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In Richmond, concern about air pollution goes beyond Chevron fire

European Commission

Pollution and the environment have always been big issues for Californians. A statewide survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California last month showed that approximately half the state’s residents see air pollution as a serious threat to their health.

Among African Americans and Latinos, concern is even greater.  The majority of those polled in these groups believe that people in lower-income areas are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

Reverend Daniel Buford, vice-president of the nonprofit Communities for a Better Environment, believes that ethnic minorities are more concerned about the environment because they often live in highly polluted areas. “We've got a lot of people in the communities of color who are disappearing and dying as a result of pollution and exposure to these carcinogens,” says Buford. “They are disappearing and dying mysteriously the same way people are disappearing and dying in Bermuda Triangle.” 

According to Buford, the Bay Area has its own Toxic Triangle, made up of Richmond, Oakland, and San Francisco's Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood. In these low-income areas, he says, environmental protection laws are not always implemented.

Climate Change

Survey data shows that 88% of Latinos, 86% of Blacks, and 72% of Asians see global warming as a serious future threat to the economy and quality of life in California. Only 66% of white respondents share the same opinion. “People of color frankly are some of the strongest environmentalists that we see in the state of California. And that has really massive implications about the future of the state and the future of environmental programs in California,” says Roger Kim, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. 

One of those new environmental programs is California's “cap and trade” system. It allows the government to limit industrial greenhouse gas emissions, but it enables corporations to sell their emissions credits to higher polluters. 58% of survey respondents had never heard of the program, which is scheduled to begin in November.