September 8, 2007

Bay Area environmental issues explored on KQED Quest

I learned about the QUEST program from a Le Conte resident who was featured for his work on the historical ecology of wetlands. Since then I have watched several shows (see below), on television and on the web. The "Perilous Deisel" program though brief provides rich content. The goods that are shipped to the port have highly damaging consequences. West Oakland has five times more deisel particles than other Oakland neighborhoods. Deisel was responsible for 24,000 premature deaths statewide, but in 2006, a law mandated the use of low-sulphur diesel which is 97% cleaner than traditional diesel. So far, only 70 of 2500 trucks have received replacement converters. In an effort to force the truckers to use the highway system and to keep off residential streets, the City of Oakland has developed new truck routes. However, truckers still use residential streets to access services like food, parking (breaks), and repair services. Currently, there is only one service facility at the port, but a proposed facility on the decommissioned army base will provide much needed services. Another interesting fact is that ships are more polluting than trucks, but they are regulated by international laws. However, there is a new proposal to regulate ships within 25 miles of Oakland shoreline. Finally, a West Oakland resident has been nominated to the Port Commission. Margaret Gordon is the co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and told QUEST that "it is good business for the Port to be socially responsible." West Oakland is not the only community that is dealing with pollution. In a recent NY Times Magazine article, Amanda Griscom Little writes that "disproportionately high pollution levels continue to plague poor communities, and race often correlates with which populations are hit the hardest: African-Americans...are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in areas where air-pollution levels pose health risks....Lead poisoning rates among Hispanic and black children are roughly double those among white children." Little interviewed MacArthur Fellow, Majora Carter, who founded Sustainable South Bronx, an environmental justice organization that fights the siting of expanded or new "dirty" industries in the South Bronx as well as promotes green industries. Urban Habitat, an environmental, economic, and social justice nonprofit in Oakland, is also exploring the idea of "green economics." The Ella Baker Center in Oakland is also supporting green economics; the organization is a proponent of the Green Jobs Act of 2007. Content added on September, 10, 2007.

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