Climate Justice Calls for Racial Justice, End to White Supremacy

By Kimberly Kishon, Masada Disenhouse and Susan Duerksen

Black people in the U.S. are subject to violence and unjust death regularly – including at the hands of police who are supposed to protect all of us. We, the people of this country, have allowed institutionalized racism to go unchecked for centuries. 

It shows up in every aspect of peoples’ lives, devastatingly in safety, health, environmental and economic inequities. The coronavirus pandemic starkly highlights how rules apply differently based on a person’s skin color – who gets sickest, who can afford healthcare, who has no choice but to work in an unsafe environment. The communities hit hardest by environmental and climate impacts are primarily communities of color — and those least responsible for creating the problem. “People of color are more likely than white people to live alongside power plants, oil refineries and landfills.” (from the LA Times’ Sammy Roth:  Why communities fighting for fair policing also demand environmental justice).

This is a critical moment in history — and it can be a national turning point for racial justice. SanDiego350 leaders believe we, as advocates for climate justice, must stand for  dismantling institutional racism and white supremacy. We strive for a world where people of color have a safe and healthy future on this planet. 

In the words of leaders at 350.org, Rell Brown and Natalia Cardona, “There is no just recovery for climate without addressing the systemic extraction, harm and violence towards Black communities. Building a movement rooted in the needs of those most oppressed is the only way we can achieve liberation for all.”

What is SanDiego350 doing to support racial justice?

It is not enough to be passively non-racist. We must all take action to oppose racism, not just in our personal lives but wherever it exists systemically in the society we create together. We can’t just talk about racism, we have to stamp it out.

In the coming weeks, you will hear about how SD350 plans to more intentionally center racial justice in our work and take important internal steps to ensure our organization is more inclusive and diverse. As a primarily white, middle class volunteer led organization, we know we have significant growing to do.

We look forward to building on our policy work in partnership with people of color (POC)-led community organizations that advocates for equity in climate action planning, transportation, and state legislation; our youth engagement work; supporting partners on non-climate justice issues.

SanDiego350 Commits To:

  1. Share racial justice action steps from black-led organizations with our membership
  2. Focus our climate policy work always on stopping, reversing, and preventing climate  harm to communities of color
  3. Do internal work to uplift diverse voices, improve our practices, and train our membership on dismantling white supremacy
  4. Follow the leadership of POC-led partners 

Below are some specific actions we urge you to take. 

Above all, keep in mind that this is a particularly traumatic time for black Americans. This is not the time for white people to lead, nor is it the time to ask black people for advice or forgiveness. Make space for black people to grieve. Be sensitive, active and present in your responses. Step back, listen, learn and support. 

Get Connected

Subscribe to receive updates & action alerts from San Diego’s local chapters:

Take Action

  • Sign pandemic-related petitions by Black Lives Matter.
  • Sign the petition in support of San Diegans for Justice’s campaign for a ballot initiative to establish a community-led independent Commission on Police Practices.
  • Call on your local elected representatives to divest from white supremacy, which includes divestment from industrial multinational use of fossil fuels and investment in community- based sustainable energy solutions. 

Donate 

Learn

  • Flatten The Curve Of Inequality – a 5-part weekly web series hosted by the San Diego ACLU, where local advocates will share the work they’ve been doing to support families and communities during this crisis. Starts June 4th!
  • For white folks, watch this 22-minute lecture: Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin Di Angelo
  • Follow black writers and activists including Rachel Cargle, Brittany Packnett, Layla Saad 
  • The Movement for Black Lives calls on us to learn about the arguments for defunding the police and re-envisioning public safety, which is not a new idea. We must challenge ingrained ideas about safety. Useful info/resources

More resources from 350.org

You can find more opportunities to support nationally and in Minnesota here.

SD350 Builds Power with Community Budget Alliance

By: Joe Wainio, member of SD350’s Coalition Team.

SanDiego350 has been a member of the Community Budget Alliance (CBA) for four years. CBA is a coalition of local organizations advocating for the interests of immigrants, low-income workers and communities of color. It mainly becomes active during the period when the mayor and city council consider the annual city budget (March-June), lobbying for more funding for its member organizations’ priorities.

Participating in multiracial, cross class coalitions such as CBA is a strategic way to build the power we need to challenge the 1%. Without a fundamental realignment of political forces in our country, away from those who put profits before people, we won’t be able to create a more just society, including taking action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Currently, levels of economic inequality are near historic highs. Americans in the top 0.1% of income earners capture over 196 times the income of the bottom 90%. Racial disparities exacerbate the unfairness even further.

Our country was built on and still reflects the legacy of white supremacy. In 2016, median wealth of white families was about 10 times that of Black families and 8 times that of Latino families.

COVID-19 has demonstrated health and employment disparities, as well.  Black people are dying at rates almost 3 times those of whites. A study by SANDAG showed that unemployment in Logan Heights had reached 37.5% in early May, while in Rancho Bernardo it was “only” 20%.

Political inequality follows as a logical consequence of this economic inequality. According to research by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “the preferences of the average American [on federal government policy] appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon policy.” Meanwhile, big corporate lobbyists have no problem getting their agenda enacted.

By engaging in the fight for equality with our allies, we build relationships and trust and expand the progressive movement for change. Fighting side by side with the Community Budget Alliance, and in other cross-class and multiracial coalitions, is the only way to build a movement strong enough to challenge the status quo.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera is a volunteer leader with SD350 and a member of the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training effort.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?
Maria Rivera: I joined the actions of 350.org activists during college and then found SanDiego350 when looking for a local chapter of the organization. My first action was volunteering for the People’s Climate March in 2014, where I saw over 1,000 San Diegans march to call for climate justice. We all seek a connection to the world around us. As a kid, I learned the importance of our connection to nature by living in places like Mexico City. It’s the right thing to do, to ensure equitable access to the bounty of nature. I’m lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who agree, I do the work for them.
SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?
MR: Sincere, good-humored and laid-back.
SD350: What drives your activism? 
MR: Experiencing scarcity. And knowing that nature will provide if we can act with a generosity of spirit.
SD350: How does SD350 stay focused on justice within policy work?MR: SD350 volunteers understand that reducing GHG emissions and improving renewable energy technologies is not enough to resolve climate change impacts. SD350 offers a service by researching policy changes that affect working folks and advocating for the interests of those who want a resilient governance prepared for current and future ecological changes. SD350 advocates for ambitious policies that match the level of the problems related to climate change especially for those who lack representative platforms.
SD350: How is justice related to this for you?
MR: A healthy environment is a human right. But it’s not enough to see this on paper. I think most people want equitable access to nature’s resources, but that won’t happen unless we account for the disparities that exist within and between our neighborhoods. During the ongoing pandemic, we’re experiencing what happens when the environment impacts our livelihoods; some households can overcome better than others. Justice means recognizing that consumption rates and economic structures can change and must change to ensure our human rights for a habitable planet.
SD350: What action were you involved with that made you the most excited?
MR: I got the chance to meet the other 350 organizations around California. The State is wonderfully diverse and each county has a personality, the 350 groups were no different. I was encouraged and overjoyed to meet other people around Cali who are part of a community of activists. I also met Rebecca and Caro and we all became members of the San Diego 350 JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training group. To be honest, I get to hang out with friends and do exciting work in every SD350 action that I get to do.
SD350: What else would you like people to know about you?
MR: Meditating on and taking action for our beautiful Earth fills me with joy. I’m a first-generation immigrant and I have two nephews in the armed forces. At one point, most of my extended family lived in Barrio Logan but I have lived in North Park most of my life (think, before the breweries). After college, I did fieldwork around coasts in Mexico and research in Mexico City. I’m positive that anyone, no matter what position they have in life, can help and be helped by treasuring earth and its resources.

Reflections on the Intersection of Climate Change, Justice, and Equity

By: Toshi Ishihara, SD350 board member and member of the Transportation Committee.

Climate Change is real, and we know that the world needs to come together to reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst impacts of Climate Change. The challenge from shifting from our fossil fuel-based economy to one powered by renewable energy is a huge challenge in our political environment both domestically and globally. Unfortunately, the above was my entire limited understanding of the climate change problem when I started volunteering with SD350 in the fall of 2018. The  equation was simply “GHG Emissions = Climate Change”.

But, then things changed. About a year ago, upon a request from SD350, I started working with the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group. SDTEWG is a coalition composed of the Environmental Health Coalition, City Heights Community Development Corporation, Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, the Center on Policy Initiatives, and San Diego 350. Each of these organizations, except SD350, are deeply rooted in environmental justice communities, communities of color, and other communities of concern. The coalition works to influence local governments and public agencies to provide convenient, affordable, and equitable solutions to their communities’ needs of transportation while addressing climate injustice. 

Since “Justice” and “Equity” were not commonly used words at the companies I worked for except as in “pay equity”, my learning curve as a new member of the SDTEWG planning group was extremely steep. However, as I learned little by little the environmental injustices that those communities had been struggling with for generations, it became clear to me that as a climate change advocate I needed to study and work on the intersection of climate change, justice, and equity and also to look at the climate change actions and solutions from a different perspective. Climate solutions that only reduce GHG emissions are no longer acceptable to me today.

Pushing for 100% renewable energy, emission-free transportation systems, and fightingthe fossil industry are good goals that will uproot the major cause of climate change and help the renewables industry flourish. 

But, what then? A superficial transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to the renewable energy industry (especially given how many fossil fuel companies are accruing financial interests in the renewable sector) won’t change systemic economic inequity or environmental justice. 

It would be naive to think that renewable energy companies, once they gain dominant political influence and financial power, won’tl continue to exploit communities of concern as the fossil fuel industry has for decades. 

While some environmental organizations have accepted this tradeoff as a necessary evil to bring atmospheric CO2 levels down to 350ppm, I am proud that SanDiego350 has stood with environmental justice groups to demand solutions that prioritize frontline communities and equity. 

I very much enjoy working with the SDTEWG folks, and I regard them as my teachers on the intersection of climate change, justice, and equity. They may not think they are teaching me, but I am definitely learning some very important life lessons.

How we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Coming to grips with the devastating impacts of the pandemic has been hard for all of us. With the situation changing every day, none of us know what this will mean for our health, our loved ones, our jobs, our schooling, and our savings — let alone the nation, the economy at large, our democracy, and our planet. 

Some of us have been hit hard already. SD350 members and their families have lost jobs. Some have gotten sick with COVID-19 or have loved ones who have it or have even passed away due to the virus. Some of us have underlying conditions that make it dangerous to leave home. Some of us are suddenly juggling homeschooling and working from home. 

Most of us have never lived through a time like this. We are all struggling with the emotions, the stress, and the anxiety of this situation. In some ways, as climate activists, we’re more mentally equipped to deal with a worldwide crisis than many of our fellow Americans. 

The pandemic is laying bare the sorry state our nation has been in. The classism, racism, and corporatism that led to the largest wealth inequalities in our lifetimes are now putting our most vulnerable people at risk. It’s no coincidence that the people who are able to shelter at home and work from home have more money and health care than those who are risking their lives working for minimum wage in grocery stores and other service industries.

SanDiego350’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has primarily been in three areas: 

1. Bringing our events online. Prior to the virus, we had already held quite a few of our regular meetings remotely to maximize participation while minimizing our carbon footprint. Transitioning the earth day “Virtual Climate Uprising” was challenging – working remotely with a coalition of more than a dozen organizations, figuring out production for live streaming on multiple platforms, doing only online promotion. In other ways, it’s been easier. We’ve had youth participating in our programs from across the country. People have been more available and it’s easier to participate if you don’t need to leave home. We’re working on making our events as accessible, interactive, and engaging as possible. 

2. Checking in on our members. We’ve made hundreds of phone calls through our volunteer structures to check in our volunteer leaders, team members, and active volunteers and donors. Many volunteers have stepped up to offer help to our members who need help shopping or coping. It’s wonderful to see the care and compassion our members have for each other. Everyone has appreciated the concern and camaraderie and the space to take care of themselves and their loved ones – and it’s brought us closer and made us more resilient. 

3. Reevaluating our priorities. We’ve met with our board to discuss organizational level priorities, and we’ve been holding meetings with our different volunteer teams to check in and see how the pandemic has affected their plans, what challenges have come up, and what new opportunities exist. Some projects we’ve put so much into just won’t go anywhere in this new world. The state legislature has been closed down. Schools are not meeting regularly. But new projects have emerged that are relevant and crucial, for example, organizing a virtual Youth 4 Climate Summer Camp, supporting telecommuting, and advocating to make sure we move forward with a just recovery – instead of going back to the old “normal” when the economy reopens.

It’s Time For a Better Deal

By: Amanda Ruetten, Public Policy Organizer

San Diegans pay higher utility prices than most Californians. The high prices and San Diego’s dangerous air pollution rates are especially hard on vulnerable low-income communities, where family budgets are tight and asthma rates are growing. The utility company rakes in profits while we provide the public land necessary for its business. That’s the way it’s been for 100 years. This year, for the first time in 50 years, we finally have a chance to change our city’s outdated, one-sided deal with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). 

SDG&E’s 50-year franchise agreement with the City of San Diego to distribute gas and electricity on the City’s public right of way expires in January 2021. The City is required by its Charter to select the next energy franchisee through a “free and open competition”.  

SanDiego350 and its allies are campaigning for a better deal. We are in a climate crisis and the City of San Diego has one of the most progressive Climate Action Plans in the nation, with a goal of getting to 100% clean electricity by 2035.  To ensure we meet that goal, the City must award the next franchise agreement to a company that supports our clean energy goals. There must be guarantees that the utility — unlike the existing situation — will not undermine these goals by lobbying against clean energy programs at the state level, or imposing higher fees for solar home owners and low income community members. A shorter term and required penalties for violating any agreement provisions would provide increased accountability, and the franchise fees should be paid for by corporate shareholders rather than the customers.  

The franchise agreement is determined in an open bidding process and then it must be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the city council. That vote is expected later this year. There is an opportunity for us to have a voice in what happens. 

Join us to learn more about this campaign and how you can get involved. We’ll have an in-depth workshop on Sunday, June 7th. Or email me.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Bill Wellhouse

Bill Wellhouse is Acting Treasurer of the SanDiego350 Board and leader of the Coalition Team.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?
Bill Wellhouse: I got involved about 6 years ago after I retired from education. I found SD350 by doing a google search. I really got involved in 2015 when I volunteered to help organize the Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice in 2015–that was timed to coincide with the pope’s visit to Wash DC.
SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?
BW: Reserved, dependable, stubborn (so my wife says).
SD350: What drives your activism? 
BW: A deep understanding of the science; a profound sense of place and the fear that that might be lost; a lifelong interest in wilderness, especially mountain wilderness, gained both from working there (as a backcountry ranger) and backpacking / trekking in many different wildernesses but especially the Sierra.
SD350: What is something you learned about how to be a good partner with organizations?
BW: There has to be give and take; partners need to feel that they are being listened to and that their input matters; when leading up to a big action you need to keep your partners informed and engaged.
SD350: Since you do so much – you’re the treasurer, run the Coalition Team and also help organize big actions, what is your favorite part of doing this?
BW: As a math major I am not afraid of budget analysis that comes with being treasurer, however, I have a lot of respect for accountants because there are many accounting procedures I don’t understand. I enjoy being on the coalition team because I like getting to know other orgs and their leaders and I enjoy recruiting them to be partners when we are planning a big action. I also enjoy putting together parts of the program in a big action and generally playing a supportive role.
SD350: Was your background with charter schools helpful for what you do now? Can you compare and contrast the two?
BW: Yes, as an administrator/director in several charter schools I learned a lot about working with boards, handling budgets, hiring and managing employees, and the legalities of being a non-profit. I also learned, usually the hard way, how to work with people as a team. What’s different is that charter schools are in the public sector, have more legal constraints, and receive a lot more scrutiny and also have many different stakeholders–parents, students, board members, the public, to deal with. I do miss working with students (I finished my career in high schools), their energy, their liveliness, but I do not miss meeting with parents over discipline issues.
SD350: How did your background and culture form you and play into your considerations on environmental justice?
BW: My mother was from Mexico–her name was Graciela–and all of my uncles, aunts, cousins on that side of the family still live in Mexico or along the border in Texas, so, although, I generally grew up as white middle class, I have a lot of understanding and sympathy for the difficulties people of Mexican heritage face here. I also was the principal of a small charter school in an immigrant and low income community (City Heights) and came face to face with the struggles many of our students endured on a daily basis. During the Vietnam War I was fortunate to receive a conscientious objector classification and worked for two years as an orderly in the emergency room of an inner city hospital in Cleveland witnessing the violence and suffering people in a racialized society face.
SD350: What is something that makes you happy about what you do with SD350?
BW: This is important work and I am able to use some of the skills I’ve developed over a lifetime in education such as planning, coordinating, working with a variety of personalities, and meeting the needs of different stakeholders. There are times when I am being stretched unexpectedly that I appreciate, things I might not ordinarily do, like participating in rallies and marches.

SD350 response to “Planet of the Humans”

The YouTube video “Planet  of the Humans”, created and directed by Jeff Gibbs and presented by Michael Moore, is a hodge-podge of blatant inaccuracies and false accusations of climate leaders -mixed with some truths – that promotes despair rather than action. 

The video attacks Bill McKibben using a long disavowed quote about burning biomass for energy, ignoring his more recent denunciations, including his 2016 article “Burning trees for electricity is a bad idea,” as well as his efforts to set the record straight. It also falsely accuses McKibben of being some kind of corporate pawn. For those of us who’ve met Bill, seen what a tireless, thoughtful, humble leader he is, it appalling to see how poorly the video treats him. (See Bill’s article in Rolling Stone and his initial response to the video). 

The video’s claims that carbon pollution produced by producing electricity from solar and wind is comparable to that produced by burning fossil fuels for power is … just wrong. Its claim that solar systems only last a decade are disproved by any homeowner who installed their solar panels before 2010. While every energy source has environmental impacts and there are tradeoffs that are entirely worth discussing, this is the type of misinformation you’d expect from the fossil fuel industry. (See Carbon Brief for some #s).

Meanwhile, Planet of the Humans completely fails to make any mention of the need to replace fossil fuel based systems with sustainable alternatives, instead suggesting population control – often suggested by anti-immigration hate groups – as an only answer.

There is no denying a kernel of truth in the documentary. Clean, renewable energy and transportation systems are necessary to avoid the worst of the climate crisis, but we can’t grow our way out of the climate crisis. The fact is that while too many fellow citizens of our planet live in desperation, an affluent minority live an unsustainable lifestyle of consumption without regard to the toll this takes on our environment. We must transition to a sustainable culture that recognizes our planet’s limits.

As climate activists, our mission is based on science. We must be vigilant against misinformation and direct  people to the facts, as well as rethinking mindless growth so we can leave a planet that is nurturing, sustainable and equitable for generations to come.

As climate activists in California, we can see the impacts of increased renewable energy and efficiency — less carbon and air pollution. We can also see that our actions as community leaders are achieving better policies. There is hope and we remain committed to continuing to work for a renewable energy economy grounded in equity.

Further reading:

Plant-Based Meal Recipe

Looking to incorporate plant based meals into your diet? This quick dish is a great and customizable combination of familiar and yummy foods- ‘no-meat’ balls over pasta and oven-roasted veggies with a balsamic twist. Recipe below:

VEGGIES (serves 4-5):

1 onion, 2 zucchini, 2 red bell pepper, 2 eggplants *any combination of your favorite veggies is possible — (green beans and broccoli would also be great in this), 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil, salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs (thyme, oregano, celery, basil, etc.), balsamic vinegar


1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Slice onion and zucchini into half moons, eggplant into sliced quarters, and red bell peppers into strips. Toss with oil and spices.

3. Cook for 20 minutes and take out to flip veggies. Cook another 20 minutes, take out to do the same. 

4. After 40 minutes or when veggies begin to caramelize, bring over to 300F and cook for 10-15 minutes. 

5. Remove from oven and finish with balsamic vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 


NO-MEAT BALLS (serves 4-5): 1/2 c cooked and cooled quinoa, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 can beans of choice (white beans used in this recipe, black beans work too), 1/4 c flour of choice, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp ketchup, tomato paste, or barbecue sauce, 1/2 tbsp sriracha (optional), 1/4 cup sesame, hemp, flax, or chia seeds, 1 tsp garlic powder, herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, etc.)


1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Drain beans and use a fork to mash them in a bowl.

3. Mix in all other ingredients well. 

4. Scoop mixture into desired sized balls and place on a baking sheet.

5. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until crispy.


PASTA: Your choice, but @sprouts and @banza have great protein pasta options that boost the nutritional quality of this dish and keep you fuller for longer. 


Serve and enjoy! This dish is great with pesto, or sub the balsamic for marinara sauce. Let us know in the comments if you tried it and what you think!

By: Maddie McMurray


Climate Activists Remain Committed to Transit and Transportation Equity Work following MTS Decision to Halt Elevate 2020 Initiative

San Diego – April 16, 2020 – At today’s MTS meeting, Chair Nathan Fletcher said the MTS initiative “Elevate 2020” would not proceed to the ballot in 2020. 

This is a statement from Bee Mittermiller, SanDiego350 Transportation Committee Chair:

SanDiego350 members are disappointed that the transit initiative has been put on hold given its huge potential for improving San Diego County’s transit system, reducing carbon pollution, and increasing  quality of life for residents. However, we understand the coronavirus pandemic has made this campaign impractical in this time of uncertainty.

We applaud MTS’s actions to protect its drivers and the riders who are critical workers serving the needs of our communities, and for making sure that its essential services are continuing.

We are committed to to keep working with MTS and we encourage MTS to continue their public outreach, which has been extraordinary. 

Amidst this tragic pandemic we can see best practices developing around telecommuting and active transportation. We need to build on those developments in a way to complement building out transit infrastructure.