Environmental Health Leadership Summit 2014 – Coachella

–May 27, 2014

This Memorial Day weekend CCEJN representatives traveled to Coachella to participate in the 2nd Annual Environmental Health Leadership Summit.  This summit hosted by our partners El Comite Civico del Valle and Promotores Comunitarios del Desierto showcased a large array of experts speaking about environmental justice and social justice in Coachella and Imperial Valley.  Keynote speakers Catherine J.K. Sandoval, and Eric Corey Freed delivered great speeches about their respective expertise as it relates to environmental justice.

Catherine Sandoval, who is the Commissioner for California Public Utilities Commission delivered a heart-warming keynote speaking about access to utilities as an environmental justice issue.  She spoke about hundred of families in the State of California and tribal lands that are currently living without access to electricity.  She mentions that after meeting with many of these residents, she learned first-hand about the difficulties of living without electricity.  Her concern is even more pronounced for those residents that rely on diesel engines  to acquire residential power exposing themselves to those immediate emissions of criteria pollutants, and furthermore aiding the contamination of our air, since those criteria pollutants are not likely to just stay in that area.  Sandoval also spoke of her work to move remotely located populations towards lifeline access.  LIfeline is a vital program and resource that helps families acquire basic communication tools that can aid them as they have any need.  She reiterates the idea of having basic communication accessibility as something that environmental justice organizations advocate for.

Eric Corey Freed, delivered an innovative and push forward talk about the current state of denial that fuels the anti-climate change movement.  He explains that many interests have spent millions of dollars turning our general populous into “dodosapiens” or people that are unable to critically engage in data collection and basic scientific knowledge.  He mentions that these interests have been incredibly effective at making people overlook the fact that humans have very successfully contaminated almost every corner of the world through a “business as usual” mentality.  Through innovative thinking, Freed describes that we can move forward from industries that are harming us and create an economic and industrial platform for sustainable design.  His work with Organic Architect is a testament to that innovative thinking push that can help us change the course of a warmer climate.

At the conference, Lupe Martinez of Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, based out of Delano held a workshop about sustainable agriculture that surfaced some of the work that CRPE has engaged in to bring about community gardens in Arvin and Shafter in Kern County.  

Cesar Campos, CCEJN Coordinator, joined Ryan Atencio, inspector with CARB, and Jon Rokke for an afternoon plenary about the IVAN model.  The plenary explored the history of these type of networks, as well as some of the larger successes, but most importantly the opportunity to make these networks stronger as we moved forward.  The audience engaged with the opportunity to be more proactive during the enforcement process.  Residents of Coachella and Imperial Valley, much like residents in the San Joaquin Valley have to deal with several environmental hazards on a daily basis and thus recognize the power of these tools and platforms to influence enforcement and mitigation.

CCEJN would like to thank all of the host organizations and funders for making this Summit a reality.  It was a great experience.