by Anthony Beron
High asthma rates, diesel fumes from the Port of Oakland, pollution from four freeways near McClymonds High School. Add another environmental concern for students: climate change.
A March 23 workshop organized by Oakland Climate Action Coalition — which hopes to lure McClymonds students and other youths — will address the preparation and survival skills needed to address climate change for West Oakland residents.
“We don’t want to label ourselves as victims,” says Myesha Williams of the Rose Foundation, one of the event’s organizers. “We want to prepare ourselves as a community, to use our resilience, and share our resources.”
Several McClymonds students expressed interest in the issue and the day-long workshop. “Global warming impacts my future and my health,” said Brandon Von Der Werth, a junior. “I know that people suffer from asthma and we need to improve air quality.”
Lee Benson, also a junior, agreed that education and preparation were central to dealing with the environmental inequalities in West Oakland. “I want to stay healthy and help others,” he said.
Global warming’s consequences are prevalent in our biome, including West Oakland.
West Oakland is OCAC’s current main concern, because of its susceptibility to flooding.
“West Oakland is below sea-level, and is extremely prone to flooding,” said Williams.
That, combined with poor air quality have inspired Mack students to speak out. This would not be the first time McClymonds students were involved in environmental activism. When McClymonds was divided into small schools, its Law Academy explored pollution in West Oakland. Its students testified about diesel fumes before state and federal boards. The testimony helped change the rules about retrofitting trucks running on diesel fuel.
A four-year project by students in the Law Academy at McClymonds found that metal particles were present in the air surrounding the school community. They took their findings to local media and eventually, they got the attention of Nancy Nadel, West Oakland’s City Council Representative. With her support, a number of city agencies, including Police, Fire, Code Enforcement and City Attorney came together and conducted investigations regarding Custom Alloy Scrap Sales compliance with environmental regulations. Their findings determined that CASS was in violation of a number of regulations. Although CASS has taken steps to correct a number of the violations, they are actively seeking to move their location away from the residential neighborhood, where they have conducted business for more than 25 years.
After pressure by local groups, CASS was trying to relocate to vacant industrial land next to the former Oakland Army Base.
Some of the same issues — injustice, public health, equity and lack of resources — are in play in the battle against global warming as in the community fight against pollutants from a smelter, said Williams. “It’s time to start to take care of our community and its future.”