Fostering Environmental Literacy in Kansas City

Share Leticia DeCaigny’s conversation with Richard Mabion and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Richard Mabion is president of the Kansas City, Kansas branch of the NAACP and a board member of the Kansas Sierra Club. He created Building A Sustainable Earth Community to draw more people of color to the environmental sustainability movement.

Leticia DeCaigny, leader of the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee and Diesel Health Project community organizer, spoke with Richard Mabion about how he began advocating for his community around environmental issues and his hopes for the future. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

 

LETICIA DECAIGNY: What in your life experience prepared you to be a changemaker?

 

RICHARD MABION: You’re getting all my little trade secrets, aren’t you? (Laughs) My mother was the last president for the PTA for the “Negro school system” in the state of Kansas. When they had the Brown vs. Topeka court settlement my mother was president … So when you grow up in that kind of environment, you have an emphasis on education in your face every day, and you have an emphasis for change, and you grow up with one of those “can do” attitudes. And so actually it’s like being a Christian. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. We went to church on Sunday and we were raised to be changemakers.

 

LD: So how does the pollution in our community impact you and others.

 

RM: The portion of the population that we represent is the low-income community. And the problem with pollution in the low-income community is lack of education. No one has really taken the time to stop and education the public about what it is that they’re even dealing with. And that’s what makes what you and I do very special. Because … we’re in a position to make sure the everyday person can learn environmental literacy, can learn about pollution. And it doesn’t have to end up like it was in Flint, where the people were totally out of the loop when it came to their own water.

 

LD: What is your greatest hope for positive change in your lifetime and how can we all be a part of that change?

 

RM: Harmony. Being able to live as an American public. I think that that’s another thing the environmental movement can produce … That’s what David Korten was talking about with the Great Turning. That if we all start working for the benefit of this planet then we’ll all be working for the benefit for each other. And that’s the ultimate that I’d like to see this planet become.

 

I don’t know how many more years of life I have. I’d like to think 100. But realistically what I’m doing is to assist and pass some wisdom on to your age group, so that you’ll be able to use it as stepping stones to take us where we need to go as a human race.

PLEASE JOIN Leticia and Richard in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation using the social media buttons above to show your support for #ZeroEmissionsNow.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in Kansas City, Kansas by following the Diesel Health Project.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Protecting Kids from Traffic and Polluted Air

Share Carolina Martinez’ conversation with Yesenia Ceballos and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Yesenia Ceballos had long been concerned about her children’s safety negotiating the traffic and toxic paint vapors coming from the auto body and repair shops in her neighborhood near the port in Old Town National City, California. She was intrigued when she met up with friends who were celebrating a hard-won victory to have street lights and crossing signs to protect children from the traffic. She asked them why their t-shirts all said “EHC,” and that began her involvement with the Environmental Health Coalition.

Carolina Martinez, Policy Advocate with Environmental Health Coalition in National City California, spoke with Yesenia Ceballos, environmental justice promoter in Old Town National City about what motivates her to improve quality of life in her neighborhood. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

YESENIA CEBALLOS: Tenemos los talleres de mecánica, talleres de carrocería y pintura, talleres de soldadura, tenemos muchos contaminantes, tenemos el freeway 5 que está muy cerca de aquí de nuestras escuelas, de nuestras casas. Entonces tenemos revuelto lo que son casas y negocios, entonces eso es una bomba constante para nuestros niños … Por ejemplo, yo vivo a dos calles, a dos casas de ahí de ahí de uno de estos talleres, en donde pintan barcos. Entonces, todo ese olor de pintura sale, diariamente están pintando carr—barcos, igual carros también hay muchos talleres cerca. Entonces, a tres casas más está la escuela, entonces todo esto lo están respirando nuestros niños cuando salen a hacer su deporte, ellos están respirando todo esto. Entonces, si juntamos lo del freeway, lo del puerto, porque también tenemos un puerto cerca. Entonces, si juntamos todos esos contaminantes, es algo que está dañando nuestros niños, sus pulmones, que puede causarles asma, son muchos factores que tienen ellos.

 

YESENIA CEBALLOS: There are mechanical workshops, paint and body shops, welding shops, and there are many contaminants, and on top of that Freeway 5, which is very close to our schools and our houses. Therefore, we lived on top of each other, houses and businesses scrambled together, which was a ticking bomb for our children … For example, I live two blocks away, two houses from one of these repair shops, where they paint ships. Every day, all that paint odor comes out, because of all the paint they use for ships, and there are also many paint shops for cars nearby. Three blocks after, there is the school. So all our children are breathing this when they go out and play sports, they are breathing all of this. Then, if we combine the pollution from the freeway and the port–because we also have a port nearby–, well, if we combine all these, it is really harming our children. Damaging their lungs, which can cause asthma, there are many factors involved.

 

Es una lucha constante hacer que estas industrias y negocios tengan en cuenta nuestro bienestar. El puerto tiene un gran impacto en la salud de nosotros, y debe tomar responsabilidad con sus vecinos. Pero esto no pasa si nosotros no estamos ahí, luchando, participando para que este cambio se pueda hacer. Nosotros también tenemos derecho a vivir en una comunidad saludable. 

 

It is a constant struggle to make these industries and businesses aware of our wellbeing. The port has a major impact on our health, and we should take responsibility for our community. However, this will not happen if we are not there, fighting and participating to make this change happen. Because we also have the right to live in a healthy community.

PLEASE JOIN Carolina and Yesenia in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation using the social media buttons above to show your support for #ZeroEmissionsNow.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in San Diego County by following Environmental Health Coalition.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Toxic Dust, Love and Asthma: A Mother’s Story in the Imperial Valley

Share Onyx and Humberto’s conversation and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Onyx Bazulto lives in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, where air quality is poor and one in five children has asthma. Her community of Brawley is located between the Salton Sea and the border crossing at Calexico-Mexicali, along a heavily traveled freight corridor.

Humberto Hugo, policy advocate with Comite Civico Del Valle, spoke with Onyx about what motivates her to do community health and education work. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

ONYX BAZULTO: I decided to take that step to change my community because I, for one, care for my family and their health. Both my daughter and I and my mom have asthma and ever since we moved to the Imperial Valley we’ve had many issues of allergies — having to go to the hospital plenty of times because of symptoms of asthma.

 

The first step I took to do something in our community was research and speaking out to family, friends and neighbors who were dealing with the same issues.

 

We live in a dust bowl, below sea level. Every other coastal area — all their pollution surrounds us and sinks in, as well as the incoming diesel contamination from the international exchange of goods.

 

Where I live, not even 10 feet away … trucks have found our nearby gas station to be a truck stop. Every day, every night, you’ll see a long row of semis idling their vehicles for long periods of time. And you know I live right next to the gas station. So I can see a lot of dust enter my home. And then you can smell the smog. So I never have my windows open. And it causes a lot of coughing for my daughter. I always have to be careful. She can’t even play outside.

 

I frequently have to dust, sweep, mop my home to lift the dust and dirt. I have to change AC air filters more than two times a month. It’s a rare joy to open my door and windows. When I do, a lot of dust comes in.

 

I would really love to have our community become more aware of their surrounding environmental justice issues and have them advocate to defend themselves.

PLEASE JOIN Onyx Bazulto and Humberto Hugo in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in the Imperial Valley by following Comite Civico Del Valle.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

A Grandson Returns to East L.A. to Fight For Clean Air

Share mark!’s conversation with his grandparents and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

mark! Lopez was born into a family of organizers and is driven by an early memory of a community march when he was just a toddler in a stroller. He majored in Environmental Studies and earned a masters degree in Chicano studies and returned to the community where he grew up, to work for Communities for A Better Environment and then East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, where he is now the executive director.

mark! was interviewed by his grandparents, Juana and Ricardo Gutierrez. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

JUANA GUTIERREZ: Cual fue el primer paso que tomaste para convertirte en un agente de cambio en nuestra comunidad y que te motivo para dar ese paso?

JUANA GUTIERREZ: What was the first step you took to become a change agent in your community and what motivated you to take that step?

MARK! LOPEZ: Pues no fue un paso creo que uno de los recuerdos que tengo ni de un ano o dos anos creo fue una marcha. Anduvimos en una marcha en 6th street u otro bridge pero estábamos cruzando y yo andaba en un stroller. Y recuerdo la danza Azteca, el tambor y pues ahí con toda la familia y la comunidad marchando. Y me imagino que fue por el prison, pero ese es uno de mis primer recuerdos de mi vida. Ese recuerdo me motivo y es como un guía para ensenarme que es funcionar en comunidad y creci haciendo este trabajo de la comunidad entonces siempre pense que este era algo normal que tenia que hacer.

MARK! LOPEZ: It was not a step. One of my first memories when I was one or two years old was when we were in a march. This march on 6th street, or another bridge, but we were crossing it and I was in my stroller. I remember the danza Azteca, the drums and being there with family and the community marching. This memory is my motivation and my guide as to how to be part of a community. Since I grew up doing this community work, I thought this was the norm and something I had to do.

RICARDO GUTIERREZ: Puedes compartir un tema importante que estás trabajando y tu visión para un futuro mejor?

RICHARD GUTIERREZ: Can you share one important thing you are working on right now and what your visión for a better future looks like?

MARK! LOPEZ: Pues creo que algo que hemos aprendido mucho en el movimiento el que nosotros tenemos que ser los que luchan, nadien va a venir a nuestro rescate. Entonces por ese nosotros tenemos que tener una visión para lo que queremos. Porque si solo les decimos que no queremos solo van a traer mas ideas que nos afectan y no va ha ser algo de beneficio para la comunidad. Entonces en todo el trabajo que hacemos tenemos que empezar con entender el problema, como nos impacta y averiguar que es lo que podemos hacer, que hay de opciones, que es lo que están haciendo otras comunidades y si no hay ejemplos ver lo que podemos crear o pensar. Entonces eso creo que estamos haciendo con el freeway 710, con la alternativa comunitaria 7, es lo que estamos haciendo al nivel nacional.

En anos pasados quien creía que podíamos tener trocas sin contaminación y ahorita estamos en esa lucha que empieza con nosotros. Las comunidades cerca de los puertos ya tienen muchos anos con mucha contaminación entonces esas platicas, ese movimiento que los puertos para asegurar que los puertos no tengan contaminación en el futuro empieza con nosotros. Como ustedes empezaron a luchar aquí en Boyle Heights y en el este de Los Angeles y yo la siguiente generación de la familia y ahora la generación tercera viendo a Xole y a Luna que vienen después de mi y los demás creo que nos aseguramos que la comunidad va estar en buenas manos.

MARK! LOPEZ: I think one thing we have learned from the movement is that we have to be the ones that fight for ourselves, no one is coming to our rescue. This is why we need to have a vision of what we want. Because if we only tell them what we don’t want they will only bring more projects/ideas that will negatively impact us instead of being a benefit to the community. So in the all the work that we do we must first understand the problem, how it will impact us, and figure out what we can do about it. What are the options, what are other communities doing to fight back and if there are no examples we need to figure it out ourselves. This is what I think we have done with the 710 freeway, with Community Alternative 7. This is also what we are doing at the national level.

Before no one could image we could have trucks without pollution and right now we are in that struggle, but it starts with us. Communities living close to ports have a long history with pollution and its impacts so those conversation around making sure the Ports no longer pollute starts with us. Just like you started the fight here in Boyle Heights and East LA, I am the next generation in my family and now the third generation seeing my daughters Xole and Luna that come after me we are making sure that our community is in good hands.

PLEASE JOIN mark! Lopez and his family in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in East L.A. by following East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

From Ecuador to Seattle, a mother driven by belief in the right to a healthy environment

Share Paulina’s interview and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Paulina López moved to Seattle from Ecuador, where she was involved in community organizing with indigenous people on issues such as health and education. She is the mother of three boys in elementary school and has contributed her time for a decade as the volunteer president for South Park Information Resource Center, a grassroots community organization that supports the civic engagement of recent immigrants, with special focus on women. She is passionate about advocating for underrepresented communities, and has been concerned with environmental justice issues uniquely affecting South Park’s recent immigrant communities, such as the clean-up of the Duwamish River.

Paulina was interviewed by Dionne Foster, who was a Policy Analyst at Puget Sound Sage at the time of the interview (and now works for the city of Seattle), about what motivated her activism and what hopes she has for the future. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

PAULINE LOPEZ: A long time ago, when I moved here to South Park, I realized the need we had to get people more involved in civic engagement, civic process – just people more involved in how to build a community.

 

Big decisions were being (made) and the neighbors were not being part of the decisions. For example, in 2005 there was a big document that the city was writing on how to make South Park a better community, and the participation from Latinos was zero. So I started to wonder, “Why are the voices of the main population that exists in South Park not at the table?” … and that’s how the South Park Information Resource Center came up.

 

Unfortunately the environment is very poor … I love my neighborhood, I love South Park, but it does make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing by having your little ones here.

 

One of the things that struck me once – I was talking to a teenager, and we were explaining about the asthma rates being so high in South Park, and she was saying, “You know I always grew up with asthma but I thought it was a normal thing because all my classmates in school have it.” And I thought, “What?!” It can be so big that they think it’s a normal part of life to have asthma.

 

South Park has a lot of needs, but I always concentrate on the assets. We have a very strong community of advocates … We have a very large immigrant and refugee population here … The Vietnamese population is closer to the highway so they were very concerned about emissions from the trucks. They have been very active on what can we do to improve. They’ve been giving us ideas. So I think it’s been important to hear from everyone.

 

Sometimes words like “environmental justice” doesn’t really read to them until you explain: “health” for you. “Oh, health, yes, health, I’m very worried about the health of my kids.” So I hope whatever we can do together will benefit the grassroots level of our community in ways that will be meaningful to them.

PLEASE JOIN Paulina López and Dionne Foster in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work Paulina and Dionne are doing to improve the quality of life in Seattle by following South Park Information and Resource Center and Puget Sound Sage.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Entonces Ahorita Estamos a Tiempo en Hacer Este Cambio

Share Laura Cortez’ conversation with Maribel Mireles and show your support for the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

 

Maribel Mireles lives in Long Beach, California and became involved in environmental justice organizing after her son was diagnosed with asthma. She has been advocating for policies that would reduce truck traffic and diesel pollution from the port of Long Beach.

 

Maribel was interviewed by Laura Cortez, Assistant Project Manager for Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

 

MARIBEL MIRELES: El primer paso que tome para convertirme en una persona de cambio en nuestra comunidad fue mi hijo, porque el fue diagnosticado con asma. Entonces eso fue lo que me motivo a interesarme en este tema porque la verdad no estaba muy enterada de lo que era el asma y lo que conllevaba en asma. Y los cuidados que tenía que tener con esa enfermera.

The first step I took in becoming a change agent in my community was my son, because he was diagnosed with asthma. That is what motivated me to become interested in this topic because I really wasn’t informed about what asthma was and what it entailed. And the care he needed to get from the nurse.

El impacto que yo tengo en mi vida es que — yo vivo en el norte de Long Beach y estoy en un cruzo de dos autopistas importantes de aquí y en el sur de California. Son la 710 y el 91. También estoy un poco cerca al puerto de Long Beach entonces los camiones pasan diariamente por la autopista para llegar a cargar su mercancía. Entonces estos camiones después toman la interestatal 91 para dirigirse hacia los valles, hacia lo que es Riverside y donde están las bodegas más grandes. Entonces esa afecta nuestra salud por el diesel que emiten esos camiones. Y esto a su vez tiene un efecto dómino porque con el tiempo pues más gente se va enfermar de asma. Más niños y más adultos.

The impact it has in my life is that — I live in North Long Beach and I’m by two important freeways in southern California. The 710 and the 91. I’m also a little close to the port of Long Beach, so the trucks pass on a daily basis through the freeway to go and load their merchandise. Then these trucks take the 91 freeway to head to the valleys, toward Riverside where there are large warehouses. This impacts our health because of all the diesel pollution that is emitted from the trucks. And this has a domino effect because with time more people are going to get asthma. More children and more adults.

El tema más importante en el que estamos trabajando en la organización de LBACA para mi es la expansión del 710 y eso es algo que afecta a miles de personas, tanto niños como adultos porque solamente en la ciudad de Long Beach tenemos más de 15,000 niños con asma. Entonces que nos espera en un futuro cuando se expanda el freeway? Cuantas más emisiones de diesel van a ver con una expansión así tan grande y cuantos niños mas van a sufrir las consecuencias de esta expansión?

For me one of the most important topics we are working on in the LBACA (Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma) organization is the 710 expansion because it impacts thousands of people, not just kids but adults as well. In Long Beach we have more than 15,000 children with asthma. So what can we expect in the future if this freeway is expanded? How much more diesel emission would there be with that huge expansion and how many more children will suffer the consequences for this expansion?

Pues que piensemos en el futuro de nuestros hijos y nuestros nietos que ellos son los que van a quedar con esto, estos contaminantes que afectan no solamente en el asma sino también es algo cancerifico que también provoca el cáncer. Entonces ahorita estamos a tiempo en hacer este cambio.

Let’s think of the future of our kids and grandkids because they are the ones that will be stuck with this, these pollutants that not only affect asthma but can also be carcinogenic and lead to cancer. We are in time to make a change.

PLEASE JOIN Maribel Mirales and Laura Cortez in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in Long Beach by following Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Young Artists Imagine a World with Zero Pollution

Summer is a time for children to enjoy the freedom of playing outside, but some communities in our country are so overburdened by air pollution that it’s healthier to stay indoors. There are communities near our ports and highways where the rates of asthma, cancer and heart disease are soaring. This is the case in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, where one in five children has asthma and Onyx Bazulto keeps her young daughter inside to protect her from the exhaust spewing from the line of diesel trucks idling outside her window.

 

Young people who’ve grown up in these conditions are engaging in a campaign calling for an end to the toxic diesel pollution poisoning their communities. This summer they’ve launched a multi-media art contest that asks children to imagine a world without pollution.

 

youth multi media contest

Yudith Nieto, one of the organizers of the contest, grew up with asthma in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, which is surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of polluting industries. Addressing the environmental issues impacting her community soon led her to engage with national organizations, including the Moving Forward Network and its Zero Emissions Now campaign. She explains, “It’s important for youth to be part of the zero emissions campaign because they are the ones who will inherit a future with deregulated extractive industries, unjust policies, toxic pollution, and the legacy of disproportionate health impacts.”

 

Dr. Bruce Strouble has been working with Yudith and other young leaders from across the country to find ways to engage their generation in the fight for clean air. He sees the art contest as a way to invite children in his Tallahassee community to think deeply about the reality they are living with and imagine alternatives: “The children are the future. If we are ever going to have a world with zero pollution, it is going to be youth that will make it happen.”

 

Artwork can be submitted until August 31st. All participants must email their art submissions to mfnmediacontest2016@gmail.com. Along with the submission, participants must provide their name, age, and city of residence.