Browngirl Going Green


Weather Vane
March 25, 2010, 3:22 pm
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The Bay Area has, for as long as I can remember, been one of those strange places weather-wise. Weather is often unpredictable and changeable from hour to hour, let alone day to day, but since I’ve been here my whole life, I felt like I had a good ‘sixth sense’ of what the weather was going to be like on any given day—there was something in the light, in the temperature of the air in the morning, in the quality and thickness of the clouds—that triggered something instinctual in me and told me whether I should bring a jacket or extra layer, or whether I should bring an umbrella, or whether I should wear something less heavy.

Of course, I could only tell what the weather was like in the immediate area I was in—our at turns hilly or flat, land-locked or water-bound terrain creates an incredible number of microclimates that can make temperature and even windy-ness in one neighborhood different than one a couple miles away—but I had enough sense to know that, for example, if I went to San Francisco it was generally going to be anywhere from 5-10 degrees cooler than it is in the East Bay, especially if I was going anywhere near the Pacific Ocean. Only the Pacific Northwest, where I spent a few weeks last May, was more changeable weather-wise in my experience (heavy rain in the morning could be followed by gorgeous sunny weather in the afternoon).

But lately, and yes I do blame climate change, I feel as if the unpredictability of Bay Area has changed. There’ve been days when the weather is actually WARMER in San Francisco than in Oakland. Or weeks (like these past few) when it rains heavily for a couple days, then gets almost Indian summer-like hot, then gets cold and rainy again. I don’t recall such extreme temperature and rainfall patterns ever happening in my lifetime here—or at least not over such a sustained period of time.

And please don’t post any silly comments about how you don’t believe man-made climate change is real, as they will be promptly deleted for their ridiculousness—as if humans can’t have any sustained impact on our environment!

This disruption of our normal weather patterns has made it hard to know how to prepare for each day—but that’s OK, it’s just one other thing to learn how to roll with. It is a bit frightening though, and makes me think of how much harder it must be right now in other places of the world—like the Philippines, South Asia, Central Africa, etc., which are often also the places where people color live—where weather and Mother Nature was already pretty extreme before climate change hit.

Frightening indeed.

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Another BrownGirl Going Green

Photo of Jolene Rodriguez, by Jennie Warren, from The Long Beach District Weekly

This is another good example of how communities of color and immigrants communities in this country are often at the cutting edge of creating more a more ‘green’ environment for everyone. But they’re not necessarily driving Priuses or eating locally grown food. Usually they’re fighting for basic environmental rights that more privileged folks take for granted, like clean air.

I’m so proud of my former organization, Californians for Justice (CFJ), where I worked for many years, and also of this CFJ student, Jolene Rodriguez, who was recently profiled in a local publication for speaking out about air pollution in her community in Long Beach. The article talks about a testimonial she gave before the Long Beach City Council, and includes this great quote from Jolene: ““Every weekday at 1:40 p.m., I should look forward to softball practice. But instead, I fear that my lungs will give out because I have asthma.”

Yes, Jolene is just one of many young people in California and elsewhere fighting for clean air and a healthy environment. I don’t know whether she eats humanely raised meat or organic produce (although I’m guessing she doesn’t, since that kind of food is likely harder to find or afford in the low-income neighborhoods in Long Beach), but she’s another Browngirl Going Green. Kudos to CFJ and Jolene for their great work!



The Personal is Political (aka the Earth is My Home)
January 27, 2010, 11:34 pm
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Today I Googled ‘environmentalism’ and hit the ‘News’ search button. This article was the first page that turned up in the results. Which is cool, because there should be more widespread media coverage of politicians doing things to support environmental justice. But it’s also a little scary that in a country where there are thousands of organizations doing environmental work, that something as obscure as this came up first. I hope this means that GoogleNews is tuned to search for obscure indie journalist reports first!

There’s definitely been a lot of buzz in the environmental world since the Copenhagen talks on the climate crisis in December. Last week I attended a reportback, sponsored by Movement Generation, from some of the US grassroots delegates that were there during the conference. The consensus seemed to be that Copenhagen was a failure, and that progressives need to do a lot more to connect all the different issues we work on—whether we work on affordable housing, economic issues, conservation, public education, juvenile justice, etc.—to the climate crisis. I wasn’t able to stay long enough to hear how people proposed doing that, but I’ve been part of the progressive movement long enough to know that some of the barriers to bridging these different sectors can be very entrenched and rigid.

I see the connections between the economic crisis and the climate crisis very clearly. Capitalism and industrialization have created whole societies that value natural resources only as commodities, not as precious sources of sustenance and survival. The rapid and unending accumulation of wealth has become, for many, the ultimate ‘American Dream’—so why are we surprised when that accumulation also forces others into poverty? Why are we surprised that our debt-based economy has collapsed, when it was built on little more than speculation (aka gambling)? And why are some of us still shocked that the Earth’s resources are becoming more and more scarce, that water is quickly becoming the next natural resource over which wars will be fought?

Which brings me back to the purpose of my blog, which I think I’ve strayed from a bit since my first post about a week and a half ago. As the big picture policy fights and politicking rage on, how will I—as one individual woman of color who cares about the future of humanity on this planet—make a difference? This question goes beyond just signing a petition, composting my organic food waste, or taking public transit more often. It calls into question our whole way of living, and makes me want to, once again, take a hard look at how we live, day by day, in this society. Am I being frugal with our abundant resources, or wasteful? Am I being grateful for what I have, or resentful for what I don’t have (and probably don’t really need)? Am I encouraging other people to do their part?

Unfortunately, the folks who don’t believe that the personal is very political, especially where the environment is concerned, unfortunately still wield more power and influence than those of us who feel this in our guts and bones and hearts. I care about the Earth because the Earth is my home—even if there were another planet to migrate to, I wouldn’t want to. I want to take care of my home, and I know we can.

So what will I do—and what will you do—to take care of our home?