CleanAirNow’s Summer of Action for EJ in Kansas City

Photo Credit: Beto Lugo Martinez

CleanAirNow Co-Executive Directors, Atenas Mena and Beto Lugo Martinez, grew up in frontline communities where air pollution was the norm. Their lived experiences inspired them to take action for the health of current and future generations in Kansas City and beyond.

“CleanAirNow is an environmental justice organization that stemmed from the community. It started because of a community concern. Ultimately, the goal is for health equity.”

Atenas Mena,
CleanAirNow Co-Executive Director

This summer, MFN member CleanAirNow came together to reflect on their collective power and uplift their work as they continue fighting for social justice, equity and climate justice. Through a variety of media, community events and concentrated organizing efforts, CleanAirNow amplified the significant public health and environmental impacts affecting environmental justice (EJ) communities in the Missouri and Kansas regions.

“What we want is a just future for them [EJ communities]. We want them to have a healthy, longer life because the life expectancy here is shorter by 22 years.”

Beto Lugo Martinez,
CleanAirNow Co-Executive Director

Recently, CleanAirNow has teamed up with fellow MFN member Earthjustice for a campaign to move to zero emission solutions which are grounded in EJ needs and demands created by the community and for the community — not by outside interests or policymakers.

To hear more about the legacy pollution and cumulative impacts affecting these communities, as well as what CleanAirNow and Earthjustice are doing to protect frontline communities, watch their video below:

“Those that are impacted by environmental racism, redlining and industrial pollution are the ones really leading these efforts. If we don’t have them [EJ communities] at the table, we cannot make solutions or decide for them. Decision makers, at the moment, don’t have a grasp on what it really means to be living at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

Beto Lugo Martinez,
CleanAirNow Co-Executive Director

In addition, CleanAirNow members and EJ communities came together on August 6th at their Solidarity for Climate Justice: Fighting for our Lives event in Kansas City, Kansas. Speakers addressed attendees on topics of environmental racism, housing and educational inequities in both English and Spanish. 

The event incorporated expressive art and performance by Flow Art KC and a demonstration of the tug-of-war that happens between community and polluters. The event brought together intergenerational leadership, cultural diversity and connection to homegrown roots.

Photo Credit: CleanAirNow

This event highlighted not just environmental issues or health issues but also the myriad injustices affecting their communities. It was an important moment to learn, be inspired and prepare for the fight ahead.

CleanAirNow is intentional in identifying allies and organizations that are grounded in EJ principles to advance community leadership and growth, like MFN, to build strength and solidarity in the fight for environmental justice. 

“We deserve to have health, right? We all deserve to be healthy.”

Atenas Mena,
CleanAirNow Co-Executive Director

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