Celebrating SanDiego350’s 10th Anniversary!

By Masada Disenhouse, Cofounder and Executive Director

In December 2011, 15 people got together to celebrate a successful climate action march and decided to create an organization to build the grassroots climate movement in San Diego. 10 years later, we’ve come so far! 

I wanted to take the time to reflect on our 10th anniversary, and thank our volunteers and supporters, who make everything possible:

In 2011 our march had about 350 people participating. In the last few years we’ve been able to turn out thousands of people to demand climate action, including 4,000 students in the Climate Strikes this year. 

In 2012 we raised a few hundred dollars, cash that our treasurer Janina, a grad student at UCSD, kept in a cookie box under her bed. Now we have a fundraising team, the equivalent of 4 full time staff, and head into 2022 with a budget of about $400,000. 

In 2011 we had no teams. The Public Policy Team was our first team, in 2013. Since then, the “PPT” has grown to include about 80 volunteers and 5 committees – working on everything from transportation to state legislation and Building Electrification. 

But some things haven’t changed—at all:

  • We still believe that building an inclusive, people-powered movement is the way to get the policy, economic and societal changes we need to see—and that every person has the ability to make a difference. 
  • We remain committed to centering equity in our work. 
  • We know what we’re up against and we choose to fight the fossil fuel industry and their political allies to achieve a healthier, more sustainable, more just future. 
  • We find joy and resilience in the community we’ve built and we depend on each other. 

There are so many accomplishments to celebrate, that it’s hard to focus on just a few, but I’ll try:

  • My conservative estimate is that we’ve mobilized more than 25,000 San Diegans to take action on climate change since 2011.
  • We have grown to more than 15 volunteer-led teams, many with their own working groups, and engaging hundreds of active volunteers in ongoing campaigns and efforts. 
  • Since our youth4climate program began in 2019, it has empowered, mentored, and engaged hundreds of young people in San Diego County through youth-led programs and campaigns.
  • We’ve built coalitions with diverse partner organizations to advance climate action, including environmental justice, social and economic justice, youth, labor, faith, and other organizations. 

Looking back on 2021 (read about our 2021 accomplishments here), I am amazed at the resiliency and commitment you have all shown. As we continue to navigate the many changes and challenges of the pandemic era, we have all found a new rhythm that allows us to continue our mission to fight for a healthy, equitable, sustainable world while maintaining our deep sense of community. 

While we decided to postpone our “Celebration for a Brighter Future” an in-person fundraiser to celebrate our successes over 10 years and raise funds to support the organization’s campaigns, we hope the evolving pandemic situation will allow us to reschedule it soon for sometime in the spring. Stay tuned!

We could not do any of this without the dedication of our volunteers and the generous contributions of our donors. You make it possible for SD350 to be proactive, organized, effective and BOLD! I am so grateful for every one of you!!!

Please join me in celebrating everything we’ve built together as SanDiego350 continues to lead the way on climate activism and movement building in San Diego. 

Amnesty International Award

On December 11th, the North County Chapter of Amnesty International awarded SanDiego350 their Digna Ochoa award. Below are the comments by SD350 executive director Masada Disenhouse to students and Amnesty members gathered at Buena Vista High School.

Good afternoon Amnesty International friends, and RBV / MV students!

It’s such a pleasure to be here with you today and I’m grateful and honored to receive the Digna Ochoa award on behalf of SanDiego350. 

Climate change is fundamentally a human rights issue. Millions of people are suffering from the devastating effects of the climate crisis now, and this problem will increase exponentially in coming years if we don’t shift to a sustainable economy. 

This is an environmental racism issue, because the people most impacted by climate change are those who did the least to cause it, primarily people of color. 

After a tropical cyclone hit the southeast coast of Mozambique in 2019, 146,000 people were displaced and had to be rehoused, and nearly 2 million people needed assistance. The cyclone damaged 100,000 homes, destroyed a million acres of crops, and demolished a billion dollars worth of infrastructure.  

Entire populations of low-lying Pacific islands are being forced to abandon their homes forever, primarily because they can no longer access clean drinking water due to sea level rise contaminating their aquifers.

This year saw deadly heatwaves in Pakistan, unprecedented wildfires in Greece, and severe flooding in Germany and China. In Madagascar, a prolonged and intense drought drove 1 million people to the brink of famine. In the Pacific Northwest hundreds died during a heat wave that shattered records. 

Here in California, we’re still pumping trillions of gallons of oil a year – and the people living near those wells, who suffer from respiratory illnesses, heart disease, preterm births and other health problems, are primarily people of color. 

People migrate from their homes in big numbers when they can’t access the most basic human needs and rights. Every year more people face hunger, displacement, unemployment, illness and death due to climate change. 

In 2020 the number of people forcibly displaced by weather-related disasters and other climate impacts was 31 million, a sharp increase compared to a few years earlier.

And climate change is just getting started. 

Today, 1% of the world is a barely livable hot zone. By 2070, when you all will be your grandparents’ age, that portion could be up to 19%. Billions of people who live in these areas will be forced to migrate because of unlivable heat, drought, flooding and other impacts. The UN recently estimated that by 2050, 143 million people from South America, Subsaharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will be forced to flee their homes because of climate change. 

And unless these people are able to move to more liveable places, more and more of them will face war – and death. Already, many of the world’s enduring conflicts have been tied to climate related drought, including Syria and Darfur. 

Covid gave us front row seats to how climate change will disproportionately impact more vulnerable groups of people. How it exacerbated existing inequalities related to race, wealth and gender. And how unprepared we are to face a global disaster. 

But climate change will impact far more people. And there is no vaccine for climate change.  

So how do we stop climate change and climate injustice? How do we ensure that vulnerable people are protected from the devastating impacts of climate change? 

First of all it’s important to recognize that climate change is a political problem. We’ve understood the science since before I was born. We know that we need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, from cars to transit, from extraction to reforestation. 

There’s a reason that our government hasn’t acted on climate. And it’s the same reason there is such a chasm in this county between the haves and the have nots. Why access to clean air and good health is correlated to skin color. Why we’ve been going backwards on reproductive rights for my entire lifetime to the point where Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Why Black people in this country still live in fear of police brutality 58 years after MLK’s I have a Dream speech. Why union membership is at an all time low and workers are forced into a gig economy that denies them a living wage, health insurance and paid time off. Why what should have been a straightforward scientific problem was deliberately turned into a divisive political issue by the fossil fuel industry. 

And that is because our government is not by the people for the people. It is by and for the almighty dollar, which mostly means by and for the corporations. 

I won’t sugar coat it for you. This is a pretty dark time in American history. We’ve seen an increase in hate crimes against Asians and jews. The violence at the US Capitol. Censoring books on race and human rights. People making up their own facts because they don’t want to face reality. 

But that’s not the way it has to be. And I for one, am not ready to despair. Even though we face challenges, people in other generations have risen up and overcome – and we can too. 

Our power starts with the dream of a different world… A world where your skin color or gender or where you were born do not determine your value or potential. Where everyone has the right to clean air and water. To a livable climate. To a safe place to live. To employment that sustains their family. 

You are in a position to bring this dream to fruition. Throughout American history, youth have led some of the biggest shifts towards justice, often bringing a radical edge that the urgency of the problem requires. Young people were at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, ending the Vietnam war, the same sex marriage movement, and the immigration rights movement. Increasingly, youth are leading fights for climate action and climate justice. And in this fight youth have more standing than anyone else. 

This is why SanDiego350 invests a lot of our resources into training, mentoring and empowering youth to take meaningful action to combat climate change and climate injustice. 

What we don’t have is time. Many of these past efforts took decades if not centuries to win. Many continue to this day. But this fight… the outcome of this fight will be decided in the next several years. This is not some day. This is not about gradual change. This is now or never. 

So what should we do? 

Speak Up! Digna Ochoa , who this award is named for, was a courageous human rights lawyer in Mexico who persevered in representing environmental activists and raised human rights abuses by government authorities despite extreme threats to her life, and who was in fact killed for her persistence. We can honor her sacrifice by raising our voices up for human rights, for justice and for science driven solutions. Do what you’re doing today. By being here today to “write for rights” you’re inspiring others to action, and you’re making a difference!  Don’t let your voice be silenced. Don’t let what matters be kept in the dark. Speak truth to power. Educate yourself and your network. Don’t allow what Martin Luther King Jr called “the appalling silence of the good people” to stand in the way of the just, sustainable future we all dream of.

Educate, organize, and vote.

While young people have the most to lose from climate change, they’re also least likely to vote. And that’s partially intentional – understanding that young people tend to lean progressive, conservative forces have made it harder for college students to vote where they go to school and to get acceptable IDs. But that’s shifting. In the 2020 presidential election, over 50% of people ages 18-29 voted – higher than any prior election. So that’s good. But you know what? Almost 80% of people over 60 voted. I know most of you can’t vote just yet, but all of you will be able to very soon. And your mission is not just to vote, but to educate, organize and turn out everyone you know. Because we will not succeed if we are not able to replace government officials with those who will prioritize a livable future. 

To quote former President Obama “So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. 

“Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. [ ] Remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.” (I urge you to watch that 2013 speech)

Together, we have the power to rise up, to overturn the shackles of injustice and corporate power and to fight for our future. Fight for our right to live healthy, happy lives. For the rights of those who come after us. And I for one am all in. Are you with me?

Farewell from our Board President, Kim Kishon

As you may have heard by now, I’ll be stepping down from my role as Board President this month, to prepare for becoming a new parent! Before I go, I want to reflect on all that I’ve done with SanDiego350 and all that SanDiego350 has given me during my 8 years as a volunteer. (Photo – 2015 Campaign for a strong Climate Action Plan)

For starters, here’s a short list of what SanDiego350 has given me:

  • Lasting friendships
  • Hope and inspiration
  • Movement-building education
  • A part-time job, paid in meaning and fulfillment
  • Hundreds of Google Docs
  • A network of kind, caring, dedicated people
  • Meeting one of my climate heroes, Bill McKibben, twice!
  • Invaluable experience building a grassroots nonprofit organization
  • A greater understanding of the climate crisis and how to advocate effectively for policy solutions
  • Volunteer leadership experience
  • Teamwork, collaboration, community and a sense of belonging (which is woefully undervalued & under-prioritized in our society)

The list could go on for days, but I’ll stop there.

So, what did I do to earn all of that?

In my time as a volunteer, I have tried many things that were new to me, growing and learning with others along the way. Most of the time, I worked behind the scenes to develop our leadership structure and guide our strategy. I led efforts to hire our first staff members, develop a larger and more active board, create internal policies, support conflict resolution and delicately guide difficult conversations that helped us stay on track. One of my most rewarding recent experiences involved laying the foundation for our JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Team, by hiring and supervising our first Justice & Equity intern and supporting volunteer leaders. Most of the time, I handled odds and ends that needed to be done, to care for the health and growth of SanDiego350: planning fundraising parties, interviewing candidates, onboarding volunteers, plus writing email blasts and speeches. I did none of this alone: it’s true that collaboration and teamwork are essential to moving anything forward.  (Photo – Garden Party Fundraiser 2017)

After 8 years of movement building with SanDiego350, I’m thankful to each of you who have given me inspiration and hope for the future. In this organization, I have met some of the most genuine, kind, driven and passionate people. Together, we have marched, assembled last minute rallies, facilitated workshops, created countless Google Docs, painted an office space we barely used (thanks, pandemic), and everything in between.

Our marches and rallies have brought me to tears: overwhelmed with sorrow by the crisis we face and overjoyed and empowered by the sight of so many people who care enough to do something about it.  (Photo – 2017 People’s Climate March)

Our meetings and events have given me tangible actions to make an impact locally, helping me feel part of the solution.

Our press coverage has filled me with pride: every time I see SD350 on the news (or the front page of the Union Tribune, which has happened at least four times!), I am in awe that I have the privilege of being part of such an impactful group.

I’ve witnessed SanDiego350 grow from a handful of 10 committed volunteers who met in a church basement and kept our funds in a jar under Janina’s bed, into an organization with hundreds of volunteers, well over ten teams, paid staff (green jobs!), solid funding, an active board, and frequent impact on local policy.

I am in awe of the people who dedicate themselves to this organization– you give me hope, which I need as I prepare to bring another human into the world. I’ll miss my day-to-day involvement and I can shift my focus, knowing that SD350 is devoted to a brighter future.  (Photo – receiving award from our Treasurer Bill Wellhouse at the Dec 2021 Party for the Planet)

I want to especially thank Masada and Joyce:

Masada has been throwing opportunities and ideas at me since 2013, helping me grow right alongside SanDiego350. Masada’s devotion, creativity and bravery keep taking the organization to bold new heights. Masada is the primary driver for SanDiego350’s grassroots power.  And thank you to Joyce, whose steady, compassionate leadership led the Public Policy Team, putting it on the path to being the powerhouse it is today and who has served tirelessly on the organization’s Executive Committee. Joyce will guide the organization as she fills the role of Board President.

Youth4Climate’s Level Up Summer Camp Brings Climate Justice Programming to Morse and Hoover High

By Chris Kracha

This July and August, SanDiego350 launched an in-person Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp at two San Diego High Schools for the first time, as part of the Level Up program – with support from the SD Foundation and the San Diego Unified School District. This program was created to provide summer learning and enrichment opportunities for students who have less access to these types of programs. The camp was held four days per week, for five weeks at Morse and Hoover High Schools.

At the beginning of camp, we were all still emerging from our COVID bubbles. After over a year of isolation and zoom class, it gets hard to break out of one’s shell! 

But by the second week, we were making jokes, playing games, and doing projects together. The field trips were especially helpful with getting everyone used to being around each other again. On our hike in Manzanita Canyon, I got to know each of the campers much better, and showed them some native plant names and traditional uses. Joel was one student who was really interested in plants, and by the end of the hike, we had gathered handfuls of fragrant fennel buds to take home.

Early on, campers started to realize that living “green”, supporting environmental causes, and getting involved in their communities was easier than they had previously thought. When we played a game of “personal action BINGO”, one camper, Jiyaulei, said she had no idea that so many of the actions she and her sister took at home were good for the environment: They were already using public transit, reusing old food containers for storage, air drying clothes, and more! Another student named Michael had a similar realization, and started to question why so much advertising and corporate messaging focuses on changing the individual actions we take, when everyone in the room was already taking many actions themselves.

In the middle of the camp, we focused on building personal resilience and developing support networks for ourselves among our friends, family, peers, role models, and community groups. This was my favorite part of the camp, because I got to share many of the methods I use to keep myself calm and resilient. Some students benefited from this as well. My co-facilitator Alyssa Nguyen – a high school student at Mt. Carmel High School and active in the Youth4Climate Program – was able to use some of the personal resilience methods to help out a student who came to camp visibly distressed. By the end of the day, we were all playing charades together and there were no tears to be seen.

Later on, we began to explore the common roots between economic and racial injustices and environmental injustices. Ronald and Nafeesa were two students already involved in social justice groups who were able to connect their current efforts to environmental change. Many other students became even more interested after learning that environmental injustices disproportionately impact their communities and communities around them. Once we learned about environmental injustices, we focused on how organizing our communities can combat injustices of any kind. 

By the end of the camp, everyone had made new friends. Melaina, Jiyaulei, Jiyaunah, and Nafeesa were all relieved that they had met fellow students at Hoover High, before they entered high school for the first time in-person! Alyssa and I were a camp counselor dream team by the end of the camp, and we had both become much more confident leading and teaching groups around our own ages. On the last Wednesday of camp at Hoover, we spread out in the grass, munched on vegan banh mi from a local Vietnamese cafe, and played a few rounds of Uno.

The last day of camp was also the last field trip. We traveled to Mission Bay where we had a picnic of vegan burritos and played games, like egg and spoon races in the sand. The campers also noticed all the trash littering the beaches around the bay and we took this opportunity to take action together. We used our trash grabber to clean up the litter around the area. It was inspiring to see the campers so concerned for the wellbeing of wildlife and the oceans. They were so eager to spring into action! We discussed the interconnectedness of the San Diego waterways and the importance of keeping the roads, as well as nature spaces, free from trash. Spending time in nature on a beautiful sunny day at the bay was an amazing way to finish off our camp!

Heat mapping for Climate Justice

Five members of the SD350 JEDI team became heat-mapping scientists for a day on Sept. 13. We volunteered to drive around areas of the San Diego at certain times – starting at 6 am! – with GPS-connected heat sensors. 

It was part of a national Urban Heat Island mapping campaign taking place in nine cities this year.  The project is aimed at making sure cities focus heat-relieving resources on the neighborhoods suffering most from climate change. 

As the climate crisis increases dangerous heat waves, low-income areas with little tree canopy and lots of pavement usually are hottest. The data we helped collect are intended to direct City of San Diego funding to plant trees and provide shaded and air-conditioned facilities where people most need to escape the heat.

Union-Tribune story about the local mapping project said the City’s climate resiliency plan is expected this fall.

The JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) team members Alex Abrams, David Gangsei, Kathryn Link-Oberstar, Maura Deignan, and Susan Duerksen joined volunteers from Outdoor Outreach and High Tech High to collect the heat data. 

“Code Red for Humanity”: a dire warning from the IPCC and our climate action

By Kathryn Link-Oberstar (fundraising team co-leader), Toshi Ishihara (board member), and Masada Disenhouse (executive director). 

This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most grim and decisive climate assessment to date.

In its starkest conclusions yet, the IPCC attributes a definitive causal relationship between human-induced climate change, and intensifying weather and climate events. 

For those of us in the trenches, this is not a surprise, but an affirmation of our worst fears – that inaction and false promises by global leaders and politicians have pushed our climate to its limit. That some changes, like sea-level rise and ocean acidification, are irreversible, and others will take centuries or millennia to reverse. We are on track to exceed 2°C of warming in this century, and unless we take immediate and decisive action now, the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords will be out of reach. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres characterized the IPCC report as “nothing less than a Code Red for Humanity.” He said “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

While the report does not discuss the role of the fossil fuel industry in the crisis, the UN Secretary-General didn’t mince words, saying “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.” Despite this, fossil fuel companies – and utilities like SDG&E / Sempra in San Diego – are doubling down on fossil fuel extraction at the exact time we should be ending. 

It is clear that there is no future scenario in which we turn back the clock. However, the report indicates the climate can be stabilized by “strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions.” We know that only powerful citizen action around the world can stop the fossil fuel industry and stem the tide of devastating climate impacts. 

Now, more than ever, we must push harder and mobilize more people to enact bold climate policy in our region, the country and the world. 

Preventing the worst impacts of climate change relies on mobilizing our communities to stand up and take action. SanDiego350 has been doing this for nearly a decade. We have over 15 volunteer lead teams and hundreds of volunteers. And, as Masada shared on CBS8 earlier this week, in our ten years fighting for climate justice in San Diego, we’ve seen that bold action by individuals, here and around the world, is the driving force for change. 

However, we need to step up our efforts. We must aggressively demand climate action and to hold elected officials and business leaders accountable for taking those actions necessary to securing a livable planet for us, our children and grandchildren. And, we must raise public awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis, climate justice, and what they can do to demand action and prepare for the worst impacts.

We feel that climate change is disrupting the world in our bones. To save civilization we need to fight like hell right now. Together we can create change and stand up for what’s right. We’re grateful to be standing with all of you. 

What is building electrification?

By Jeanne Brown

Building Electrification is the term used when converting all your energy uses to electricity rather than natural gas. “Natural” gas is almost 95 % methane. Methane has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 28-36 times that of CO2. San Diego’s Climate Action Plan’s goals will not be achieved without cutting this fuel from our energy budget.So let’s look at how we can achieve this. The most logical change is to make sure that new construction doesn’t include the installation of gas infrastructure.  That will save money in construction, will make those communities safer from explosions and they will never have the inevitable expense of conversion to all-electric. For the rest of us, what could we be doing?

Induction Cooking: This is not your mother’s electric stove! A number of groups, including the Sierra Club and the San Diego Green Building Council, have a free 3-week Induction cooktop trial. Try www.ehomecooktops.com. The scare tactics are that you have to go out and buy a whole new expensive set of cookware. My cast-iron pans worked as well as my wok and one of my fry pans.  It was as sensitive as gas, if not more so. Gas stoves combust and release pollutants to our homes. Children who live in homes with gas stoves have a 42% increase in asthmatic symptoms and a 24% increase in being diagnosed with asthma.

Heat pump heating and air-conditioning: Electric heat pumps move warm air from outside to the inside for heating, and from inside to the outside for air conditioning. They are many times more efficient than natural gas. In San Diego with our relatively mild climate, heat pumps work very well. 

Heat pump water heaters: These water heaters are extremely efficient for electrification as well.There is a $500 instant rebate from SDG&E for changing to a heat-pump water heater and a $300 tax credit from the IRS.

Electric Clothes drying: Electric clothes dryers are one solution. A clothesline is another. The electric dryers vary in efficiency and whether they require 120V or 240V.

Are you a renter and don’t have control over any of this?  What can you do? (1) Be sure to support Community Choice Energy that will allow us to have the choice of clean renewable electricity. (2) Continue your membership with SD 350. San Diego 350 is a founding member of the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition. (3) Volunteer to help us change the codes in cities around our county.There is also more legislation coming from Sacramento. SB 1477 provides $50 million in annual incentives through 2023 to jumpstart the market for clean, low- emission heating technologies.  California’s updated building code requires all new single-family and low-rise apartment homes in the state to have access to renewable electricity. This is the perfect time for us to begin to electrify our homes and businesses.

Want to get involved with electrifying the county? Volunteer at info@sdbec.orgwww.sdbec.org
@SDBECoalition on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Celebrating Pride 2021

By Mel Viloria

San Diego Pride, best known for the San Diego Pride Parade and Festival—the largest civic-event in San Diego—also operates as a year-round education and advocacy organization, providing over 30 programs such as Youth Leadership Academy, She Fest, Transgender Day of Empowerment, QAPIMEDA & Latinx Coalitions, Art of Pride, DevOUT and more (if you are in any part of the LGBTQ+ community, there is a space for you in our organization). In addition to our annual festivities, San Diego Pride has donated over 3 million dollars to LGBTQ-serving nonprofits through our Pride Community Grants, making us one of the most philanthropic Pride organizations in the world.

While COVID-19 has prevented us from putting on our normal celebration, we hosted over 38 community events in the month of July 2021, ensuring that our community can celebrate together, but in smaller, limited capacity satellite events. You can view the full list here. On Sunday, July 11, we hosted our Resilient Community march, highlighting that our community has made it out of multiple pandemics, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and COVID, while acknowledging that Black trans women are still being murdered at a disproportionately higher rate, and thus, our work for equality is far from over. The Black LGBTQ Coalition, Latinx Coalition, and QAPIMEDA coalitions led the Resilient March last weekend to the tune of 16,000~ attendees that marched from Balboa Park to the Hillcrest Pride flag.

July Member of the Month

Steven Gelb works on the SD350 Transportation Team. We interviewed him to learn more about his valuable contributions to our mission.

How did you first get involved with SD350, and when was that?
Until recently I was involved with the Alternatives to Violence Project co-facilitating workshops with inmates in California state prisons and volunteering at the immigrant/refugee shelter run by Jewish Family Service. When the pandemic arrived those programs closed down.  Last summer, I participated in a SD350 webinar on transportation and afterward received an invitation to join the transportation committee. Bee reached out to me and spoke of the need to have a transportation team member be a liaison to BikeSD. As a passionate advocate of bicycling for transportation and member of BikeSD (and many other bicycle organizations) I was happy to be that person.

What drives your activism?
I have a personal need to be of service to the larger collective we all belong to. It’s a special joy for me to work together with others in a spirit of generosity and community.  The enormity of the climate emergency motivates me to work for the sake of my grandchildren and all life on this planet.

What do you recommend to people who want to have a larger impact through the environmental movement? What do you prioritize in your own activism? 
I honestly don’t feel like I’ve been in the movement long enough to advise others. But I do know that growing a movement is crucial and I admire the democratic, inclusive, and supportive culture of SD350.  I’ve learned from SD350 members with more experience and knowledge, not only about technical issues related to climate change, but also about the political context and how to negotiate it to good effect. It’s not enough to be right on the issues. We have to draw in more people to work with us and build relationships with people who are indifferent or working for the status quo..

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
As a teenager I went to the August 28, 1963, March on Washington at which Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. That experience has had a lasting influence..

An Interview with Community Organizer Joshua Piedra

Joshua Piedra works at the intersection of labor and environment—a critical area when building coalitions to enact change. We interviewed him to gain more insights into the work he does to further the movement.

What first got you interested in environmental causes? And how do you think that your current work reflects that inspiration?
I developed an interest in environmental issues as I grew up living in communities of color in South Park and City Heights. My family and our neighborhoods have historically been underinvested in and lacked support due to systemic racism. These experiences have made me an advocate centered on equity. A part of my advocacy puzzle is uplifting environmental causes. Effectively addressing the impacts of pollution on our communities, unsustainable infrastructure, and inaccessible community-resources requires that we look at policy through an environmental justice lens. I am currently working as a political organizer at a local labor union and I think that advocating for workers does not stop at uplifting wages and workers’ rights, it also includes ensuring that workers as community members have all the resources they need to thrive in their communities. I believe that our community will not be able to thrive without addressing climate change.

You probably spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between labor and environmental issues. What do you think is most promising about the current collaboration between those causes, and what do you think could still use some work?
As a region, there has been a progressive shift, a direct result of the hard work of coalitions of community organizations and labor unions. I think this will continue to grow stronger and result in more progressive policies. That being said, there is still a lot of change left to work on. For instance, our society reinforces the belief that there is a distinction between work life and private life. This is not true. For example, policies that uplift worker protections and rights but that don’t address climate change, negatively impact families and our community. At the same time, when policies address climate change but do not uplift worker protections and rights, they also negatively impact families and communities. Fundamentally, community members are also workers with their own lives but these two aspects are heavily intertwined and not separate entities. Our communities will not thrive without equitable policies that holistically uplift the needs of workers and address environmental issues.  

What role do you think questions of climate justice, especially understood intersectionally, have to play in organizing?
Climate justice is the understanding that our current relationship with the environment is negatively impacting the wellbeing of the planet and in turn is harmful to our society. For example, relying on nonrenewable energy sources has led to an increase in pollution and severe weather conditions. These conditions increase health disparities and decrease access to healthy nutrition in our communities, create unmanageable workloads and dangerous working conditions for workers, and puts all of our well-being at risk as a result of stronger storms and frequent wildfires. Whether we like it or not, climate has a direct impact on our communities and we have a direct impact on our climate. If we do not create policies that center equity and holistically address the needs of workers and climate justice, then we only create situations where communities face more barriers to thriving.

Lastly, what advice would you give activists and organizers who are interested in bridging the divides between labor movements and environmental movements? 
We live in a racist and classist system that intentionally makes it difficult for our communities to survive. While climate change will undoubtedly have irreparable harm on our future and communities, a lot of people are currently overworked, underpaid, and too worried about meeting their immediate needs to think about the future or lasting impacts. Everyday people are worried about having enough money for rent, food, healthcare, meeting their children’s needs, and so on. Climate justice is a key piece of the puzzle in order to meet the needs of our communities. If we want to bridge the divide between the labor movement and environmental movement, we have to center people and uplift their stories so that we can create holistic policies that are equitable and address the dangers of climate change.