By Maricruz Ramirez, Special to CalMatters
Maricruz Ramirez is a working class, first generation Latina born and raised in Bakersfield. She is a member of Sunrise Kern County.
I come from a household of five in Bakersfield, where I experience the effects of the climate crisis every day. I’m the only one in my family who does not have chronic bronchitis or asthma.
If you talk to any family in the Central Valley, you will hear countless examples of people suffering from asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other health problems, simply because they live in one of the regions with the country’s most polluted air. .
Vapors from oil wells combined with diesel car emissions and pesticides from farms create a dangerous mixture of toxicity that is trapped in the Central Valley, and it worsens when smoke burns in the valley.
This toxic mixture damages the air quality and water supply in this region, which is predominantly made up of Latinos who are poor and working class. This is not a coincidence or a coincidence, and it is clear that politicians – at the federal, state and Kern County levels – let the systemic and environmental racism we face persist while offering few or no solutions to save U.S.
But I am not the only one facing the consequences of the climate crisis every day. Thousands of Californians, many BIPOCs – black, native, colored people – struggle to breathe every day, whether it is due to inhalation of ash from wildfires or inhalation of polluted air.
And on top of that, we face the daily anxiety of finding a good job, which is hard to do in Bakersfield. I have a bachelor’s degree, but it might as well be a piece of paper written in crayon. In my hometown, most work revolves around the oil industry. But after years of seeing the impact of oil and gas on my society, I will not be a tool for fossil fuel companies making money while my family gets poisoned.
There are young people like me who want to stay in our home communities and reverse the damage that has been caused by decades of fossil fuel pollution. To do that, our government must consist of a fully funded civilian climate corps.
A civilian climate corps would give people like me the opportunity to work for pay while fighting the climate crisis. It would give as many people as me the opportunity to strengthen our community – work we have done for years without pay. But right now, it is in danger of passing a fully funded civilian climate corps because our politicians are forcing fossil fuel leaders and climate deniers.
Last November, young people like me elected Joe Biden and helped turn Congress into democratic control with a bold climate mandate. It is because of us that Nancy Pelosi is the President of the House and Congress has the power to adopt a progressive agenda that will change the lives of so many of us who are struggling to survive the economic and climate crises we face. And as a Californian, I head to Pelosi to deliver to us.
Speaker Pelosi, are you on the side of fossil fuel companies that pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink, or are you on the side of BIPOC and young Californians who helped choose you? Californians not only want a civilian climate corps, we need one. It is time for you to act on this mandate and pass a conciliation law that meets the scale of the climate crisis – this means that a fully funded civilian climate corps must be adopted so that we can avert future crises and rebuild our local communities.
The climate crisis is here, and according to the latest, brutally existential report between governments on climate change, it will only get worse. We can stop the suffering and prevent the next generation in a life of climate catastrophes – but only if the speaker Pelosi is willing to fight for us.