Asheville, North Carolina

4 5 CIVIL AND MUNICIPAL VOLUME 2, ISSUE 11 CIVIL AND MUNICIPAL VOLUME 2, ISSUE 11 ASHEV I LLE , NORTH CAROL INA “When we started having those conversations about global warming and climate justice, part of that was really coming to understand ‘what did that mean?’,” shares Marisol Jiménez, CEO and Founder of Tepeyac Consulting. “What did that mean from the perspective of people who are living on the frontlines? For Black, Indigenous, and people of color? What was their definition of climate equity? What are the ways that we could learn from BIPOC communities about what it means to be resilient; to survive things like COVID, and to survive things like structural racism? What are the ways that they’ve built structures of support and what might those look like in a future of climate collapse?” The depth of reflection and awareness that the listening + learning sessions highlighted underscores a readiness to dig in to the work. Now, civic imagination in Asheville is being mobilized as a skill and a tool, both for activism and for city governance. through its integration with a global health pandemic that has on the one hand, disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable, marginalized people in the country and on the other, illuminated the social inequalities that have been some of the root causes of climate upheaval to date. A growing consensus has emerged regarding the science of climate change in recent years – the issue has transformed from a fight for eco-friendly practices to one for the communities that environmental racism habitually leaves in the dark. The City of Asheville, located in North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Mountains – incidentally, one of the few areas left in the world yet to have experienced any significant warming – responded early and proactively to global and state-wide imperatives to grow a cleaner, more resilient, and inclusive economy by establishing what it calls the Climate Justice Initiative. The City of Asheville is working In partnership with Tepeyac Consulting, a national consulting firm that catalyzes strategic approaches to advancing social justice movements. The collaboration between Asheville’s city administration, community members, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders seeks to shape a locally relevant, inquiry-oriented, working definition of climate equity. On January 28, 2020, Asheville became the first community in North Carolina to mandate a “Climate Emergency,” setting rigorous goals to counter warming greenhouse gases and their disparate impacts based on race, economic status, and area of residence. While Asheville waits for federal assistance to accomplish these steps, municipal staff members are zeroing in on connecting sustainability to racial justice work, using information compiled from “listening and learning” sessions that invite the historically underserved and marginalized to speak to those imbalances.