From my experience, many individuals dismiss environmental climate change as a leading and urgent issue, not because they don’t believe it to be true or important, but because they believe there are more urgent issues at hand, for example, the fact that there are 45 million people “stuck below the poverty line” in the US (https://www.huffingtonpost.
The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), located in Richmond and Oakland, California, does an excellent job of synthesizing the inequalities that exist politically, economically, and socially and their intrinsic relationship to the environment. The Asian/Pacific Islander population in the San Francisco Bay Area makes up an ever increasing 24% (http://www.bayareacensus.ca.
Specifically organizing in the East Bay, APEN promotes an agenda that involves the API community, consisting of low income youths, immigrants, and refugees, to “develop an alternative agenda for environmental, social and economic justice” (https://apen4ej.org/who-we-
APEN implements a three-pronged approach consisting of civic engagement through electoral organizing, building membership and power through community organizing, and “advancing structural changes” through policy (https://apen4ej.org/what-we-
Starting in 1993 in Richmond, APEN originally worked with the Laotian refugee community (generally non-English speaking), living in proximity to the Chevron Refinery. Throughout their campaign APEN has won key victories to improve the air quality and general quality of life for this community. They won a community multilingual warning system in 2001, stopped Chevron Refinery’s expansion in 2010, and passed the Richmond General Plan in 2012 (https://apen4ej.org/what-we-
Later on in 2002, APEN expanded to Oakland, where they mainly worked for housing and workers’ rights within the APA community in Chinatown (https://apen4ej.org/what-we-
APEN’s political (and subsequently environmental) victories in the East Bay have not been won alone. APEN often collaborates and participates in coalitions spanning race and the environment. However APEN is one of few organizations that actually combines the two, functioning at an intersection that is often passed over. What’s interesting is that APEN, beginning in 1993, grew out of a national push to recognize environmental racism as an important and real trend. The First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit of the Environmental Justice Platform convened in 1991 (https://www.ejnet.org/ej/). Since then there has been a greater push to pay attention to the intersection of race and the environment, however it is rare to find an organization that uses the environment to push a social agenda.