On November 24, the community/academic collaborative the “Trade, Health and Environment (THE) Impact Project” partners hosted the first of an ongoing lunch series. The Community Outreach and Engagement Program of USC’s Environmental Health Centers is a longstanding part of THE Impact Project. The meeting focused on the urgency of addressing health impacts from diesel emissions, and brought together organizations and concerned community members from impacted areas.
Moderator Michele Prichard, director of Common Agenda for the Liberty Hill Foundation, kicked off the program by asking participants to introduce themselves and tell the others on a scale of 1-10 how much they thought they already knew about the health effects of diesel emissions. (Attendees were much too modest in their assessments!) Presenter Andrea Hricko of USC then did a presentation on the Health Effects of Diesel, highlighting the national, state and local history of the path that diesel emission reduction has taken. She noted that although progress has been made in reducing overall diesel emissions in the Southern California regions, there is still a long way to go in terms of reducing diesel emissions in specific diesel “hot spots” around the region. Such “hot spots ” receive the brunt of diesel emissions, thereby raising health risks in the most impacted communities, near the ports, rail yards, warehouses and traffic corridors.
These risks were highlighted in the recently released MATES IV report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, found here. The report has an interactive map, allowing viewers to click on their communities and see the overall cancer risk from air toxics, including diesel particulate matter.
Professor Martha Matsuoka from Occidental College outlined the history of THE Impact Project whose efforts included hosting conferences that were the impetus for developing a nationwide Moving Forward Network. Matsuoka explained that the Network serves as a resource, bringing environmental, community, academic, and other groups from around the country together to share information, resources, trainings and workshops.
To round out the featured presentations, mark! Lopez, Director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, spoke to the participants, many of whom live in areas impacted by heavy diesel emissions, of the need for community change to push for environmental justice for people living around ports, freeways, and goods movement centers. Lopez spoke about not accepting “the way things are,” but changing the environment to be a healthy place in which people live, work, play and go to school.
At the conclusion of the presentations, participants discussed their concerns and questions. The following themes emerged for future activities and further information:
THE Impact Project Partners include:
Coalition For A Safe Environment (CFASE)
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ)
Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma (LBACA)
University of Southern California (USC) Centers for Environmental Health, Community Outreach Program
Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), Occidental College
Thanks to sponsorship by the Luce China-Environment Program at the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College.