the unusually wet conditions of the time. They didn’t account for the river’s usual flow, for our current climate change-fueled megadrought, or the region’s population boom.

What’s more, the water shortage threatens the vital hydropower produced in the river’s reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. If water levels sink much lower, they won’t be high enough to flow and generate electricity. This would take relatively cheap power off the table for millions in the region.

In June 2022, the federal government gave the Basin states an ultimatum: create a plan for water cuts, or it would write its own. 

This past May, Lower Basin states proposed to cut their water use by 13%. But this interim deal only amounts to a quarter of the cuts needed for Lake Mead and Lake Powell to recover. And states will still need to go back to the negotiating table before 2026.

Alfalfa and Mega-Dairies Monopolize the Colorado River

These state-level negotiations miss the mark entirely, as they ignore a key regional factor in the crisis: Big Ag. 

The Basin is dominated by agricultural industries that just don’t make sense in the desert. That’s part of the reason Basin states use way more irrigation water than other states across the country. (Arizona, for instance, uses over three times the national average.)

One major guzzler: livestock feed crops. These crops, including alfalfa, account for 55% of water use in the Basin. Our partner organization Food & Water Watch estimates that alfalfa in the Basin consumed 2.2 trillion gallons of water in 2022 alone. That’s enough to meet the indoor water needs of 40 million people for three and a half years.

Another major guzzler: mega-dairies, which confine 500 cows or more. Mega-dairy cows in the Basin number collectively in the millions, and together they need 218 million gallons of water every single day for washing and drinking.

Bad Policy Has Allowed Big Ag to Hijack the Colorado River

Adding Big Ag’s water abuses to climate change has created a vicious cycle. The worse the climate gets, the more water big farms need. And the more water those farms use, the less water is available for other uses — a problem that is, in turn, heightened by climate change-fueled drought.

So why are these thirsty industries so huge in this already dry region? Years of poor state-level water governance and federal policies that favor Big Dairy.

Like the rest of our food system, fewer, larger operations have come to dominate the dairy industry. Weak federal antitrust laws and lax enforcement have allowed rampant consolidation, while federal focus on export markets has squeezed farmers’ prices. To compete in global export markets and keep their livelihoods, farmers feel pressured to “get big or get out” — grow their herds or stop farming altogether.

Big Dairy depends on feed crops like alfalfa — and now, researchers can trace 75% of Lake Mead’s decline over the past two decades to irrigation for cattle feed.

But Big Ag’s greed is not the only culprit. It’s gotten a boost from the region’s inflexible and outdated regime of water rights. 

In the current system, the oldest rights are practically untouchable. So despite record droughts, senior water rights holders like those in Southern California still get the same allocations. As a result, alfalfa production levels have changed little in California during the 2011-2017 drought, with some regions actually producing more.

The Bureau of Reclamation is developing new guidelines for water use on the Colorado River. Join us in demanding that it put families before Big Ag.

The Colorado River Crisis Hits Hardest for Those Excluded From Negotiations

While corporations can turn scarce water into cash crops, many people can’t even access the water that’s rightfully theirs. 

Native Americans have lived in the Basin since before the U.S. government existed and have senior water rights over states. Yet, allocation discussions — from the original 100-year-old Compact to today — have excluded them.

The result: a patchwork of realized and unrealized water rights. Many tribes’ lack of infrastructure prevents communities from actually using the water they have rights to, while legal battles have tied up some rights in court.

For instance, the Colorado River borders more than 100 miles of Hualapai land. But the Tribe’s rights to the river are pending in Congress, and it’s currently barred from drawing a single drop.

We Need to Completely Overhaul Water Management on the Colorado River

While some communities can’t even get drinking water, industrial farms are guzzling with impunity. We’ve known for decades that the arid West can’t sustain Big Ag. Our governments need to act like it. Continuing down this path will only lead to harm for communities and ecosystems already struggling to survive in a hotter, drier climate.

Now, Basin states and the federal government are considering allocations beyond 2026. State leaders must seize this opportunity and radically rethink their water use.


* An acre-foot is a measurement of water equal to the amount it would take to cover an acre of land with water a foot deep. One acre-foot is about 325,851 gallons.

Six Things Biden Must Do Right Now to Fight Climate Change

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Photo CC-BY-SA Gage Skidmore
by Mia DiFelice

In February 2023, President Joe Biden marked the halfway point of his term with his State of the Union address. The address was light on climate, and what climate talk there was focused mostly on the lackluster Inflation Reduction Act. In the speech, he called climate change an “existential threat” — but he hasn’t done enough to treat it like one.

Right now, we have a Supreme Court and a divided Congress unlikely to make meaningful progress on climate. But with his executive powers, Biden could respond to the climate crisis — and intertwined food and water crises — with the urgency they call for. Here’s how:

1. Declare a Climate Emergency

With an executive order, Biden can declare climate change a national emergency. That would unlock several key powers to respond to the emergency — notably, reinstating our ban on crude oil exports

Oil exports have taken our energy markets for a spin, pinning prices to global crises like the war in Ukraine. Banning exports would help insulate our energy prices from shocks, while forcing oil and gas companies to cut down their production and their climate pollution.

Biden has already called climate change “an emergency.” But he must officially declare it one to unlock those emergency powers. 

2. Ban Fracking on Public lands

Before stepping into office, President Biden promised to ban fracking on public lands. But he’s yet to follow through. In fact, in the past two years his administration has approved thousands of oil and gas leases.

Shutting down oil and gas on public lands should be a no-brainer. More than a quarter of U.S. climate pollution comes from fossil fuels extracted from public lands and waters. Moreover, fossil fuel operations endanger the wildlife and environment we’re supposed to be protecting.

3. Stop Dirty Infrastructure Projects

The administration can and should direct federal agencies to stop permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure. That includes everything from drilling, to pipelines, to export terminals. 

American gas companies have expanded their plans for export terminals in recent months, responding to the energy crunch caused by the war in Ukraine. But these plans are capitalizing on a crisis with little hope of actually relieving Europe’s energy problems. Moreover, these terminals will be hugely expensive and lock us into gas for decades.

The Biden administration must prevent plans like these from becoming reality. In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear: any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure will “rob us of our last chance to avert climate chaos.”

4. Regulate Dangerous Rail Cargo

Liquefied natural gas isn’t just a climate threat — it also threatens communities with the risk of catastrophic explosions. In 2020, the Department of Transportation cleared the way for the transport of LNG by rail. Even worse, it stripped back safety precautions, allowing companies to transport highly flammable LNG like normal freight. 

The recent disaster in East Palestine, Ohio has shown us the consequences of rail deregulation and expanding dirty infrastructure. There, a “100% preventable” train derailment endangered nearby communities, spilling toxic chemicals used by the petrochemical industry.

So far, Biden’s DOT under Pete Buttigieg has dragged its feet on fixing Trump-era rail deregulation. But to keep communities safe and hold these polluting, dangerous industries accountable, the administration must strengthen regulations.

5. Defend Our Food System from Mega-Mergers

In the past few years, food prices have soared. More families are struggling to afford their grocery bills, while farmers see none of the windfall. Instead, that windfall is lining the pockets of huge corporations, thanks to their monopoly power.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. To start, this year the Biden administration can stop a mega-merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons

If approved, the merger would subject millions of families to the whims of an even more powerful monopoly. As we’ve seen before, monopolies lead to higher prices and worse working conditions. Through the Federal Trade Commission, the Biden administration can help block this merger and many others.

6. Protect Families from Factory Farm Pollution

Factory farms fuel the climate crisis, sicken neighboring communities, and pollute our air and our water. The EPA is supposed to protect us, but for decades, its lax rules have allowed factory farms to pollute with impunity. 

That pollution threatens human health with respiratory illnesses, bacteria in drinking water, and more. And those health risks fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color.

We need stronger rules to protect environmental justice communities and slow down climate change. Biden can direct the EPA to finally enact new, better regulations for factory farm air and water pollution. 

Biden Can and Must Act Boldly on Climate

We are running out of time. Every day, temperatures rise; a new disaster strikes. The window is closing to secure food, water, and a livable future for all. And the greedy corporations at the heart of the problem are making matters even worse.

But Biden can show true leadership by enacting policy that will actually help families. He can turn the tide on climate change, while also stopping corporate abuses and extractive industries that threaten our communities.

In the second half of his term, Biden can and must wield his full powers as president to defend our food, our water, and our climate.

Tell President Biden to declare a climate emergency.

How State-Level Organizing Could Spark National Change in 2023

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by Mark Schlosberg

It’s easy to feel discouraged with the House of Representatives controlled by hard right-wingers. But federal legislation is only one avenue for change. 

This year, Food & Water Action is working at the state level toward big policies with national impact. Building on our years of work with communities on the ground, we’re growing grassroots power. Because of that work, 2023 could be a banner year, with or without federal legislation. 

From New York, to Iowa, to Oregon and beyond, here’s how we’re moving the needle on food, water, and climate. 

How State Wins Ripple into National Action

Though the national stage gets much attention, we’ve seen how state victories can be just as impactful. For instance, back in 2011, we called for a ban on fracking, despite its popular support and reputation as a “bridge fuel” among many environmental organizations. 

Some said fighting for a ban was politically naive, but we didn’t listen. With grassroots partners in New York, we built a powerful coalition and successfully banned fracking in the state. That helped change the conversation, and the environmental community has now reached a consensus against fracking.

Moreover, the New York ban led to bans in Maryland, Washington state, and communities across the country. It also energized a growing movement working to move off fossil fuels. 

We’ve seen this happen with other issues as well, from banning arsenic in chicken feed in Maryland, to stopping water privatization in California and Illinois. These state-level efforts laid the groundwork for nationwide change. 

Now, we’re building on this history of influential state wins in our current campaigns. 

Fighting Factory Farms With Statewide Bans

For years, we’ve worked to stop the factory farms that dominate our food system, threaten our climate, and pollute our communities. 

In Oregon, a moratorium on factory farms is now in sight. We have a new governor, more champions in the state legislature, and more organizations joining our efforts. This year, we’re doubling down on on-the-ground organizing, helping Oregonians to engage their representatives and communities in this fight. 

A statewide factory farm moratorium in Oregon — the first in the country — would advance efforts against factory farms nationwide. Moreover, it would help us fight factory farm gas, a greenwashed marketing ploy propping up both dirty energy and factory farms. That’s why we’re dedicating more research, national volunteers, and funding for key tactics. 

Protecting Our Water by Going After Its Worst Abusers

Across the U.S., millions lack access to affordable clean water at the tap — but not because there’s no water. We face a crisis of underinvestment in water infrastructure, coupled with policies that put big agriculture and fossil fuel corporations before our human right to water. 

Nowhere is this crisis more extreme than in California, where over a million people lack reliable access to clean water. In 2023, we’re ramping up our campaign for water justice in the Golden State. That includes fighting for a moratorium on fossil fuel permits, factory farms, tree nuts, and alfalfa. These industries guzzle tons of water, even when the wells of nearby residents run dry. 

With upcoming research and new volunteer efforts, we can pressure Governor Newsom to protect our communities and climate. Last year, we successfully moved Newsom to embrace protection zones between oil drilling and homes and schools. This campaign, led by environmental justice groups, shows that big changes in California are possible. 

Now, we’re growing our efforts to stop new drilling permits. A statewide moratorium on new drilling in California would be the first of its kind, setting a powerful national precedent. 

Stopping Fracked Gas in Its Tracks

The science is clear: we need to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That means ending policy that benefits dirty energy companies, as well as investing big in clean energy. 

So in New York, we’re working to ban gas hookups in new construction. We already won a gas ban in New York City; now, the state ban is just within reach, with support from Governor Hochul and more than 80 state legislators. 

At the same time, we’re pushing for the Build Public Renewable Act, which would allow New York’s largest public utility to build new renewable energy projects. 

Not only are we targeting fossil fuels in buildings — we’re working against fracking operations, fossil fuel power plants, and pipelines in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California.

Moreover, we’re fighting Big Oil’s latest schemes to protect its dying industry. High on our radar: carbon capture and storage. In Iowa, we’re fighting plans for three carbon pipelines that will threaten public health and mask more pollution and emissions.

We’ve spent years on the ground in Iowa, helping to build a powerful bipartisan movement against these pipelines. In 2023, we’re advancing efforts to pass legislation that will stop pipeline companies from wrenching land from families and farmers.

Iowans aren’t the only ones threatened with Big Oil’s climate scams — hydrogen power buildouts, factory farm gas facilities, and more loom over communities across the country. A victory in Iowa will drive efforts nationwide to stop harmful industry boondoggles.

2023 Will Be Our Year — With Your Help

In the face of congressional inaction, we know we must use every strategy we have to protect our food, water, and climate. We’ve seen how state-level organizing can drive huge national changes. So in 2023, we’re doubling down on everything from blocking fossil fuel permits to protecting our water; ending factory farms to exposing carbon capture and other greenwashing grifts. 

But we can’t do it without you. Every campaign starts at the grassroots, with communities pitching in whatever they can — time, expertise, resources. With your help, we’ll secure the wins we need to secure a livable future for all.

Join us in our work toward a livable future for all!