Sunday, April 30, 2017

Los Angeles Climate March Focuses on Environmental Justice

The Los Angeles People's Climate March briefly blocked both sides of Pacific Coast Highway at the Tesoro refinery in Wilmington on Saturday.
I had a chance to participate in the Los Angeles People's Climate March yesterday.  It was encouraging to see hundreds of people come out and show support for transitioning our economy away from the fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas that are causing harmful climate change.  There were some famous speakers, including Jane Fonda, Robert Kennedy Jr. and California Senate President Kevin de León.

What I found particularly encouraging was the fact that the march had a strong focus on environmental justice.  Not every community feels the effects of our fossil fuel economy equally.  The march was held in the largely low-income and Hispanic community of Wilmington.  Wilmington suffers a lot of air pollution from being close to the ports, freeways, freight railways and large industrial plants, including the Tesoro oil refinery which was the local target of the protest.  Tesoro is looking to expand its Wilmington refinery, but the environmental justice activists (such as Alicia Rivera of Communities for a Better Environment) who spoke to the crowd were having none of it, noting that they're dealing with enough asthma and cancer in their community already.

We all have a stake in fighting global warming, but some communities are more on the "front lines" than others.  More often than not, these frontline communities are the homes of the poor and people of color.  We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generally with a special focus on the communities that are dealing with more than their share of pollution today.  That opens up the possibility for a more diverse, powerful and effective environmental movement.

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