Climate Change Intensifies Injustice in East Oakland | Open Letter from Communities for a Better Environment
With the haze of Butte County’s “Camp Fire” looming over the Bay Area, the injustices people face have become ever more evident. During this fire, we are most concerned for the health of children, those with asthma and other respiratory issues, outdoor workers, and our unhoused neighbors. Suggestions to stay indoors and switch out masks every 8 hours are not feasible as an ultimate solution. It took hustle to get masks to share with schools, local organizations, and the unhoused. We still do not have enough for all that need them. We know that masks are not enough. Our adult masks do not properly work for children because of fit and activity. The recommendation has been to keep children indoors with air filtration. This is difficult as air filtration devices are not affordable for low-income people and information on making your own air filtration device is not as accessible. Everyone has been told to stay indoors to avoid this poor air. This is not possible for our unhoused neighbors and for those housed in spaces unable to keep outdoor air from coming in due to poor insulation.
Poor air quality impacts are nothing new to East Oakland residents. Exposure to pollution from 880, industrial land uses, the Oakland Airport and the Port of Oakland has resulted in harsh smells, nausea, and flare-ups of asthma. In East Oakland, there is twice the rate of Asthma emergency department visits. People in the hills of Oakland, on average, will live 15 years longer than those in the flats. Smells reach local schools and recreation centers, which do not have air filtration. Breathing in East Oakland is a problem year-round. Many residents in East Oakland are Black and Latino, and race has historically not been considered in planning decisions. Most recently, a mega-crematorium, which will burn 3,000 bodies a year, was approved near a neighborhood that is nearly half Black and Latino.
The history of injustice and disinvestment have left many in the East Oakland flats vulnerable to climate change. As summers get warmer, East Oakland flats get even hotter because of the asphalt and gray industrial uses that absorb the heat. Since recreation centers and schools do not have air conditioning, we have less access to local cooling centers. The lack of trees also adds to the impact of even walking in the community on a hot day. Now with the fires, proper air conditioning, and especially those with adequate air filtration, is an example of a resource that we do not have to support people in breathing through this fire. This is at a time when fire season is lasting longer than before.
Right now, we demand the City and other regional agencies to act with urgency to bring forth justice year-round.
People must be housed, and housing must be affordable. Our unhoused neighbors and those struggling to stay in their housing need shelter. As climate change worsens, this will become unnegotiable in protecting people’s lives.
We demand 100% affordable housing on public land.
We demand major investments in community centers, senior centers, schools and libraries to turn them into hubs for daily healing and emergencies, including climate change-related disasters.
This will require speaking with the community to identify how they access the site as well as local-based needs.
Schools that we know need investment of Air Filtration include: Brookfield, Madison, Esperanza, Fred Korematsu Discovery, Rise, New Highland, ACORN/Woodland, EnCompass, CCPA, Greenleaf, Community United, Roots, Futures School of Languages, Aurum Prep, Aspire Golden State, Lodestar, Lighthouse, and Lionel Wilson.
We demand commitments in addressing local air quality.
We demand funding to mitigate immediate impacts. This will include major greening projects and air filtration.
We demand funding to help families in healing from long term exposure to air quality.
We demand a commitment to rezoning East Oakland. Current zoning does not provide enough of a buffer needed to protect neighborhoods next to industrial uses.
We demand an Environmental Justice element in the City of Oakland’s General Plan.
We demand local jobs.
We demand more access to renewable energy.
East Oakland can be a major source of clean energy.
Homeowners need support in fixing their roofs to be able to install free to low-cost solar.
We demand the full adoption of the Healthy Development Guidelines (HDG).
We demand investment in community.
Support residents in creating their own projects to address existing issues and address climate change.
We demand urgency but must work at the pace of the community. Major education is required to inform people of upcoming impacts and emergency resources.
We urge Mayor Libby Schaff (Oakland), Mayor Pauline Cutter (San Leandro), Mayor John Bauters (Emeryville), Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Supervisor Nate Miley, Councilmember Larry Reid, Councilmember Desley Brooks, Councilmember Noel Gallo, Councilmember Annie-Campbell Washington, Councilmember Abel Guillen, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Councilmember Dan Kalb, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, Sheng Thao, Jack Broadbent (Chief Executive Officer – BAAQMD), ( William Gilchrist (Director of Planning and Building), Darin Ranelletti (Policy Director for Housing Security) and Darlene Flynn (Director, Department of Race and Equity) to protect our community and future.
Communities for a Better Environment
Block by Block Organizing Network
Brower Dellums Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies & Action
Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC)
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
East Oakland Building Healthy Communities
East Oakland Black Culture Zone
East Oakland Collective
Oakland Climate Action Coalition
Oakland Green Party
Original Scraper Bike Team
The Electric Smoothie Lab Apothecary
UC Berkeley Students of Color Environmental Collective
Anna Maria Gracia
John Jones III
Rigel Robinson (Berkeley City Councilmember-elect)
Gabrielle Sloane Law
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