Florence, South Carolina is only about 50 miles from Myrtle Beach, and while enduring severe storms and floods, the residents are finding sea level is rising faster than predicted. In a community with nearly 1 out of 5 people living in poverty, where climate change is not just a theory but a factor in their daily lives, Rev. Leo Woodberry, pastor of the Kingdom Living Temple in Florence and director of the New Alpha Community Development Corporation (NACDC), believes solutions lie in the knowledge, strength and resilience of the community itself.
New Alpha Community Development Corporation partners with the Whitney M. Slater Foundation and Kingdom Living Temple as well as other climate justice coalitions. They come together to build relationships and community, to create solutions at the nexus of community life. For these three organizations, that means treating, “all the needs of people in our communities from a spiritual, mental, and physical perspective.” That kind of holistic approach opens pathways to relationships with diverse members of the community, enriching the vision they create together for better communities and healthier environments in which to live.
In the pivotal year of 2020, as co-founder of the Justice First Tour, Rev. Leo Woodberry made the challenge clear: “From the very beginning, our fight has been around saving our lives – about the food that we eat, about the water that we drink. Intersectionality has really become more apparent with COVID-19, because a lot of the people most susceptible to the virus are people who live in areas with food swamps and food deserts, and who disproportionately suffer from pre-existing conditions like asthma, hypertension, and diabetes.”
This sense of purpose and the power of the New Alpha CDC partnership brought them to advocate successfully for a rural solar project, providing affordable clean energy and home weatherization for low-income residents. This work is now being built upon with solar-powered, off-the-grid “hydropanels” that create fresh drinking water from thin air, a project that just opened in February. This 3-acre freshwater farm using Source Global Hydropanel technology builds the community’s self-reliance and resilience in the face of economic upheaval and climate change and provides sustainable, clean water to the community.
Now the work continues with a plan for community capacity building and planning to expand the range and influence of community driven solutions.
This work will include:
- A prioritized set of strategies and projects, where natural and nature-based solutions may be implemented to reduce flooding risk and exposure
- Build strong partnerships with Federal, state, and local agencies, existing regional partnerships and community and non-profit organizations to create local solutions
- Providing lessons learned to other environmental justice organizations in South Carolina to continue to expand partnerships and support more communities in the area.
Collaborating on this project with the New Alpha Community Development Corporation are the Anthropocene Alliance, the Thriving Earth Exchange of the American Geophysical Union, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, and the US Army Corps of Engineers will provide support to four communities in three counties.
Written by Michele Gielis
Environmental Justice Today, July 2021 Issue featuring Reverend Woodberry and the work he is advocating on
‘Our time’: Joe Biden’s commitment to environmental justice brings attention to Rev. Leo Woodberry’s work, SCNOW, April 6, 2021
Front-line communities are vital for Biden’s 40 percent climate justice pledgeThe Hill, April 1, 2021
‘Water from the heavens’: South Carolina pastor’s crusade for clean drinking water, NBC News, March 31, 2021
Southern communities know how to build a fair, just and thriving clean-energy economy | Opinion, March 23, 2021
Rev. Leo Woodberry speaks about newly installed hydropanels, CBS News, March 10, 2021
How a pastor in South Carolina is fighting environmental racism with a sustainable water farm,The Hill, February 22, 2021
Letter to the Editor: Biden keeps his promises by Rev. Leo Woodberry, SCNOW, Feb. 18, 2021
Over 100,000 people around the world tuned into Climate Curious premiere with Mark Ruffalo, Rev. Leo Woodberry, & Elizabeth Yeampierre, Prnewswire, June 24, 2020
Commentary: A South Carolina solar farm ties bittersweet memories to a healthier future, Energy News Network, August 28, 2018
Reverend Leo Woodberry
Flooding, Water Contamination
Community Farm/Gardens, Fighting Industrial Contamination, Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions, Renewable Energy
501c3 Tax Deductible