The Public Policy Institute of California presented the results of its annual “Californians and the Environment” survey at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco. The survey shows a growing concern for the environment amongst ethnic minorities. Aug. 7, 2012. Photo Courtesy New American Media

The Public Policy Institute of California introduced the results of its annual “Californians and the Environment” survey Aug. 7 at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco. The survey showed growing concerns on the impact of global warming amongst ethnic minorities.

The fifth annual briefing was organized by New America Media, “to anchor the environment, and be a call to action every year,” said Executive Director Sandy Close. She added that “there is a lack of environmental coverage in the ethnic media outlets,” and gathered a diverse group of five panelists and approximately 45 reporters to represent the ethnic media outlets.

This was the 12th survey given by the PPIC on the environment, and was conducted over a two week period in July through a series of multi-lingual telephone interviews. The evaluation comprised basic questions regarding awareness on environmental issues and policies.

The panelists agreed that Latinos, blacks and Asians are often left out of public discourse on environmental issues, but panelist Rev. Daniel Buford, director of the Prophetic Justice Ministry of the Allen Temple Baptist Church, pointed out that, “The truth is that people of color are some of the strongest environmentalists in the state.”

The results of the survey echoed Buford’s statement as results indicated that blacks and Latinos are most likely to support taking state action on global warming immediately. Further, 42 percent of all adults in California link taking action to positive job growth—50 percent of Asians, and 63 percent of blacks concur.

Panelist Roger Kim, executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, exalted these findings by placing them in the context of the Chevron refinery fire that occurred the evening before.

He began his discussion by reporting that, “The impacts are real. We have the impacts not only from the massive explosion that happened last night, but also in the daily operation of that refinery—resulting in asthma rates that are astronomical, and cancer rates that are unexplained.”

“This is part of the reason why communities of color have such strong attitudes about air pollution, the environment and climate change,” Kim said.

Buford supported this by referencing the mass concentration of toxic waste in the ‘Toxic Triangle’ between Richmond, the Bayview in San Francisco and Oakland.”

Moreover, 78 percent of all adults perceive global warming as real—87 percent of blacks, 88 percent of Latinos, 74 percent of Asians and 72 percent of whites say that temperature has probably gone up over the past 100 years. However, only 42 percent of all adults have heard something about the “Cap and Trade” state government policy—38 percent of Asians, 27 percent of blacks, and 26 percent of Latinos and 56 percent of whites.

Overall, there was a consensus that environmental issues have the greatest impact on communities of color, while at the same time there is a disconnect between the emerging policies and the members of these communities.

The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, president and founder of the Regeneration Project is working to organize a religious response to global warming.

“For all religions—in their theology is the mandate to protect creation,” she said. When asked about the involvement of Latinos in the national program, “Interfaith Power and Light,” she mentioned that they do have Spanish speaking members but that often “We have difficulty getting someone in there to speak Spanish to talk about this.”

23-year-old panelist and national park ranger Maria Jose Alcantra works to bridge the gap between the Latinos and the Environment by offering bilingual (English and Spanish) programs for youth at Presidio Parks and Services.

Alcantra grew up in the Mission and says that her participation in these programs at Chrissy Fields, beginning at the age of 14, changed her life. She prides herself on her work and says, “I get to change the stereotype and tell them that ‘You can do it too,’ to the newcomers and youth from underserved communities.”

When asked if this conference has ever been held in Spanish, or if they have ever considered bringing in translators for this event, Sandy Close of New America Media responded, “That is why we have you here, to bring this information back to your ethnic media outlet and share the results of this important survey, as there is a huge disconnect between public policy organizations and the ethnic community.”