by Khanh Pham
Environmental Justice Manager

If you click on the news or social media today, it can sometimes be overwhelming to take in all the distressing stories: families being pushed out of their homes due to skyrocketing rents, children being poisoned by their water in Flint, a Zika virus spreading across the Americas, and millions struggling to find dignified work that can support their families. As APANO talks to our members about the issues they care about, we hear widespread anxiety about jobs, education, housing, health, and the future for our children.

At APANO, we understand that these issues are connected, and the same forces that led Flint, MI, to provide lead-tainted water are connected to the same privatization and austerity movements which are leading to disinvestment in schools and the lack of jobs in many areas. We recently launched an environmental and climate justice program to start addressing the connections between economic justice, the environment, and the health and well-being of our communities.

This March, we are hosting a workshop called: “Making Place: Exploring the Role of Planning and Policy” to explore the forces and policies that shape development and displacement, as well as stories of communities that have organized to increase community control. In January and February, we are hosting a two-part workshop series called “A Living Landbase: Building Health Habitats on SE 82nd Ave” to increase greenspace in our neighborhoods and to promote healthy communities in a neighborhood that faces high air pollution and lack of parks and greenspace. Jade District residents face asthma rates about twice as high as the city average, in part due to pollution from major transportation/freight corridors.

At APANO we understand that our current extractive, fossil fuel-based economy is unsustainable, and thus some kind of transition is inevitable. A just transition, however, is not guaranteed in that process, and it is quite possible that the same groups of people left out of the current economy—poor people and people of color, will also be left out of the new clean energy economy. Many people working on climate change, for example, think that they can address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions without transforming the current economic system and relations of power. Thus, as part of the Coalition of Communities of Color, we have been advocating for equitable allocation of resources in any climate action legislation, including the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (HB 4036) and the Healthy Climate Bill (SB 1574). it-takes-roots-to-weather-storm

These issues of greenspace, climate action, and the interconnections with housing, economic, and racial justice are issues that APANO will be exploring more deeply with our members in 2016. If you would like to get involved, please contact Environmental Justice Manager Khanh Pham at khanh@apano.org.