'Toxic Tour' reminds us 'Why Green Jobs?'

Authors: Andrea Gaines Last Thursday, I boarded a veggie powered school bus with fellow Green For All(er), Brennan, for a 'Toxic Tour' of Richmond, CA. The tour was led by Jessica Tovar (right), of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). CBE is an Oakland based org. that has been organizing around issues of environmental justice in CA for the past thirty years. As the bus weaved through town, Jessica narrated the history of toxic industry in Richmond against the grim, grey backdrop of the sprawling Shell refinery, the industrial Color-Spot Nursery, and the General Chemical plant. Jessica told the story of the human price paid for dirty, irresponsible industry. She spoke of cancer clusters and extreme asthma rates plaguing communities of color in Richmond. She explained how environmental racism allows for backyards to literally be transformed into toxic waste dumps, affecting soil and air quality for years to come. This drive through Richmond served as an emphatic answer to the question, 'Why Green Jobs?" The movement for green jobs is, as Jessica eloquently explained, a fight for a "just transition" from reckless industry practices to new, ethical and eco-friendly ones. Green Jobs are about respecting and empowering both workers and the communities they live in. CBE's tours serve as powerful reminders of how deeply environmental injustices are felt in cities like Richmond. I hope, however that the transition to a just, green economy will wipe the need for toxic tours off the map. Andrea is a Green For All Intern for Spring 2009

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