Growing up in east Los Angeles as the son of Central American immigrants, the everyday challenges faced by the people in my community seemed far removed from the American dream: the lack of good housing and jobs, failing schools, scraping together money for groceries, and all-too-common police brutality.
If you had asked us, we would have told you we were concerned about the days when the air pollution was especially thick, or when the smells coming from the incinerator directly south of our housing complex were particularly bad.
We would have told you we were concerned — but that these were not the greatest challenges facing our community. Yes, they were important problems, but any political agenda that did not speak to the central economic and social needs of our community seemed irrelevant.
For communities like mine, environmentalism has seemed to be about preserving places most of us will never see. Even when environmentalism has focused on problems that affect urban communities, such as air pollution or lead poisoning, it has pointedly avoided addressing my community’s desperate need for economic development. Environmentalist... Read more