Reading Room

Report Out: California Enviro Justice Coalition Conference

On Saturday, November 8th, the first meeting of the California Environmental Justice was held in Kettleman City, California. 48 groups from around the state gathered to discuss the health of our environment and take action to bring about change in government policies negatively affecting our communities. Great strides were made at this conference and the resolutions passed will hopefully serve as excellent starting points for future collaboration on the pressing issue of environmental health.

As an attendee of this conference, both as an intern representing Tri-Valley CAREs and as a high schooler representing the opinion of the younger generation, I was truly inspired with what was accomplished at this event. I networked with an incredible variety of organizations and had the opportunity to gain a new perspective on many different topics. Practically every part of California was represented, from the Mothers of East Los Angeles to the Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice group based in the Bay Area. On the flip side, seeing the emotion brought to the room by a majority of the members who had suffered directly due to environmental dangers was heartbreaking. Some members experienced the illness of a loved one, while others suffered through the tragic death of their own children.

Local high school student and fellow Tri-Valley CAREs intern Hayden King added, "You would hear people talking about how once you get involved with environmental preservation, it is difficult to leave. It was easy to see everyone’s frustrations and how these personal losses motivated everyone to make a difference." The presence of so many knowledgeable groups and passionate individuals allowed for stimulating conversations about solving environmental issues using a number of different methods.

Small breakout sessions proved the most productive, with discussions about the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the concept of a statewide "day of action". After an hour of brainstorming, we reconvened and reviewed the best suggestions from each group and devised a list of goals for the coming year. It was decided that multiple “days of action” would be beneficial to the objectives of all groups present. The existent list of improvement recommendations for DTSC was extended to address the fact that the federal government often chooses to ignore the cumulative environmental impact of their activities. Collectively, the conference in Kettleman City was an excellent demonstration of the power of community in solving problems and I believe all that was accomplished will serve our environment well in the coming year.

Left to Right: Erin Vistnes (TVC Intern), Pam Richard (TVC Board President), Hayden King (TVC Intern).

Click here to read the California Environmental Justice Coalition's mission statement. We are proud to be among the founding member groups.