22 Apr Today is Earth Day!
Every day, we should celebrate Earth Day. Since April 22, 1970, Earth Day has been hailed as a way of recognizing the achievements of the environmental justice movement and raising awareness about the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations.
Pollution impacts everyone, but Black and Brown communities in low-income and disadvantaged neighborhoods often shoulder the heaviest burden. Many of these communities not only experience significant health burdens due to proximity to freeways, industrial zones, and existing oil fields, but they also face heightened risks from climate change. For example, earlier in the year, Californians witnessed first-hand and felt the impact of “atmospheric river” rain storms which have been like no other time in the state’s history.
A 2022 study says climate change has already doubled the risk of a California megaflood. And an additional 1°C of global warming would double the odds again. Today, we have an opportunity to call for stronger action to fight the pollution that causes climate change. But, our elected leaders need to understand the disproportionate impacts in order to pass legislation to address it.
4 BLACK ENVIRONMENTALISTS FIGHTING FOR EQUITY
At its core, Earth Day points to our fundamental human rights–that everyone has the right to clean, healthy air. Unfortunately, Los Angeles is falling short in the quality of air its residents breathe–Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report gave the City of Angels an “F” for failure, the smoggiest metropolitan area in the nation. And South Los Angeles has the second worst air quality in the nation.
Not only does South Los Angeles suffer from poor air quality, but we also have an “urban heat island effect” because of an overabundance of asphalt and very few green canopies provided by trees in our communities. Heat islands trap and retain heat due to high concentrations of buildings, roads, and other manufactured developments, leading to extreme heat conditions. Per the City of Los Angeles Forest Officer, only 21% of the city is shaded with trees, and most are located in affluent neighborhoods. Each year, these conditions contribute to countless heat-related deaths and illnesses, such as stroke and respiratory ailments. Black and Brown parents also demand LAUSD provide more green space and shade on playgrounds across school campuses to protect students from extreme heat conditions.
The lack of environmental justice in South Los Angeles is tied to decades of disinvestment associated with historic systemic racism. However, a new generation of environmental activists and groups is changing the narrative, with local residents leading the fight against the risks associated with climate change. Check out these environmental activists and projects leading the way:
- Fierce Females: environmental justice activist Nalleli Cobo: At 19, Nalleli Cobo led a coalition to shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her neighborhood permanently. This oil drilling site caused severe health issues for her and others. Organizing efforts against urban oil extraction was critical in passing City and County measures to ban new oil exploration and phase out existing sites.
- For a decade, the Stand-LA Coalition has been tirelessly organizing and advocating to end neighborhood oil drilling to improve the health and safety of county and city residents. The Stand-LA Coalition played an integral role in the effort for the L.A. City Council to pass an ordinance that phases out oil drilling across the city, becoming the first major city to do so. In December 2022, the L.A. City Council unanimously voted to ban new oil and gas drilling immediately.
- South LA Eco-Lab: a community-driven project to facilitate economic development through Climate Action within the project area to achieve the community’s vision for a socially inclusive, sustainable, green community resilient to climate change in the heart of South Los Angeles. In November 2022, the South LA Eco-Lab received a $35 million Transformative Climate Communities grant from the California Strategic Growth Council.
Things To Do on Earth Day:
- Take Action – Earth Day Toolkit
- Host a Community Clean-Up – Go on a walk with a trash bag and clean up any plastic that you find.
- Follow the 3 R’s. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle throughout your home. Save natural resources, energy and money, and help reduce waste sent to landfills.
- Reduce paper waste and junk mail. Think twice before printing things at work and home.