I remember at a year and a half of nursing my baby that it was time to wean. I began to see the signs, him eyeing the solids, me producing less milk. So I needed a plan: a schedule, an alternative source, and a shift in relationship. It was going to be a big transition and I wanted to make it as smooth as possible.
My kids are school-aged now and eating well. Weaning from milk to table food seemed like ages ago. Now I have different worries for their development. Both my kids have asthma and we’ve spent too many sleepless nights in the emergency room. Crying. Gasping for air. Cursing the pollution that filled their lungs. Why do so many trucks drive by their school? Why are there so many factories in our neighborhood? Why are the nice parks with big trees farther away? Having fought for environmental justice for more than a decade, I knew the answer. If you’re an Asian, Black, Latino or indigenous family in America, you are more likely to live next to toxic sites than Whites, and projected to die earlier from those health impacts. This is environmental racism. Our country is built on dirty energy—the oil fueling our cars, the coal and uranium powering our lights, the gas firing up our stoves. All this burning of fossil fuels ends up in our lungs, or in the sky warming our planet.
I growl at the statistics. My blood boils at seeing mostly kids of color wheezing in the emergency room right alongside of us. We need a big transition.
I am seeing signs of change. Do you? We’re eyeing clean energy, from solar roofs to electric cars. And we’re hitting peak oil use—the supplies are getting close to the bottom. It’s time to wean off dirty energy. Like my personal experience with weaning, we need an institutional scale schedule, alternative source, and shift in relationship.
I am part of a group of women pushing for this transition with a state policy. Under the California Environmental Justice Alliance, we wrote a California bill called Solar for All to target solar projects to be built in environmental justice communities. AB 1990 (Fong) will begin to clean up our communities by replacing dirty energy with clean energy from the sun. The Solar for All initiative helps advance California’s plan to generate a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, under the Renewables Portfolio Standard.
Weaning schedule, check. Alternative source, check. Shift in relationship… well, this is where we need help. We need a culture shift away from depending on dirty energy. Five years ago, I didn’t think I could get solar on my roof. Now California has low-income homeowner solar programs, but funds will run out soon unless we save it. Last year, my nonprofit office building at the Asian Resource Center got solar through a crowd-funded project. Folks are getting creative and renewable energy is coming within reach. The Solar for All initiative wants to make sure the neighborhoods that have the highest pollution and economic need get clean energy projects too. The California legislature needs convincing that environmental justice communities are where we should be installing clean energy. It makes sense, even to my eight year old. When I told him about my Solar for All project, his eyes lit up. “When are we going to get solar on our roof?” Soon I hope. Let’s win Solar for All, and beginweaning us off dirty energy.
This blog is part of Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way blog series. Make and send a custom Mama’s Day e-card at www.mamasday.org. Strong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.