On Tuesday, June 7th, Bay Area voters will have an historic opportunity to protect our region’s wetlands by voting Yes on Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay. We know that Measure AA has many benefits: cleaner water, increased wildlife habitat, improved public access to the Bay, and a healthier San Francisco Bay for future generations. But who exactly are the Bay Area residents who will benefit from the many ways Measure AA will help us?
Come meet some of these Humans of the Bay who want to share their own reasons for why Measure AA is important to them. Everyone has their own reason to support. Tell us yours in the comments!
On Tuesday, June 7th, voters in all nine Bay Area counties will have the opportunity to secure funding for wetland restoration for the entire Bay. In addition to the many benefits this measure offers — improved water quality, reductions in trash and toxic pollution, carbon sequestration, protection for vulnerable wildlife and a natural barrier to sea level rise — Measure AA also presents a unique opportunity to advance environmental justice in our region. If passed, Measure AA could fund many proposed projects in low-lying and low-income communities, several of which need immediate help securing their shorelines against climate change and reducing levels of toxic pollutants.
First defined by Robert Bullard, environmental justice (EJ) is “the principle that all people and communities are entitled to equal protection of environmental and public health laws and regulations.” But not only is EJ about equal protection, it is also about equal sharing of environmental hazards and burdens. Environmental justice is built on the notion that relegating environmental hazards to specific peoples and neighborhoods is illogical and inequitable, (see: environmentalracism). Across the U.S., low income communities (disproportionately communities of color and other minorities) are continuously subjected to more hazards than white communities or other communities of privilege.
Our region is not immune to this problem and environmental injustices and racism persist throughout the Bay Area. In 2007, UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Justice, Tolerance & Community put out a report on EJ issues in the Bay Area. Taking a lesson from Hurricane Katrina, they found that leaving some people and areas under-protected ultimately poses environmental risks and costs for everyone.
Measure AA gives us an opportunity to secure funding for our entire Bay and recognize that pollution in one area of the Bay impacts the entire Bay ecosystem. Instead of avoiding problems and making them worse by trying to shift them onto “other people,” Measure AA will facilitate us acting as one region protecting the Bay together.
Timmy Lu, State Organizing Director at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, is clear on what this means for the communities whose interests he represents: “Our members, who have been and will be hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change, support Measure AA because we know that the wetlands will protect our neighborhoods from flooding.”
Measure AA is an exciting opportunity to promote environmental justice in the Bay Area by ensuring our whole community is accountable to the Bay’s well-being, and the well-being of all of us who are impacted by it. The waters of the Bay don’t know the difference between county lines. Pollution in one area becomes pollution in another, just as restoration in one area makes the entire Bay healthier. Let’s vote as a region to protect our Bay on June 7th, by voting YES on Measure AA.
When I hear facts like these, it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the future of our environment. How many of us have ever felt overwhelmed, in denial, or apathetic about the future of the environment? This common feeling of helplessness is a documented phenomenon and something Joanna Macy, an environmental activist and scholar, calls “environmental despair.” She writes that our fear of environmental disaster keeps us from changing our behaviors because it’s all just too much to cope with. Instead of inspiring us into action, environmental despair ends up making us avoid the reality of the problem all together. This is understandable when nearly everything we do has a negative impact on the Earth. It’s hard to imagine how we might “…function in our society without reinforcing the very conditions we decry, and the sense of guilt that ensues makes those conditions – and our outrage over them – harder to face.”
Still, we can’t accept our environmental despair so easily. Climate change is happening and visible on both the personal and global scale. We need to find and cultivate hope in ourselves in order to keep our communities and our minds resilient to the effects of climate change.
A history of hope
The environmentalist history of the Bay is an excellent example of hope realized. When Save the Bay was founded in 1961, the Bay was treated like a dumping ground and the Army Corps of Engineers had plans to fill the Bay to such an extent that it would no longer be a bay but a narrow shipping channel.
It was the work of Save the Bay and the creation of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission in 1965 that regulated development of the shoreline and helped preserve and protect the integrity of the Bay. With careful political organizing, Bay Area citizens came together to bring the Bay back from the brink of destruction. Since then, the Bay “has shrunk no further and has had hundreds of acres of wetlands restored. Its waters are no longer rank, and aquatic life is abundant, with shorebirds in large number feeding along the mudflats and marshes.”
Simple action, big results
In June, Bay Area voters will have the opportunity to protect our home once again by voting yes on Measure AA for a Clean & Healthy Bay.
Measure AA represents a decade of hard work from Save the Bay and our partners. This modest, $12 parcel tax will generate badly needed funding for restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands, benefitting people, wildlife, and the Bay Area economy. Wetlands restoration is a crucial step in maintaining a thriving Bay – habitat for wildlife, carbon sequestration, defense against sea level rise – all powerful efforts that could mean long-lasting protection for the Bay and its inhabitants.
The time to act is now. The Bay Area, as a longtime leader in environmentalism around the world, needs to become climate adaptive and prepared for the threat of rising seas. We don’t want to wait for a disaster and wish we had done more to protect our shorelines.
For me, it’s the experience of acting with others that makes me feel hopeful. In the fall of 2014, I traveled to New York City with some friends to attend the People’s Climate March with 300,000 of our peers. In that moment, I didn’t feel like my actions and ideals were insignificant. I didn’t feel hopeless. My concerns and beliefs were real, they were powerful, and they were echoed and seen in the voices and faces of the strangers around me.
The climate march was an opportunity to cultivate hope in my otherwise climate-disparaged heart. I feel hope when I come in to work at Save the Bay, and I am hopeful when I think of the Bay Area coming together to vote for protection and restoration. Instead of feeling helpless, I try to feel lucky to live in this moment when advocating for the environment is so important and has the potential for real solutions and benefits.
In June, the Bay Area will have the chance to look climate change in the face and act to restore both our wetlands and our hope in environmental action.