Building Power in South Kern

Image Gustavo Aguirre of Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment welcomes residents to the forum. March 3, 2014 Dozens of residents attended a forum to learn about environmental quality in South Kern on March 1, 2014.  The forum “Building Power in South Kern” was hosted by the Building Healthy Communities–South Kern Environment Action Team.  The Environment Action Team chose to highlight important campaigns that are already active in South Kern as part of this event.  As part of the workshops, residents were encouraged to become involved with these campaigns.  The campaigns highlighted were: Water Solutions — Committee for a Better Arvin — Community Water Center This workshop engaged residents in the work that CWC, the Endowment, and CBA are doing to install filters in schools in Arvin.  The workshop informed residents about different types of filter options and how to chose the best for their family. Your Community, Your Future — Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability This workshop served to engage residents in an exercise to demonstrate land use planning.  The discussion led to the idea of creating healthy vibrant communities, with smart planning that is equitable for all residents. Image Clean Air — Global Community Monitor, Committee for a Better Arvin Filled with props, Global Community Monitor talked about their current work monitoring the Community Recycling and Resource Recovery Center in Arvin.  The discussion served to show the residents the tools that GCM uses to capture air samples, and a description of the logs that residents actively keep in Arvin as they monitor daily emissions.  Residents were encouraged to keep their own logs and join the evidence based case against this polluting facility. Corner Store Project/Community Gardens — Kern County Environmental Health, Committee for a Better Arvin, Greenfield Walking Group, and Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. Access to healthy food is a common struggle in South Kern.  Currently there are a few approaches to providing access to healthy foods.  KCEH department is working with the California Endowment to convert current convenience stores into healthier stores with more access to fruits and vegetables.  Others like CRPE, Greenfield Walking Group and CBA, have invested time and resources into promoting a community garden that currently engages over 30 families and provides access to homegrown organic fruits and vegetables.  Last year, a resident was able to harvest a 50 lb watermelon! Kern Environmental Enforcement Network / Pesticides — Central California Environmental Justice Network, Californians for Pesticide Reform. Image CCEJN and CPR used several pesticide use and water preservation examples to engage residents in communicating environmental hazards that happen in their community.  The residents learned about the uses and benefits of using this tool and engaged in a larger conversation about regulations, especifically the gaps that exist between what residents wish they were and what the law actually says.  CCEJN and CPR were able to tie it in together and make the case that KEEN is a powerful tool in addressing those gaps as long as residents share the information with the tool.  Residents have the power. In another highlight a couple of youth from Greenfield showcased two videos as part of their Video Voices project that they have been engaged in.  The environment action team will continue to work to support these campaigns in South Kern, and will continue to work for a healthier environment for these communities.