Clean Up, Green Up – An innovative solution to environmental racism

April 27, 2012

The Clean Up-Green Up (CUGU) Campaign is moving ahead in Los Angeles.  CBE, the Coalition for a Safe Environment (CFASE), Pacoima Beautiful (PB), and Union de Vecinos (UV) are asking the City of Los Angeles to recognize the problem of “cumulative impacts” in their respective cities of Wilmington, Pacoima, and Boyle Heights. Cumulative impacts refers to the dense concentration of pollution sources in these communities, combined with socio-economic factors such as high rates of poverty, lack of access to affordable health care, and other social stressors. Cumulative impacts are a common problem in low-income communities of color, including those with predominantly Latino immigrants, which suffer serious health harms as a result. It is a prominent form of environmental racism.

The CUGU Campaign is an effort to utilize Los Angeles’ land use and planning authority to prevent additional pollution sources from being built in these communities, to reduce the existing pollution burden, and to begin greening these communities by expanding parks and other green spaces, and developing a truly clean and green economic infrastructure. Council member Jose Huizar, who represents the Boyle Heights community, sponsored a motion asking the City to study the problem of cumulative impacts in Boyle Heights, Pacoima, and Wilmington, and to develop policies to resolve the problem. CBE youth and adult community members have worked with academic partners from USC and Occidental College to document the problem of cumulative impacts in their neighborhoods, as well as to propose policy suggestions to resolve this serious problem.

CBE and CFASE have built impressive support for the CUGU campaign in Wilmington. A recent public forum on CUGU drew more than 100 residents, and more than 1,000 people have signed post cards of support. In addition, more than 25 local businesses have endorsed the campaign, along with 15 community and faith based organizations. CUGU is also supported by labor, such as the United Steel workers (USW), with many USW members living in Wilmington, and by the local Wilmington International Association of Machinists (IAM) lodge 1484.

If the City of Los Angeles approves the CUGU pilot proposal it will establish a model for addressing cumulative impacts that can be replicated in environmental justice communities throughout California and the US. Si Se Puede!

Read other Summer 2012 newsletter articles.