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Our Earth—and our engagement with it—is in need of a turning point. Our ability to preserve and inhabit our environment, in an effort to protect our humanity itself, is perhaps critically reliant on the air we breathe.
The Coalition for Clean Air is prioritizing mother nature and all that it embodies while addressing the ways we are impacted by it. This includes protecting public health, improving our air quality, and ultimately preventing climate change.
These efforts are central to CCA’s mission and acknowledges how our Mother Earth’s current catastrophic state is a result of our own actions, while also recognizing how people in everyday communities—directly experiencing the impacts of its effects – are an incremental part of the solution.
Brian Sheridan, Director of Development and Engagement at Coalition for Clean Air, shared his experience moving to Los Angeles as a 12-year-old boy seeing smog and excess pollution in the sky for the first time as his family drove over the hill to begin a new life in California.
“I also grew up playing soccer with coaches not knowing how much of an impact the air had on my lungs. Despite having warnings of Stage 1 Smog Alerts, we’d go outside running crazy for soccer practice, and had I been able to educate them, we could’ve done something smarter,” Sheridan says.
The CCA cares for the Earth in the various ways we care for ourselves by acknowledging how we perpetuated the problem to begin with. Informed by research and the experiences of everyday people, the CCA provides its care for the Earth and the people who inhabit it, with a particular focus on California.
“The number one source of emissions is transportation—so that’s where all of us come into play,” says Sheridan. “Los Angeles has really poor adoption rates of public transit, and we really need to think about, ‘Do I really need to drive to all these places? Have I made this a habit? Can I try public transit?’” says Sheridan.
Their research shows Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley have the worst air quality in the U.S., ultimately having a real impact on the ways California’s diverse communities navigate their lives.
“Low-income communities of color disportionately bear the impacts of climate pollution, [like] in places where they have put apartment buildings next to an oil well, or a warehouse. To address this as a coalition, we push for legislation that provides support to those communities first, because they are at the forefront. We address equity and accessibility by being people-centered, but at the same time, we really need everyone in the state to play a role in this,” says Sheridan.
In order to effectively care for the preservation of our Earth, the Coalition for Clean Air recognizes caring for our community’s well-being first is central to protecting it. The California Clean Air Day, a project of CCA, was inspired precisely by that notion, suggesting “shared experiences unite people to action, to improve our community health.”
For this year’s 5th Annual California Clean Air Day today, on October 5th, 468 organizations are participating to clear the air in 2022. Through this unified day of action, CCA seeks to help provide and implement new habits to “clear the air” for all members of California’s diverse communities.
The CCA seeks to achieve this by instilling habits that are in alignment with the Earth’s and community’s mutual well-being, by recognizing how people engage with the land and the food and nourishment it provides us.
“When food gets trapped in a landfill, because of a system we all have created, it creates methane, and is up to 25 times stronger than the greenhouse gasses that we’re trying to fight, such as through transportation,” says Sheridan. “We ultimately seek to fight super-pollutants, because that’s really what it is.”
By providing a food diversion and composting program for Clean Air Day that teaches community members how to reduce food waste and properly discard it, this is merely one example and a step towards implementing daily sustainable habits into our lives.
One of the community programs provided include a bokashi composting workshop, an “anaerobic process that uses a special additive to ferment kitchen waste, including meat and dairy, into a healthy soil and nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants,” led by Amy Honjiyo from Sustainable Little Tokyo.
When it comes to transportation, efforts to reduce our contribution to pollution includes utilizing other forms of transportation. For Clean Air Day, a “Community Care—Clean Air Day Sunday Ride” hosted by Rich City Rides, encourages the use of bicycles over vehicles to reduce emissions.
Our individual and communal impact, though it may seem minimal, is far greater than we imagine. When we learn to care for how we engage with our environment, whether through composting or bike riding, like CCA, we can each reduce our impact and center community care for the Earth’s well-being, too.
Sheridan says, “You don’t have to be some big corporation to impact or care about the planet, it’s really about what each individual can do today to move the ball forward. We need to continue to remind ourselves, when we fight climate change, we have this really important co-benefit here and now, which is cleaner air.”
To achieve this, the Coalition for Clean Air reminds us how we too can center caring for the Earth, because our individual and collective actions are central to the Earth's ability to continue to go round.
“If we don’t begin to get people to change their behaviors, we simply won’t meet our air quality and climate goals in a state that is supposed to be the greenest in the nation; we’re supposed to lead,” says Sheridan.
We can all be part of the solution by taking daily tangible steps to get there. By composting, bicycling, utilizing modes of public transportation, engaging in community-based sustainable efforts, and recognizing how our unique presence and positionality in California allows us to lead the way towards sustainable living with clean air, we can each contribute to caring for the Earth, too.
Written by Irene Franco Rubio for Youth To The People