California’s Green New Deal: An Interview with APEN

At ClimatePlan, we understand that we need policy change at all levels--local, regional, state, and federal--if we want to create real lasting change. As we advance policies that address the intersection of land use, transportation, housing, and climate, we know that much more is needed to address the challenges our nation faces, including a pandemic, an economic recession, and a reckoning against systemic racism and oppression. Starting this month, we will be interviewing our partners to discuss policies they are advancing that can help us create a healthier, sustainable, and more equitable future for all. 

The Green New Deal came to mind as a comprehensive piece of legislation that could address so many of the issues we’re looking to tackle. We talked with Sylvia Chi, Policy Director at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), to hear about the work of the California Green New Deal Coalition, the status of a Green New Deal in California, and how folks can get involved in supporting a California Green New Deal.

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A Deeper Interrogation: Addressing Climate and Racial Justice in the ClimatePlan Network

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police has finally created a sea change in our country to support black lives. This is beginning to take tangible forms such as efforts to defund police departments, the creation of task forces looking into reparations for slavery, and interrogating how our nation’s prison industrial complex contributes to racial injustice. We are also seeing residents encourage their city councils, county and state governments, and the federal government to reprioritize black lives and black communities. At ClimatePlan, this change is also being felt at an organizational and network level. 

ClimatePlan’s Evolution 

ClimatePlan was formed in 2007 by 11 nonprofit organizations—American Farmland Trust, California Center for Regional Leadership, California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Clean Air Policy, Greenbelt Alliance, the Local Government Commission, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Forest Trust, Planning and Conservation League, Sierra Club, and TransForm—with a seed grant from the San Francisco Foundation.

Equity was a part of ClimatePlan’s creation--one of its guiding principles was, “Advance Solutions that Increase Social Equity and Environmental Justice.” As a learning network of over 50 organizations, ClimatePlan worked hard to ensure that regional plans and statewide policies led to more equitable outcomes. While there was a clear focus on equitable policy and outcomes, there was not as much attention to advancing racial justice.

Now, in 2019, ClimatePlan is a black-led network, with the majority of staff being women of color. It is clear that the issues that ClimatePlan works on - housing, land use, and transportation - are inextricably linked to the need to center equity and ensure those who are most impacted--black and brown lives--are front and center in decision-making. In the past 2 to 3 years, ClimatePlan has deepened its commitment to equity with the adoption of shared agreements, the promotion of the Investment without Displacement platform as it relates to housing justice in California, and the commitment to centering and amplifying community voices in everything ClimatePlan does. 

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We are listening and ready to do the hard work: ClimatePlan 2020 Priorities and Actions

“We gotta stop looking for the easy answers and instead join the hard work. Please and thank you. Be good to yourselves. This is a marathon that no one wants to run. #BlackLivesMatter #GeorgeFloyd.” -- Alicia Garza, Co Founder, Black Lives Matter

In late April-- which now seems like such a long time ago--my colleague Christopher shared how we conducted listening sessions across the state to better understand priorities at the local and regional level, and allow that work to shape our statewide priorities and actions. At that time, we were in the midst of a global pandemic, the coronavirus. Now, as the New York Times said, we are living in a pandemic within a pandemic. For black people--as an organizer in the article says--the question is “Am I going to let a disease kill me or am I going to let the system--the police?” 

The weight of this question is immense. I can attest how easy it is to slip into hopelessness and despair. Will anything ever change? 

  • It’s 2020, and I’m talking to my son about George Floyd, fielding his fear and tears. I’m explaining why we are joining virtual town halls and protests in the streets. It hits him hard, especially because a black man who lives down the street from us was recently arrested for “dancing in the street.”  
  • It’s 1992, my dad sat me down and explained why people were protesting in Watts. Rodney King is where my life long fear of police officers begins. My parents took my sister and I to see Spike Lee’s Malcom X on opening night because my dad wanted us to see the power that we as the black community could harness. 
  • It’s 1963, my grandmother talked to my dad about Meager Evers, why the work he was doing was so important that he risked his own life. My dad still remembers the day that Martin Luther King was assassinated--his entire school was shut down that day as his teachers openly wept. 
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One more time for those in the back: Why we need an Equity Advisory Committee at California Transportation Commission

For those that don’t know me, I am a black woman who has spent the last 10 years fighting for transportation justice. For me, this work is about making sure that low-income communities and communities of color have the same access to their surroundings. Their fight for better jobs, increased government accountability, better access to healthcare, and more equitable education outcomes for their children are all valid and necessary. My role is to make sure these communities have a way to get these rights. I chose to advocate for transportation justice because low-income communities and communities of color-- like my own community in South Sacramento--deserve to have access to the safest, healthiest, most affordable transportation option. 

Right now, it feels silly to write a blog explaining (yet again) why we need to create an equity advisory committee to inform the California Transportation Commission’s (CTC) decision making. If the current protests in the country do not scream that we need to change our institutions to be more equitable, I doubt this blog will. But alas, here we are. From where I stand, an Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) at the CTC is the least of the asks from low-income communities and communities of color but it is a step, a good first step. 

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Statement from ClimatePlan's Executive Director - June 1, 2020

Hi ClimatePlan partners, allies, and friends, 

Amy shared her blog post, Dear White folks, we need to talk about racism, on Friday. If you missed her email or you haven't read the blog post, please take 5 minutes today to read it. It is very powerful.

As a black woman with two black sons, I am exhausted, I am angry, and I am afraid. I've been alternating between rage, despair, and hopelessness. I am angry that black bodies continue to be killed and dehumanized--and that we, the United States of America, still have not had a real conversation about how systematic racism and oppression is built within the very fabric of our nation. I grieve the loss of people that look like me and that could be me. I live in fear--for my life, my sons' lives, my nephews, and my family. I know that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nia Wilson, Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant could have been me. And that is the terror I have to live under every day.

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