Why does a Healthy Environment matter?

Healthy environment, vibrant future

Our environmental investments are grounded in the belief that a flourishing and equitable Oregon depends on healthy ecosystems and clean water and air for all. Through the Healthy Environment portfolio, we work toward this in two ways: a Statewide Program that aims to build an inclusive environmental movement and engages and supports nonprofits working on a range of place-based and statewide efforts to protect and improve the environment, and the Willamette River Initiative, a 10-year commitment by Meyer to improve the health of the watershed that more than two-thirds of Oregonians call home.

Why it matters

The well-being of human and natural communities are interdependent. A healthy and resilient natural environment provides clean air and water, feeds us, regulates the climate, supports biodiversity, meets our diverse spiritual and cultural needs, provides recreational opportunities, and supports our livelihoods. Oregonians have a strong sense of place based on our unique and diverse landscapes and our encounters with the natural world in our neighborhoods and communities.

But balancing economic and societal demands with the need to ensure the integrity of natural systems presents challenges. Projected population growth, climate change and economic shifts in our state are putting pressure on the environment, requiring new and proven approaches that balance conservation, social and cultural needs, and economic interests.

Supporting efforts to assure a healthy environment for all Oregonians today and the future fits squarely into Meyer's mission to work with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

Equity within the environment

Environmental problems tend to harm communities most impacted by discrimination and oppression — communities of color and low-income communities — first and more severely. These same communities also often have less access to the benefits of nature and environmental protection.

One example of this relationship is contamination of well water in some rural Oregon communities from arsenic, nitrate bacteria and pesticides. Many rural residents, particularly low-income, rural residents, may be unknowingly drinking contaminated well water that could lead to cancer, miscarriage and other health problems.

Diesel exhaust, which is harmful to human health, is a problem in many of Oregon's urban communities. A 2011 study on Portland air toxics found that people living in neighborhoods where greater numbers of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians reside have two to three times greater exposure to diesel particulate matter than people living in primarily white neighborhoods.

Tribes originally occupying the land now known as the state of Oregon rely directly upon the land's natural systems to sustain their communities and cultural traditions. Despite treaties with the federal government, tribes have experienced a long history of encroachment, land theft and other actions that have undermined their sovereignty, their rights to fish, hunt, gather foods, and live in their traditional territories, and their cultural connection to the land.

Disrupting the pattern of exploitation of nature and people, particularly people who have been most affected by oppression, is the focus of our Healthy Environment portfolio. That's why much of Meyer's work focuses on addressing disparities experienced by under-resourced and marginalized populations in rural and urban areas, including low-income communities, communities of color, Oregon's indigenous communities and tribes, and immigrants and refugees.

We support solutions that reflect the voice and experience of communities that face disparities in rural and urban areas of the state. We also fund efforts to change the status quo so that more of the benefits of a healthy environment reach all our communities.

Statewide Program

The Statewide Program works to protect and improve the health and resiliency of Oregon's environment while addressing the systems and structures in our communities that create unfair advantages for some groups and disadvantages for others in their access to a healthy environment. We prioritize efforts that aim to alter the status quo, and we value community-led approaches that align resources and organizations for greater impact.

Learn more about the Statewide Program

Willamette River Initiative

Building partnerships for a healthier Willamette River

WRI is a 10-year commitment to improve river health along the 187-mile Willamette and its tributaries. We envision a river system that supports healthy ecosystems and vibrant communities.

OUR FUTURE

WRI is transitioning. Our grantmaking will end in March 2019, and we're building a blueprint to sustain momentum and support for a healthy Willamette River system into the future.

Learn more about the Willamette River Initiative