APANO has endorsed several ballot measures based on their impacts on our communities. While we have discussed our support for the Yes for Affordable Homes and Yes on Measure 97 campaigns, not everyone knows about some of the other measures we’re endorsing and why. APANO staff members Khanh Pham and Kara Carmosino had a special conversation about three other measures on the ballot this year, and how they connect to APANO’s larger work and analysis. Check it out below!
Kara: So, it’s civic engagement season. APANO has taken a position on several ballot measures that we’ll be voting on in November, and we’ve talked a lot about our support for investments in our communities through affordable housing, raising the corporate minimum tax rate and investment in schools. But APANO is also taking a position on some environment-related ballot measures and we wanted a chance to talk about those and how our members weighed in on that.
Khanh: Can you share how our members were involved this year?
Kara: Sure! We went through a process this spring and summer to assess the measures that were qualifying, apply our values as a lens, and talk with our members about how these measures would affect them. Based on recommendations from members and staff, APANO’s Board of Directors endorsed these positions in July and we’ve since been working on a voter guide, which was just released.
So, just to get us started, why is APANO taking a position on Measure 99, Outdoor School for All, and the Metro Parks and Natural Areas Levy?
Khanh: APANO members have really emphasized how important access to greenspace is, because the connection between healthy communities and access to greenspace has been made abundantly clear. We find that people who have access to greenspace are more active and can engage in more healthy practices, and so we see outdoor school and the Parks Levy as really key to helping young people in particular have this access and gain knowledge and familiarity with the natural world. Measure 99, in particular, will help address some of the inequities in experiencing outdoor school. Currently only half of Oregon students currently are able to attend, and recently, as school district budgets have had to tighten, even existing programs have been shortened, with rural and low-income districts most affected. In 2015, the Oregon Legislature created a fund to pay for weeklong outdoor school for every fifth or sixth grader in the state, but did not assign any money to the fund. Measure 99 would ensure that funding exists for all school districts to apply for, which we see as really key to an equitable system.
Kara: One of the other persuasive arguments for Measure 99 for our members was that attending outdoor school has been shown to have a positive impact on student outcomes, as well as building increased self-esteem, teamwork and confidence. This was particularly true for traditionally underserved student groups like English Language Learners. So we see it as a chance to also advocate for more investment in our communities’ education in ways that work for them, to ensure that we have equitable education outcomes as well.
Khanh: Absolutely. And it’s about our communities’ health. APANO has focused a lot on the Jade District, and in our work in the Jade District, we see high rates of air pollution and toxic exposure that come from being boxed in by these high-traffic corridors like 82nd Ave, and the freeway. The asthma rates in the Jade District are twice the city average, and that is really rooted in a lack of greenspace, a lack of trees that can help suck up some of the air pollution. And so we see access to greenspace as a key equity issue and an environmental justice issue.
Kara: It seems like being in a big transportation corridor, seeing a lot of the fossil fuels that get used in this area, relates to our analysis on climate change and really talking and working with our members to understand some of the global impacts of a warming planet on our homelands, families and communities. Can you share a little bit about what that work looks like and why APANO sees climate justice as an issue for Asians and Pacific Islanders?
Khanh: Absolutely. This is an analysis that we’re definitely still learning and developing with our members, but through our climate justice workshops and the stories that our members have shared, we’re seeing the interconnections between a fossil fuel-based economy, and the real devastation that we’re experiencing in our homelands and also here as we suffer the asthma rates and respiratory problems that I’m talking about. We see these as interlinked and really want to challenge the root causes of these health problems and climate impacts.
Kara: What are some of the impacts that our communities are seeing, either in Oregon or elsewhere?
Khanh: Many of our members at the APANO Statewide Convention were talking about the super typhoon Megi that just hit Taiwan and southeastern China recently, that was pouring rain down, destroying farmland, and really jacking up food prices as well because when crops are destroyed, food prices go up for the poorest. We also have Pacific Islander members who talk about experiencing first-hand the impacts of rising sea levels, seeing their beaches erode, and their homes and cemeteries and places of worship being swallowed up by the high tides. And some folks who live in more rural areas in Oregon and in California are talking about the impacts of drought and how hotter temperatures are leading to drier conditions, which are really impacting a lot of agriculture areas, both in California and in Oregon.
So, that’s why we’ve decided to take a position on climate change and climate justice, which is pretty rare. A lot of groups that identify as racial justice groups and organizations don’t often take positions on what are seen as environmental issues, but we see climate justice as a racial justice issue and climate change as a racist phenomenon, both in the United States around who bears the brunt of the impacts, but also looking globally and seeing the countries and communities that are most affected.
Kara: I think that our analysis and a lot of our members’ stories around climate change and its impacts on their communities are really elevating our ability to take a more global perspective, while also being hyper-focused on what’s happening in Oregon and on some of the change we can make here in Oregon, since many of our communities do cross continents and oceans, and we also feel and see the impacts of what we do here on communities overseas and elsewhere. Of course, that’s something we’ve understood forever when we talk about migration and the pressures that may be leading our communities to move.
Khanh: Absolutely. I think it’s actually created space for some of our members, who love APANO’s work but feel it’s been so local, and I’ve just noticed that by opening up this new issue, it’s also creating a space for them to really share their stories of back home. They have a platform for sharing that they have multiple identities, and they carry a lot of experiences that are relevant to our work on climate justice.
Kara: So that leads us to the other measure that we are endorsing a yes vote on, Measure 100, known as the Wildlife Trafficking Prevention Act. This measure would impose fines on trading of animal parts from 12 species that are protected, species like lions and sharks and sea turtles and elephants, who are often poached for animal products that are then illegally traded. Hawaii, California and Washington recently passed similar bans, so advocates in Oregon are seeing this as an opportunity to wall off the west coast. So, Khanh, why is Measure 100 important to APANO, when at first glance it seems like, you know, it’s about animals far from Oregon, it’s not about human communities, so why are we taking this position?
Khanh: To be honest, my first instinct was to not take a position on a measure about lions and tigers and elephants, because I have this gut reaction that’s, “What about people?” So often, groups that advocate on these issues have such a laser focus on saving these specific animals when people are really struggling, and they don’t often recognize the implications. But we realized that this really is connected to our vision for environmental and climate justice, and that our ecosystems depend on the interdependence of animals, and if we let endangered species go extinct through human actions, that it has impacts on our long-term ability to sustain our livelihoods and communities. We also recognize that many of these animals are part of economies in Asia, for medicinal or other uses, and if we want the long-term sustainability of that, we need to ensure the survival of these animals is protected.
Kara: Yes—we want to shift the discussion to really talk about the interdependence of species, especially keystone species like some of the ones on this list. That their extinction isn’t just about that one species, but really the cascading impacts it will have on other species, on the environment around them, on their ecosystems. And that in many ways the regulating role that keystone species play in these ecosystems helps increase resilience to climate change impacts like super storms or warming oceans. So we want to be making these connections—about how species are connected, about how our communities are connected, across state lines and national borders—and talking about interdependence, about the web of relationships we live in whether we recognize it or not.
Khanh: So it was actually a really fruitful discussion to explore how we didn’t want to just have a knee-jerk reaction like my first reaction, and recognizing that this will involve some deeper conversations with our communities, some of whom may be opposed to this measure because of a potential disproportionate impact on our communities. Do you want to talk a little bit about that—how some are concerned that the fines that are levied will disproportionately impact some API communities?
Kara: We did have a conversation with the campaign when we endorsed this, because we were concerned about how these fines would be messaged and what information would be available. We know that many times, well-meaning policies are passed and then the information does not get out in the right ways to communities most affected. And that did concern us when we discussed this measure, and we want to continue to monitor that. But as APANO, being able to really think long-term about the health and sustainability of our communities, the ecosystems we are part of, we want to be able to do that. We want to not just think about the next year or 10 years or what’s happening right now; when we’re facing something like the devastating level of climate change that we are seeing, we have to look at what we need to be doing now to ensure that not just our communities and some of these species, but the planet itself, is around in the next generation and the generation after that.
Khanh: So how can APANO members support these measures?
Kara: We want members to get involved with the campaigns that they are passionate about! If anyone is excited about any of these measures, we encourage them to get connected to these campaigns and see how they can volunteer. And as you said, these were great opportunities for us as staff and as APANO members to not just talk about a vote that will be happening in November, but why we care about climate change, why we care about access to greenspace, what that means for our communities and our kids. So hopefully it’s a chance for people to have more conversations and start thinking about this longer term.
Khanh: We will also continue work on environmental justice issues and statewide work on climate change in the 2017 legislative session, so if you want to get more involved, please contact me at [email protected]!
Come to APANO’s 2016 ballot party on Tues, Oct. 25 to learn more: Ballots and Boba!
Connect with the campaigns mentioned above: