Earth Day falls on April 22, but there’s no reason we can’t celebrate all month long - or really, every day of the year.
Earth Day as we know it began in 1970, founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as a “teach in” to raise environmental consciousness. It is commemorated annually with events that remind us to keep our planet - and the people on it - healthy and well.
But it’s not all tree-planting and parades. As environmental and civil rights advocate, Van Jones, writes, “the traditional environmental movement has a diversity problem.”
Historically, the environmental movement has been dominated by white, affluent leaders who haven't necessarily led with the charge of social equity. In the United States (and around the world), low-income communities and communities of color are the ones who disproportionately suffer the worst impacts of climate pollution, from refinery smog to rising sea levels.
Today, there is progress among environmental groups that are connecting the dots between economic, social, and environmental inequality. But we still have a long way to go.
At TransForm, we see environmental sustainability and social equity as two sides of the same coin. And we’ve long been committed to ensuring that our work meaningfully pursues both goals, from local ordinances to statewide policy change.
That’s one of the reasons why the theme of our 2016 State Summit in May is equity – transportation equity, that is.
Transportation is by far the largest source of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, so if we want to solve the climate crisis (not to mention ensure everyone has clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and good soil to grow our food), it seems logical to look to transportation first.
Yet if we were to focus exclusively on transportation, we would risk repeating the mistake of overlooking other, interconnected problems that primarily plague low-income communities and communities of color. Our most vulnerable neighbors have often been shut out of desirable neighborhoods. In the past, they were excluded intentionally by racist housing policies; in the present, they are being displaced by skyrocketing rent prices. As a result, many people live in communities that lack safe, convenient, and affordable transportation choices. It’s clear that we need to address both transportation choices and housing affordability to create an inclusive movement for transportation choices that will truly make California more connected and fair.
Even though we are the birthplace of America’s car culture, California is on the cusp of embracing a different future: one where all its residents can rely on transportation choices besides driving to get where they need to go. Safe streets for biking and walking, connected and convenient public transit, and more affordable homes near work and public transportation are just some of the changes TransForm is fighting for.
At the end of the day, the end goal isn’t just cleaner transportation, it’s also fairer transportation. When we connect California with better transportation choices, we connect people of all incomes to opportunity, community, and each other. It’s not just a win-win. It’s what we have to do to create a better future for all of us.
Help make this vision a reality, and keep the Earth Day spirit alive past April 22: join us at TransForm’s Transportation Equity Summit and Advocacy Day on May 16-17 in Sacramento.
Discount tickets are available for nonprofit employees, students, and others who may not be able to afford the full price.