The Dialogue on Climate Change panel, hosted by the Fresno State Ethics Center, discussed environmental issues facing Central Valley youth and advocacy efforts in a virtual webinar on Tuesday, 26 October.
Feng Teter, a member of the Fresno State student-led sustainability task force and a master’s student in geology, said the panel focused on engaging a diverse group of youth voices. to deal with the impacts of climate change in the valley.
“I served as a spokesperson for Fresno State students. 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 in conjunction with the Fresno Center for Civic Education to offer a youth perspective on climate issues affecting their generation. and their communities.
In particular, panelists addressed the issues of the disproportionately impacted 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 was developing a new nonprofit, Central Valley Young Environmental Advocates, to educate and help young environmental activists.
When she was part of AmeriCorps and worked with the Fresno State Office of Community and Economic Development, Kubose said she wrote a report on Fresno’s urban design.
Kubose found that low-income areas had fewer parks, in turn providing no green space in many parts of the city. Particularly in West Fresno, Kubose noted that widespread landfills had a direct impact on the well-being of people living in those areas.
“They experience a lot of water pollution and disease,” Kubose said. “Again, kind of a connection 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 combat levels. atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Tree Fresno works to improve tree equity in the city of Fresno, which Cummings says has been affected by nationwide redlining practices.
“But a map of tree cover in American cities is too often also a map of income and race. This is partly due to redlining, which was a common discriminatory practice from the 1930s to around 1968 where banks [and] insurance companies would refuse or limit loans, mortgages, insurance, etc. with specific geographies, especially in downtown neighborhoods,” Cummings said. “And that legacy exists today. So in those communities you see fewer trees, less investment.
Destiny Rodriguez, regional community relations manager for the Climate Center and Fresno State elder, noted that environmental impacts can be seen at every level in Fresno and that climate action must be taken.
“And I’m sure most people here in the Central Valley are pretty aware that our times have changed,” Rodriguez said. “We have experienced many microclimates, where one area of Fresno will have rain, another may not. An area could be flooded by, you know, high winds. Another, maybe a bit, has higher temperatures, and that has a lot to do with things happening globally, and it ripples down to the local level.
Particularly at Fresno State, Teter said efforts like the student-led sustainability task force and the sustainability club help students take the first step and get involved in improving sustainability. on the campus.
After the task force was established in the fall of 2019, he worked to secure Fresno State’s first Strategic Energy Innovation (SEI) intern in 2020 and eight California Climate Action Corps interns in 2021. Teter said these interns work on projects for campus departments, including the campus farm. , career center and facility management.
Other projects include setting up blue recycling bins at the university and installing water refill stations across campus.
Teter said conversations about environmental issues are important to know as students because they impact all areas of the community.
“These communities, historically low income or communities of color, disproportionately
suffer from the unequal distribution of environmental burdens, including air pollution,
water, less greenery and various health risks,” Teter said. “It comes from many decades of discriminatory environmental and housing policies.”
For students who want to get involved in Fresno State’s sustainability efforts, 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 of
everything, be patient and take care of yourself… Progress takes time, so don’t get overwhelmed by how slow things are sometimes,” Teter said.
Civic Education Center founder John Minkler, who helped come up with the idea behind the panel’s topic, said students can start by looking at other valley youth organizations who also care about an issue. who interests them.
“And, you know, get involved, go to meetings, learn more about it, volunteer,” Minkler said. “And so that’s what we’re trying to do is make sure that young people who feel called to do something can find a place where they can engage.”
Minkler said the Civic Education Center will continue to update a resource page on their website where students can find information about all the organizations and resources mentioned in the panel.