Saturday, January 18, 2020     Volume: 20, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / Letters to the Editor

What is environmental justice?

Andrew Christie, director, Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club -

Environmental justice is one of those things most readily understood, and keenly felt, in its absence.

If you’re unsure as to the meaning of “environmental justice” and have never felt it, you could also ask the residents of Oceano who can’t afford to live anywhere else, can’t safely use their beach, and face a future of inundation if motorized recreation on the Oceano Dunes continues to be prioritized over their welfare, continuing to stunt the prosperity of their town and grind down the only natural barrier between their community and rising seas.

Oceano is a local poster child for the kind of injustice that has increasingly made economically disadvantaged communities, tribal communities, and communities of color the primary victims of climate change, with the fewest resources to prepare for or recover from its harms.

The state amended the California Coastal Act a few years ago to give the California Coastal Commission special authority when it comes to environmental justice. 

Part of the commission’s new mission is to “strongly encourage local governments to amend their local coastal programs to address environmental justice issues, develop a guidance memo for local governments to assist with the incorporation of environmental justice policies, and develop a list of best practices to help reduce disparate impacts on vulnerable communities.”

Unless justice and equity are central aspects of our climate agenda, the inequality of the carbon-based economy will be replicated as we build a new clean and renewable energy economy. We are committed to working in partnership to define new policy ideas that tackle climate change and address environmental injustice, and ensure that those ideas become reality. 

Andrew Christie
director, Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club

Weekly Poll
How do you feel about the proposed Strauss Wind Energy Project near Lompoc?

It'll kill way too many birds.
The county needs to significantly increase its renewable energy production.
I'm concerned about the birds, but climate change will kill a lot more.
It doesn't matter. This project will fizzle out just like the last one.

| Poll Results

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