In October 2002, hundreds of activists converged in Washington, D.C. for the largest and most diverse gathering of environmental justice leaders ever in the United States: The Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, or Summit II. Coming from all over the country and the world, these activists gathered to build on the victories and strengthen the roots of their movement. On the second morning of the gathering, the Summit Planning Committee took the stage for the day’s opening plenary with an audience of more than 1400 people. Just as the session was about to start, a group of mostly young people streamed into the room, wielding signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace!” They were greeted by applause from the entire audience, including those onstage. Seconds later, the protesters themselves took the stage and surrounded the plenary table, making it clear that the Planning Committee was the target of their protest. While some committee members recognized what was coming, others were surprised to be the focus of this mobilization. A large number of the youth attending the Summit had organized to present carefully crafted demands to the Planning Committee, which Introduction Introduction was mostly (but not entirely) adult led. The protesters were partly insisting on more equitable inclusion and support of youth in the environmental justice movement. However, like much youth organizing, the demands were not limited to youth-specific issues. They addressed much broader concerns, such as the tension between professional/academic and community-based leaders in the movement.
Environmental Justice (Research)
HUD’s new “Sustainable Communities Initiative” (SCI) represents the best of the new administration – looking forward creatively towards a new metropolitan future, and crossing bureaucratic silos to engage transportation policy, environmental policy, and housing policy in the same program. However, the SCI program also demonstrates the potential pitfalls of trying to move progressive policies without engaging the real continuing divisions of race and class in our society. We believe that the SCI program has the potential to advance the goal of racially and economically integrated and environmentally sustainable regions. However, to achieve this goal, the program needs to take these issues on explicitly. We are encouraged by recent comments made by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who all stated, in effect, that “sustainable must be equitable” at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference on February 2010. That commitment was memorably reinforced by HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims in his inspiring remarks to conclude the conference. HUD and its partners, DOT and EPA, have been provided with very broad latitude in designing the SCI planning grant program through the very general explanatory language of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of December 16, 2009; thus, in terms of developing national models for achieving both greater social justice and enhanced environmental sustainability, HUDDOT- EPA must set the bar very high for the pilot planning grant program – and must take into account their mutual obligation to affirmatively further fair housing in any federal program affecting housing and urban development.
The global economic crisis, which began officially on September 15, 2008 due to the bankruptcy of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, has spread throughout a wide range of countries and regions. It has penetrated rural areas and cities, has simultaneously taken over large metropolises and small urban centers, and has caused devastation in neighborhoods as well as in central districts. In short, it has spread over the most diverse geographies. However, the devastating effect of this phenomenon differs considerably among large regions, countries, cities and neighborhoods. In the case of urban locales—this study’s central theme—we can identify cities whose main macroeconomic indicators (employment, production, investment, consumption, public-sector spending) have suffered considerable deterioration. However, we see at the same time that some urban locales have been able to mitigate the most adverse effects, and still others have emerged from the crisis onto a path of sustained growth.
On April 8, 2009, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a Green Retrofit and Workforce Program. The Ordinance calls for green retrofits to more than 1,000 city buildings and a workforce development policy that creates career pathways into good, green, safe jobs, targeting those in low?income neighborhoods. The result of a two?year campaign, the Ordinance was developed by the Los Angeles Apollo Alliance, a coalition formed by Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and comprised of more than 25 community, labor, and environmental organizations in Los Angeles. This groundbreaking Ordinance addresses major issues confronting society today – environmental, economic, and health – and represents the first time a program designed to retrofit buildings and reduce municipal energy and water costs has been combined with training for green, quality, union jobs, with the added provision of pathways out of poverty for residents in low?income neighborhoods and with consideration of worker and community health. The Ordinance represents a convergence of community organizing and local, state and federal initiatives to address climate change at a historic moment. At the local level, the ordinance is one component of the Green LA Climate Action Plan. At the state level, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And at the federal level, stimulus funds are forthcoming to address the dual environmental and economic crises through investment in a green economy.
Building Healthy Communities from the Ground Up is the result of discussions between environmental justice organizations in California who participated with other labor and social justice organizations to explore and strategize possible statewide efforts and collaborations. The five environmental justice organizations – Asian Pacific Environmental Network (Oakland), Communities for a Better Environment (SF Bay Area/Los Angeles), Environmental Health Coalition (San Diego), People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (San Francisco), Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition/Health and Environmental Justice Project (San Jose) – have long histories working together in coalitions and have begun to proactively develop collective analyses and explore possibilities for action at the state level. This report represents our initial shared understanding of the landscape of environmental conditions and policy in California and our working framework to address these issues. The report was prepared by Martha Matsuoka, a Board member of Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and a doctoral candidate in UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning. The printing of this report was made possible by The California Endowment. For additional copies of the report, contact any of the five author organizations; see the Appendix for organizational information.
Food justice seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly. Food justice represents a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities. In the United States, more than 20 million people are workers in the food chain, over 11 million of which are full-time employees earning an income. Movements to make healthy food accessible to everyone are increasing in popularity, which is an important step towards achieving food equity for people of color. However, more attention must be paid to the often-invisible labor that produces and prepares the food that we put on the table. The good food movement (see “The Good Food Movement” sidebar) narrowly focuses on the relationship between the producer and consumer, and to the environmental benefits of sustainable agriculture.Consumers strive to directly relate to the process of food production, getting to know the conditions under which their eggs or vegetables were raised. They purchase food directly from the farmer or grow the crops themselves, shortening the time and space between when the food is first planted as a seed and when it is eaten by the consumer.
Proposition 23, an initiative appearing on California’s November 2010 general election ballot, would suspend the implementation and operation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, better known as AB 32, until state unemployment rates remain at or below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. That level has been reached three times since the state began compiling these statistics in 1976. AB 32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of approximately 30 percent from projected business-as-usual levels for the same year. During a period of suspension under Proposition 23, state agencies would not be able to “propose, promulgate, or adopt any regulation implementing” AB 32. In addition, the regulations adopted prior to suspension would be made “void and unenforceable” during the suspension period. The proponents of Proposition 23 argue that implementation of AB 32 will raise energy prices and reduce employment and, therefore, should be suspended until the state’s economy is more robust. They contend that Proposition 23 will benefit California by temporarily delaying expensive and burdensome greenhouse gas reductionmeasures, while allowing those measures to move forward in the future, when the California economy improves.
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