The Dialogue on Climate Change panel, hosted by the Fresno State Ethics Center, discussed environmental issues faced by Central Valley youth and advocacy efforts during a virtual webinar on Tuesday, October 26.
Feng Teter, a member of the Fresno State Student-Led Sustainability Task Force and a geology master’s student, said the panel focused on engaging a diverse group of young voices for fight against the impacts of climate change in the valley.
“I have been the voice of students in Fresno State. I think these conversations are extremely important because marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, ”Teter said.
As part of the Ethics Center’s fall 2021 lecture series, the center worked with the Fresno Civic Education Center to provide a perspective to young people on climate issues impacting their generation. and their communities.
In particular, the panelists addressed the issues of disproportionately affected areas in Fresno and the environmental impacts related to the health of community members.
Panelist Kamryn Kubose, associate with the California Product Stewardship Council, said she is developing a new nonprofit, Central Valley Young Environmental Advocates, to educate and help young environmental activists.
As a member of AmeriCorps and working with the Fresno State Office of Community and Economic Development, Kubose said he wrote a report on Fresno’s urban design.
Kubose found that low-income areas had fewer parks, which did not provide green space in many areas of the city. Particularly in West Fresno, Kubose noted that routine landfills have a direct impact on the well-being of people living in these areas.
“They suffer a lot of water pollution and disease,” Kubose said. “Again, kind of a link to environmental justice, not to mention the actual geography of the Central Valley. We trap in everything [the] bad air.
Mona Cummings, CEO of Tree Fresno, an initiative to bring more trees and green space to the Central Valley, said tree cover in urban areas improves the health of communities and also helps fight water levels. atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Tree Fresno is working to improve tree equity in the city of Fresno, which Cummings says has been affected by redlining practices across the country.
“But a map of the tree cover of American cities is too often a map of income and race. This is in part due to redlining, which was a common discriminatory practice from around the 1930s to 1968, where banks [and] insurance companies would deny or limit loans, mortgages, insurance, etc. with specific geographic areas, especially in downtown neighborhoods, ”Cummings said. “And that legacy exists today. So in these communities, you see fewer trees, less investment. “
Destiny Rodriguez, regional community relations manager for the Climate Center and former Fresno State, noted that environmental impacts can be seen at all levels in Fresno and that climate action must be taken.
“And I’m sure most of the people here in the Central Valley are quite aware that our times have changed,” Rodriguez said. “We have experienced many microclimates, where one area of Fresno will have rain and another will not. An area could be flooded by, you know, high winds. Another, maybe a little, has higher temperatures, and it has a lot to do with things happening globally, and it echoes locally. ”
Particularly in Fresno State, Teter said efforts such as the Student-Led Sustainability Task Force and Sustainability Club are helping students take the first step and get involved in improvement. sustainability on campus.
Following the creation of the task force in the fall of 2019, it strived to secure the first Fresno State Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) intern in 2020 and eight interns from the California Climate Action Corps. in 2021. Teter said these interns were working on projects for campus departments, including the campus farm. , career center and facilities management.
Other projects include setting up blue recycling bins at the university and installing water filling stations across campus.
Teter said conversations about environmental issues are important to consider as students because they impact all areas of the community.
“These communities, historically low-income or communities of color, disproportionately
suffer from the uneven distribution of environmental burdens, including air pollution,
water, less greenery and various health risks, ”Teter said. “This comes from decades of discriminatory environmental and housing policies. “
For students who want to get involved in sustainability efforts in Fresno state, Teter said they can start by joining a club such as the Sustainability Club.
“Always think about the people most vulnerable to sustainability issues. And most
all, be patient and take care of yourself… Progress takes time, so don’t be fooled by how slow things are sometimes, ”Teter said.
Civic Education Center founder John Minkler, who helped provide the idea behind the panel’s topic, said students can start by looking at other youth organizations in the valley who are also concerned about an issue. that interests them.
“And, you know, get involved, go to meetings, find out about it, volunteer,” Minkler said. “And so that’s what we’re trying to do is make sure that the young people who feel called to do something can find a place where they can get involved.”
Minkler said the Civic Education Center will continue to update a resource page on its website where students can find information on all of the organizations and resources mentioned in the panel.