Community Member and advocate, Conchita Pozar, publishes an OpEd demanding action on the Salton Sea in The Press-Enterprise.
We want to live in a world where natural and built environments support all life forms to flourish. In this world, human beings have access to, deep relationships with, and overwhelming gratitude for the Earth in all of its splendor, and our communities are designed to nurture our wellbeing and our dreams.
A massive reimagining of land use, rights and ownership is in order. Most of us in the United States today live on land stolen from Indigenous peoples, and we support efforts to return this land to its original inhabitants.
There are natural environments that ensure our physical survival and nourish our souls: an alpine lake with friends in the late afternoon, a cottage in the woods full of moss and dew drops, a desert sky full of stars, an early morning on a quiet forested lake, a sunny day at the beach. These special places require policies that forever protect them for the use and enjoyment of all creatures. And because climate change does not recognize borders, strong and immediate measures must be taken across the globe to halt practices that pollute and destroy our life-giving ecosystems.
This means turning away from capitalist models of endless growth and putting people and the planet over profits. Land use is centered around community needs. Policies – created and designed by those most impacted – invest in projects that meet community needs and enhance our built environments. Public spaces facilitate connection and creativity, like collaborative murals and gardens where community members can grow their food.
My mom is a gardener and is a part of local community gardens. She has important access to community connections and earns a side income from the stuff she grows, so the whole family benefits.
Cars are obsolete and high quality public transportation is accessible, free and connects people to resources and opportunities. Outdoor environments are designed to encourage fun and healthy activities, like playing, walking, biking, and jogging.
Our communities are resilient – we can look to them for models of mutual aid and collective care, and uplift and expand the systems that they have always practiced.
The environments that we move through every day – our homes, schools, workplaces, parks – are specifically designed to benefit some at the expense of others, according to our race, gender, immigration status and class.
For example, air quality in Long Beach, California, is ranked among the worst in the nation. But affluent neighborhoods are buffered from polluted air and water because refineries, freeways, the incinerator and railyard, among other polluting entities, are all located in working class communities of color. In the Eastern Coachella Valley, as in many cities across the nation, public funding is used to update and “beautify” areas that are already highly resourced and well-maintained while other areas are left without paved roads, electricity, broadband and other basic necessities and services. On the south side of Fresno, parks and playgrounds for youth to gather and play are few. Grocery stores are scarce, while liquor and convenience stores abound.
When natural disasters occur, like fires and floods, these communities are the first to feel the effects. Relief efforts focus on wealthier neighborhoods while poorly built and maintained infrastructure means that low-income communities are left with the most damage – and for the longest, since recovery efforts are rarely directed their way. Instead, greedy companies are free to capitalize on their misery, snapping up homes and land that they cannot afford to rebuild.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw into sharp relief the hazards of workplace environments – the harsh conditions that farm, factory and gig workers – whose work is essential to our economy and society, but who are treated as though they are dispensable.
Every day, our natural areas are being wiped off the map, along with millions of species. The collapse of our climate and life-giving natural systems has already begun, and the poorest communities throughout the world – and future generations – will feel its effects first and hardest.
Timeline of Wins in Environmental Justice
Local youth conduct safety assessments of a highly trafficked area of Long Beach, with a focus on accessibility, maintenance and safety for youth that walk, bike or take the bus.
Fresno Boys & Men of Color youth leader Raymart Catacutan speaks about his experiences on the San Joaquin River.
Fresno Boys & Men of Color (BMOC) youth leader Kieshaun White and Fresno BMOC Program Manager speak at a press conference in support of AB 559.
In June, Merced youth spoke with elected officials and successfully advocated to allocate dollars from general fund to pay for lighting.
Boys & Men of Color helped pass Measure P in December 2020, which is projected to raise $40 million a year for the next 30 years to support parks and green spaces in Fresno.
Olivia Rodriguez publishes an article on Salton Sea communities, which needed relief long before coronavirus hit, in The Desert Sun.
A team of Coachella Uninc. reporters, led by Bryan Mendez and Olivia Rodriguez, produced a mini documentary that explores key issues related to the Salton Sea and that uplifts the stories of local ECV residents.
Estamos Aquí: A Community Documentary, receives the Youth Leadership in Air Quality Award from the South Coast AQMD Clean Air Awards.
52.17% voters vote in favor of Measure P, a community-led ballot initiative calling on the city to invest in local parks.
A team of Coachella Unincorporated youth filmmakers premiered Estamos Aquí: A Community Documentary in Coachella, CA.