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Supervisor Vargas Talks About Environmental Justice At The County

 July 7, 2021 at 11:06 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego county is spending more than a million dollars to set up an office of environmental and climate justice supervisor Nora Vargas asked to create the office and all her fellow board members agreed KPBS environment. Reporter Eric Anderson sat down with Vargas and recently discussed the initiative. For me. It was really Speaker 2: 00:18 Important to create an office of environmental and climate justice. That really was going to ensure that you had folks that were going to be looking every day. Their job is to wake up and look at, um, the world from an environmental and climate justice lens, which means looking at environmental racism, racism, right in our communities, which means looking at, you know, that toxins, the toxins, um, in our region, uh, you know, the contamination and, and it, it was bigger. You know, it was part of my bigger environmental package, but for me, it was really important that we had an office that, that really is going to have people who are dedicated to looking at the world from that lens, Speaker 3: 00:57 Help me define environmental justice. As you perceive it, we're Speaker 2: 01:03 Really proud of being a binational community. But if you think about, uh, the emissions from the long hours, uh, folks waiting at the border, um, all of these issues are impacting the community that because of their zip code have been, uh, you know, greatly, I think hurt by these policies that didn't really take them into consideration. Speaker 3: 01:30 Can you give me an example of how this county office might impact a piece of legislation that the supervisors would consider? Speaker 2: 01:39 What I keep saying to folks is for a long time, it's the nonprofit organizations, environmental justice organizations that have been doing the work that government should have been doing from the beginning. And so what we're doing now is government is taking that responsibility and ensuring that folks have the information that they need, and that we are actually going to be able to get their input as we're making, um, you know, the policies moving Speaker 3: 02:02 Forward. Why do you think the supervisors are ready to make this change? Speaker 2: 02:06 I came here to do a job on behalf of the community and that's, and that's what we're doing. And so this was a new board of supervisors. We have the will and, and, uh, to really make a difference and we have a short amount of time to do it. And so we have no Speaker 3: 02:20 Time to waste community members have been raising these issues, but why is it now that this is sort of, kind of coalescing in organizations that have the ability to make change? Speaker 2: 02:33 I mean, I think it goes back to decades of organizing in our communities, right? I mean, I started this work 25 years ago and we have all worked side by side in terms of doing the, the equity minded work. Right. And whether it's healthcare, the environment, economic justice issues, uh, transportation, housing, we know that they're all integrated. And I think if anything, the last administration demonstrated how important making decisions based on science is for our communities. Right. I think about how COVID, I think has, you know, when we talk about the impact of COVID, particularly in communities of color, the Latino community, um, the communities across the county of San Diego, zip again, it was the issue of, of where you lived that made a difference on whether or not you were going to have access to vaccines or access to testing. And we shifted that around in a really short amount of time, because we looked at the data and we looked at, uh, the health equity index. Speaker 2: 03:38 And we decided that that's what we were going to prioritize because the county of San Diego is the safety net for so many folks that for many reasons, haven't have had access, you know, for years. And so for me, I think it's, it really is, um, a new day in the county of San Diego. And I think for what you're seeing in government, it's a real true partnership between elected officials and, um, community organizations and advocates. And, and I do believe that the will of county staff is there to be able to make a difference. Speaker 1: 04:12 It was supervisor Nora Vargas speaking with KPBS environment, reporter Eric Anderson.

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San Diego County Supervisors voted to create an office of environmental and climate justice by fall. District 1 supervisor Nora Vargas pushed to make that happen.
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