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SDG&E Prepares For Possible Power Outages, California Rent Control Law, The Ethics Of Gene Editing And More

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San Diego Gas & Electric warns there may be power outages in the East County because high winds and low humidity are creating a fire danger. Gov. Newsom on Tuesday signed into law a bill that caps rent increases to 5% plus inflation, making California the second state in the nation to control rent increases. Plus, the co-founder of CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, sits down with KPBS to talk about the ethics of gene editing. Also, California’s frequent wildfires are cutting into the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And, 50 years ago, San Diego State became one of the first colleges in the nation to offer Chicano Studies.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Santa Ana winds are expected to start blowing through San Diego County beginning tomorrow. The national weather service has issued a red flag warning for San Diego County beginning tomorrow at noon and it will last through Friday evening at six that has prompted SDG and E to inform about 30,000 customers primarily in the East County that they might lose their power during the weather event. Joining us to talk about this is Brian Diego Steeno SDG and E's, director of fire science and climate adaptation. Brian, welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:31 Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:33 How are you all deciding which communities to shed power often?

Speaker 2: 00:37 Well, of course we're working very closely in coordinating with the national weather service and the fire agencies to identify those areas where we're expecting some of the strongest winds with this upcoming wind event. And as you mentioned, a lot of is out in the Eastern portions of San Diego County up in our mountains.

Speaker 1: 00:53 And will this be the first time that utility has preemptively cut power to its customers?

Speaker 2: 00:59 No, it's not. This is a program that we've had in place for almost a decade here in San Diego. Um, and last November we had a major Santa Ana wind event where there were public safety power shutoffs across the region. But this is the first significant weather event, uh, or significant Santa Ana wind event I should say, that we've had here in 2019. Um, so we are, you know, monitoring conditions very closely as we approached this a red flag warning.

Speaker 1: 01:29 And I understand that if the power is out for more than 24 hours, SDG has plans to open community resource centers, uh, where will those be and what will they provide for people?

Speaker 2: 01:40 Well, community resource centers open up in impacted communities and important thing for us to understand is just because, uh, we've notified about 30,000 customers that live in the back country. That does not mean definitively that these areas will impact. We'll experience a public safety power shutoff. Uh, part of the reason we're notifying these folks is because we do expect, um, gusty winds in their community, critical fire weather conditions. And we really encourage these folks to start being prepared for critical fire weather conditions, but we'll be monitoring very closely and we'll only be implementing a public safety power shutoff if we start really seeing extreme weather conditions, um, develop in these communities. So just because people were notified doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to experience a public safety power shut off, but they should be ready if they do experience the public safety power shutoff, we will be opening these community resource centers. Um, and it gives folks an opportunity and a place to go to get ice light snacks, information on the outage, a place to power your cell phone, um, get water and other resources to help, um, get through this weather event.

Speaker 1: 02:57 Now, the Supreme rejected SDG and E's appeal this week to pass the cost of the Dudley 2007 wildfires onto two rate payers. Is this a potential power shutoff, a direct consequence of that action?

Speaker 2: 03:11 No, not at all. The public safety power shutoff program has been in place, um, for a decade. Um, we've used this as a tool to keep community safe. Um, all the way back. I mean the, the first time we implemented it was, um, 2013 so there's, it's not related at all.

Speaker 1: 03:29 And SDG and E notified customers that could lose power on Tuesday about that possibility. Um, how will notifications be made going forward if in fact power will be cut?

Speaker 2: 03:40 Well, we'll continue to coordinate with the weather service, analyze the latest weather forecast that we're developing internally from our, our team of five meteorologists. Um, and when we start, uh, identifying areas that we expect strong winds, we're going to continue to communicate with those customers, give them updates as we approach the event and as confidence builds that we may need to use this tool but we can't encourage, um, community members enough, especially those in the foothills and the mountains that we are expecting. Critical fire weather conditions. There is a red flag warning coming and this is time for us to be ready and diligent and make sure that we're prepared in case any fires occur on the landscape.

Speaker 1: 04:22 And you know, if, and we certainly hope not, but if a fire was to get out of control in an area where SDG any has high voltage overhead transmission lines, could more of San Diego County residents have their power cut?

Speaker 2: 04:34 It's, it's unlikely. But if we do experience fires, we're always keeping the safety of the community and the safety of our firefighters as a, as a top priority. And there are times that fire agencies have asked us to de-energize transmission lines to help them with actually fighting the fire. Um, so if that were to come up, um, we will do whatever we have to do operationally to keep the firefighters, um, in the community safe.

Speaker 1: 05:07 And anytime we have a high wind event, it really reignites the conversation around burying power lines. Uh, is that something that's feasible?

Speaker 2: 05:16 It's, it's feasible in certain areas and it's a tool that's used, especially in areas that experienced some of the strongest winds. Over 60% of the electric system in San Diego is currently underground. And we continue to use all the weather information. We have to prioritize additional areas where undergrounding makes sense.

Speaker 1: 05:38 I've been speaking with Brian DST, no, SDG and E's, director of fire science and climate adaptation. Brian, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: 05:45 Well, and thank you so much for having me and the opportunity to, to share with the community. We all really need to be prepared coming into this red flag warning.

Speaker 1: 05:53 And with that, anyone who's curious can find a list of all the communities and neighborhoods that could be affected along with a map at our website, kpbs.org.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Gavin Newsome brought his pledge to tackle a California's housing crisis to San Diego today. He signed SB one 13 a law that transfers 331 million to a trust fund to help struggling homeowners and renters. Here's Newsome on the impact of this new law.

Speaker 2: 00:17 The idea around this $331 million endowment is to create an annuity of sorts to guarantee, regardless of what happens in the macro economic outlook that we have the resources to make sure that we're protecting those most in need, particularly as the economy slows, where all those needs become even more acute, but our resources become less abundant.

Speaker 1: 00:41 Joining me from the San Diego union Tribune newsroom is reporter Phillip Molnar. He covers real estate and business issues. Welcome to midday edition. Thank you so much for having me. We'll fill up start with the bill. Governor Newsome signed in San Diego today. Explain how this $331 million fund is going to be used. Well, he says it's going to be used to help people avoid homelessness and help renters that are somehow facing eviction. Maybe some legal fees. We actually don't know the very specifics, especially here in San Diego County, like how people are going to actually access that money. But it's probably a start in the right direction for a lot of people that have been struggling under rent increases and evictions. And it's just sort of one piece of the puzzle of all this stuff that he's proposing and signing. You know, we're going to get to that in a second here, but this $331 million fund, what's the likely impact?

Speaker 1: 01:33 I mean it doesn't sound like that big a chunk of money given the number of struggling renters and homeowners in California. No, it doesn't. The money goes back to a lawsuit back in 2012 about mortgages around the great recession and some money that got sent to California because of this lawsuit. And there was a lot of, you know, lawsuits that followed that, that the state was not using the money properly. So it's sort of like California is getting into compliance and saying that they'll use this money for these different reasons and Dole it out to nonprofits. So there's a big part of it, at least in this case, it sort of feels like the state is just trying to comply with a lawsuit in a sort of way if you're going to be really critical about it. So we don't really know yet where all the places that's going to go.

Speaker 1: 02:21 And I assume the governor today, a part of him going out and going to these different communities is sort of to set up relationships with different groups to figure out how that money can be used. Right. One that's the bigger picture. We're talking about nuisance touring. The state is signing bills directed at our massive housing crisis and in Oakland yesterday signed a law capping a rent increases. Tell us about that one. Well that's really huge for San Diego County it caps rent increases at 5% plus inflation. So here in San Diego we can assume it's seven to 8% the reason it's significant for San Diego County is we're one of the few places in the state that have no form of rent, not in the city of San Diego, not in our surrounding areas, non unincorporated. And that's pretty rare for California, especially among big cities. So it's a little bit of a relief maybe for renters out there, but the deal is seven to 8% rent increase at a year.

Speaker 1: 03:16 That's still pretty big and kind of rare in San Diego County, typically we'll see two to 4% rent increases every year in San Diego County, but it's rarely gotten above 7% even during these massive growth periods since the great recession. So you might not be noticing it as much if you're a renter. However, what the, the Bill's author said, and also sort of repeated by governor Gavin Newsom, is it's less about rent control and more about rent gouging. So it's not like you're going to show up one day and get a letter stuck to your door. It says, Oh, your rent's going up a thousand percent overnight and you got to move. So it should help prevent that sort of thing.

Speaker 3: 04:01 And critics have said, uh, there's so many a exemptions that Newsome's rent cap is really more show than substance. Do they have a point?

Speaker 1: 04:09 Yeah. You know, I have heard that from people especially, I mean the exemptions being any homes or apartments built in the last 15 years are exempt and also exempt single family homes except in, um, some cases where it might be some big land Baron that owns a lot of single family homes basically. And the other thing is the, the rent camp, it's just kind of still kinda high around seven to 8% a year. So I've heard some critic say along the lines of, you know, this is more or less just to show people that they're, look, we did something without making a real significant impact. Another thing that is sort of troubling to some onlookers is he signed this rent anti rent gouging bill or a rent cap, which is significant for the state, but it didn't really come coupled with a ton of things to incentivize cities and builders to build more homes in California

Speaker 3: 05:08 and the landlords, those in rental associations, what are they saying about Newsome's action?

Speaker 1: 05:13 It doesn't seem as intense today as it was in the months leading up to the signature from the assembly in the Senate. Uh, but what the associations are saying is if you make rent cap in California, it's gonna make it so that they're, they have less incentive to fix up their properties and less incentive to build more housing. But the, one of the things that's kind of indifferent here in San Diego County, we could see it in California, is the arguments again, are it's rent control for years and years have been, you can't put in any form of rent control cause it's going to slow housing in the state. And what we need is more housing and that will lower the rent for everybody. But the problem is we keep seeing building permits in California drop, especially in San Diego County. We're, we're not even building 10,000 homes a year, even though there's these lofty goals that a lot of talk of increasing building

Speaker 3: 06:09 and a lot of money here, 1.7 5 billion in the budget to spur approval construction, a new housing too soon to know how that's going.

Speaker 1: 06:16 Yeah, a little too soon. But we've started to get some hints of it. So in talking about that billion dollars that's going towards, uh, what you just mentioned, the, the release yesterday from the, the governor's office talked about a sort of a carrot and a stick scenario where it would also, this money will also be used for legal fees. And part of that is the state cracking down on communities that are basically just refusing to build more housing. And some of the ways those communities are doing it is by saying Encinitas here in San Diego County basically saying you can't build anything besides single family housing, these sort of things. The governor's office has been sending in letters and getting ready what appears to be legal action against communities that aren't building more housing. So that billion dollars isn't just, you know, for the bill, some of it is, but for the building of new homes and for that, it's also likely going to be used for legal fees to go after these communities.

Speaker 3: 07:17 All right, well we'll have to see how that all works out. Is that as it moves along here, I've been speaking with reporter Phillip Molnar of the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks very much. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 4: 07:34 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 As progressive as California is on combating climate change, we're not doing nearly enough. That's the conclusion of a new report. It says at our current pace of emissions, we will hit 20, 30 climate targets in 2060 and we'll be a hundred years late in hitting the 20, 50 climate targets. Adam follower is director of research for beacon economics, the firm that compiled the report. I spoke with Fowler as part of coverage from the KPBS climate change desk. First up, what about the reports? Primary findings,

Speaker 2: 00:31 the last few years have seen reductions of about 1.15% across all the economic sectors. We measure that, uh, emissions reduction rate is going to need to push up to closer to 4.5% each year. I'm moving from 2020 to 2030. We've not seen anything at that rate in the recent past, so, uh, it is, it's going to be a heavy lift. Um, historically we've had some very good luck moving, uh, especially our electricity sector, uh, away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Um, or renewable energy has hit a tipping point, uh, with solar and wind. Increasingly being cost competitive with their fossil fuel counterparts. And in our report we flagged that to 2017 Mark the first time that a greater proportion of our power mix came from renewable sources like wind and solar than it did from fossil fuels. That being said, the electricity grid, uh, was a bit of an easier lift. It's not quite as consumer facing as for example, our transportation, uh, emissions sector, uh, that involves, uh, consumer purchases of automobiles, uh, in the free market space. Whereas, um, some of our mandates to our utilities, um, are a little bit more top down in terms of the ability to change behavior.

Speaker 1: 01:55 Yeah, it's interesting. The industrial residential transportation sectors are only seeing slight declines according to your report. And surprising to see we weren't seeing more gains in the transportation sector with the increased adoption of electric cars. Why do you think that is?

Speaker 2: 02:09 We are making some good progress on electric cars and it's exciting. Um, uh, in 2020, there are a dozen or so full battery electric vehicles that will be on the market in California. Those are from auto makers like Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, even luxury brands like Audi, Jaguar, and pores. So we're increasing the number of opportunities and consumer choices. Uh, folks in California will have moving into the 2020 model year, uh, we've seen an uptick in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, both our rapid charging kind of public, uh, stations around, uh, many of our major metropolitan areas in California. And we've seen utilities help incentivize at home, uh, adopting F, uh, electric, uh, charging infrastructure around the States. So those been, um, some important infrastructure steps to try to close the gap, really inconvenience that folks have had historically about being able to pull over to a gas station. Um, trying to make that a little bit more one-to-one with, uh, what folks, uh, experienced with the, uh, electric battery vehicle market.

Speaker 1: 03:17 A bottom line here and in relation to this report is what will we need to do to see the kind of reduction needed to meet California's goals? I mean, you say it's a heavy lift. Why aren't we talking about drastic changes in lifestyle, for example?

Speaker 2: 03:31 Um, I guess you could think about it that way. That's an interesting framing. I mean we are at the heart of it moving an economy away from fossil fuels to different sources of energy. So there really isn't a lot that kind of is left unimpacted. Uh, in one frame. A big part of our, um, uh, our challenges around transportation, the way we build our cities in California has not allowed for folks to be able to live very close to where our dense job centers are in many of our urban areas. So we've seen the rise of super commuters, people that are traveling more than 90 minutes one way to their place of work, uh, increase year over year in the last number of years. Um, we've seen new development, the, the little bit that has been occurring in this state be farther away from urban centers for land use and other reasons. I do think getting folks a little bit closer to where they work, whether that be through transit oriented development or other kind of density and uh, urban cores where we're seeing broad-based economic growth coming out of the great recession is going to be important.

Speaker 1: 04:42 Now we know we're seeing more wildfires, more intense wildfires as a result of climate change. And although emissions from wildfires aren't factored in in terms of meeting the state's goals, they do impact emissions have been in the news this week. How big is the impact from these wildfires?

Speaker 2: 04:57 That's very true. Um, while wildfires are not included in the official inventory, our report, uh, uses them, uh, against other economic sectors to draw some context. So for example, those wildfires in 2018 produce more than nine times the emissions we reduced across the entire economy in the year prior. That's a very large number. That's distressing. Yeah, it is. It is. And, uh, the, they're not included in the official inventory for a lot of very good reasons. By no means are we advocating that they be part of that official inventory. But there is a, a subset of those fires that are very much, um, rooted in human cause. So while now mother nature, um, has a fires, is have kind of a part of her toolkit to keep our forest and uh, natural lands healthy. Um, there is a percentage of the wildfires, uh, Cal fire and other, uh, official, uh, agencies flag as being human caused. And so I think as we try to understand and better manage our wildfire risk in the state, it is important to understand that for those where human error or human causes at the heart, those, those are emissions. We need to think about trying to do better control, controlling just as we would in any other economic sector. All right, I've been speaking with that. I'm followed director of research for beacon economics. Thanks very much. Absolutely. Take care.

Speaker 3: 06:29 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The founder of CRISPR, a technology that can edit DNA, came to San Diego this week. KPBS science and technology reporters. Shalena John Lonnie got a chance to speak with Jennifer Doudna. They talked about the future of gene editing and the ethical concerns surrounding it

Speaker 2: 00:17 at the Scripps institution of oceanography on the UC San Diego campus. Biochemist Jennifer Doudna has just arrived. She's sitting in a brightly lit room with the doors that open to the seashore. Well, it's great to be here and to have an opportunity to share the world of CRISPR and genome editing down here in San Diego. Doudna co-discovered CRISPR CAS nine a gene editing tool with her colleague Emmanuel sharpen TA in 2012 in a nutshell, CRISPR is a protein that can go into a cell or tissue in any biological organisms. So plants, animals, humans, and like scissors, cut open a string of DNA. And when that happens, DNA coding can be altered. What type of potential does it have? What I'm excited about is the opportunity to cure genetic diseases. Things like sickle cell anemia or Huntington's disease, potentially in the future, something like cystic fibrosis. And what CRISPR technology does is to provide a strategy for correcting or at least mitigating those disease causing mutations.

Speaker 2: 01:18 And that's not a, not a fantasy. It's not, you know, 200 years in the future. It's something that I think over the next decade we will see those kinds of cures coming to fruition. This past July, doctors for the first time in the United States officially use CRISPR to treat a patient with sickle cell anemia, a disease that creates to foreign blood cells and can cause a shortened lifespan as well as some painful conditions. The doctors use CRISPR to give the patient her own but modified blood cells and she's now being monitored. But while examples like these show promise, some ethicists have raised questions, especially since CRISPR is widely deployed around the world. What do you have to say about some of the potential negative side effects of this? Well, you know, I think anytime there's a powerful technology that comes along, it, it, it often comes with both the opportunities to, you know, create great value and benefit to society, but also risk.

Speaker 2: 02:11 For example, being able to change the DNA in developing humans in the germline that would create changes to DNA that affect not only an individual but also can be inherited by future generations. So that's something that I've been working on for several years with my colleagues to educate people about that possibility and to really a welcome it, a global discussion about how to appropriately regulate this technology. As simple Google search of gene editing brings up stories on the potential like genetically modified crops that can resist climate change. But these stories exist alongside headlines on designer babies and super soldiers for the military. A new Netflix series titled unnatural selection considers these scenarios. It also makes it seem like CRISPR technology's fairly easy to access. Doudna

Speaker 1: 03:00 says while gene editing is widely available, it still requires biochemical expertise to use.

Speaker 2: 03:06 There are a lot of folks who say it could lead to a Frankenstein individual, but obviously that's not the case. I think it's important to separate fact from fiction. Of course, storytellers love to, uh, you know, scare us and, and, and bring up ideas that are sort of fantastical. And, and I think that's, that's true for this Netflix series. But I think that it's important for people to understand that, you know, those of us that are actually working in the field appreciate that this technology has tremendous positive potential.

Speaker 1: 03:38 Donna says there's a lot of next steps with this technology, but for now she's working on a genetic research nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay area. The goal she says is to take practical biomedical ideas off the ground and make sure gene editing is equitable.

Speaker 2: 03:53 I don't personally want to create a, a cure for genetic disease that's only affordable by the 0.001%.

Speaker 1: 04:00 Downness has funding for science for the sake of curiosity is a huge part of making sure the research can happen.

Speaker 2: 04:05 Why should the public support, uh, you know, curiosity-driven scientific research. And the reason is that that's how science is, is that we don't know where it's going in the future. And every now and then you, you know, you turn over a proverbial rock and you find something that you couldn't have imagined was there. And that's true for CRISPR. Doudna

Speaker 1: 04:23 the recipient of this year's Nierenberg prize for science in the public interest in the Scripps institution of oceanography. Joining us now is KPBS science and technology reporters. Shalina chat, Lonnie Shelina. Welcome. Hey Jay, thanks for having me. So look, most people might have heard about CRISPR after a story that had to deal with a Chinese scientist who last fall announced he created twin girls from an embryo whose DNA was edited using CRISPR. Does Jennifer Doudna believe there's no use for gene editing in human embryos? So she thinks it's kind of a [inaudible] gray area. There are obviously some ethical implications when it comes to editing embryos and potentially creating what some people call designer babies. But she thinks that there's a lot of great outcomes that can come from this technology, like being able to catch a genetic mutation that could cause debilitating life conditions and stop it before it develops.

Speaker 1: 05:19 So she thinks it's a gray area basically. Um, and it's going to take a very, uh, educated and, uh, scientific community that's working together to figure out what's the right move. You mentioned that term designer baby. Explain that. Yeah. So this is kind of a PSI Phi type of idea that the idea that, you know, parents when they, uh, are, are when they have an embryo, they can decide what kinds of traits they want the baby to emulate. Um, a, aS a smartness or a, you know, a certain way of looking, um, that can be modified in your genetic coding from very early on. And that's not happened. So not there yet, not there yet, but there's some implications. There are, there are some very serious implications. And dr Doudna actually had a very interesting interview with the guardian not too long ago where she was talking about being in a dream state and having this nightmare where Hitler actually came to her in the dream and said, so what, tell me about this gene editing thing.

Speaker 1: 06:29 What can it do? And so she, you know, she woke up with a startle from that. And that's the kind of demonstrates the implications around this technology, which is that we could run the risk of creating a people, um, that have certain traits and eliminating others. But that's, that's very far into a future potentially. Yeah. Sounds like you could take a dark turn. [inaudible] the concern that does some scientists have, what are some other examples of how CRISPR is being used to help cure diseases? Yeah, so CRISPR in the last few months has actually started to be used in clinical trials involving human beings. So this July for the first time officially in the United States, doctors used CRISPR to treat a patient with sickle cell anemia. And so she's still being monitored. But basically what they did was take her own red blood cells. So with sickle cell anemia, it's a condition where you have deformed blood cells and some of them die and it creates a lot of debilitating life conditions.

Speaker 1: 07:35 So they took her cells and they modified them using CRISPR and gave it back to her. And, uh, there were no major side effects and now they're monitoring her condition. The fact that there weren't any major side effects is a good sign in and of itself. And a recent trial and China used sales modified with CRISPR in an attempt to cure a patient's HIV. What can you tell us about the results of that study? Yeah, so this was a pretty big study because it basically showed that in the one patient where there was modified cells from bone marrow being transplanted into the patient, um, that there were no major side effects. And so it showed that CRISPR is a viable technology that can be used to treat patients with diseases like cancer. Um, but there were also mixed results because the, the scientists in this study wanted to originally treat five patients, but when they were developing these modified cells in the lab, they were only able to change 18% of the cells that they collected from a bone marrow donor.

Speaker 1: 08:38 So it shows that this is still kind of in the works, but for the one patient that was able to receive the cells, his leukemia has been in remission for 19 months and counting I was so no major side effects were detected. But what did Jennifer down and a half to say about whether this is something scientists should continue to pursue given the ethical implications we mentioned before, she absolutely thinks that this is something that scientists should be pursuing all around the world because of the incredible impacts it could potentially have to cure, uh, diseases, genetic disorders that, you know, especially single gene, gene related disorders that are, uh, that would be easier to cure. But she also thinks that there are some potential negative side effects that are going to require a lot of public education to, to handle. Um, so she thinks it's kind of an ongoing process.

Speaker 1: 09:37 What is her role in actively combating the unintended consequences of the tool? So she is currently a professor at UC Berkeley and is involved in a number of, uh, different nonprofits. And she has given many talks about the ethical implications. She has a Ted talk. Um, so she and her colleagues are continuously kind of bringing up the, these ethical sides of the question. And, and nearly every interview that I've seen her in this question of, you know, what about, uh, the, the ethics of this. She has answered and says, you know, that yeah, there could be negative side effects of this. And she says, you know, with any big technology, there are great benefits that can come to society, but there are also risks when might we know if any of the trials using CRISPR are actually working. Yeah. So it's still in the very early stages.

Speaker 1: 10:31 And I th, and I'll go back to the study, uh, that happened in China. You know, the patient has been his condition. Leukemia has been in remission for 19 months, but cancer is one of those things that can come back. And so it's hard to say with any, you know, genetic disease, whether something is completely cured or with a disease like cancer, whether it's completely cured. So it's kind of a, you know, the trials are happening now, and it'll take time to figure out whether the, the technology works. I've been speaking with KPBS science and technology reporters. Shalina chaat Lonnie Shalina. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 11:12 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The Chicana and Chicano studies department at San Diego state university is marking a major milestone. This year. It's 50th anniversary. The department was among the first of its kind in the nation when it was created in 1969 amid the Chicano rights movement, the idea was to offer a different approach to teaching American history by focusing on the history, culture, and contributions of Mexican Americans. I spoke with Arturo Casares, who was an active student in the departments early years, and with associate professor of Chicano studies, Roberto Hernandez. Here's that interview. Roberto. Arturo, welcome to you both on thinking of Roberto. Start with the, uh, Chicano Chicano studies program at SDSU. It wouldn't be here today without the blueprint that was recreated for these programs across the nation. Yeah. So the plan that Santa Barbara is a document that was produced after a major conference and gathering of, uh, both students, faculty, staff, uh, from across the state of California who gathered in Santa Barbara.

Speaker 1: 01:02 Uh, but even that gathering itself, I would say little as possible because of all the activity, all the student movements and broader Chicano movement that was already unfolding, uh, across the Southwest. And so the student component or the academic component of that, um, manifested itself as this gathering where, you know, they came up with a blueprint for curriculum for program building, for the creation of Chicana and Chicano studies departments across the state and our taro students. Such as yourself that you played a pivotal role in the creation of Chicano studies nationwide. Why was this so important to you and other students?

Speaker 2: 01:38 Well, um, basically because, uh, I felt that, you know, my, and all the other students that we were, that were involved in this plan, uh, were not really part of the process. We were not recognized on, uh, the campuses throughout California. And we felt that we needed to, um, create the steps and the, um, implanted implementation of Chicano studies programs. And that's why, you know, we were very much into, um, becoming a part of the plan. And although there were differences between us, we felt that the plan rec recognized and gave a, a lot of, um, of identity to the plan. Uh, our language United us, since we had faced so much discrimination, um, prejudice and, and we felt that, uh, we wanted to be part of an inclusion that included our identity in classes that would be taught in Chicano studies.

Speaker 1: 02:47 So it was time to get a voice and a place at the table. Right. And for both of you, what kind of impact has the Chicano studies had on students? All we need to do is look up towards places like, uh, and see that, uh, whether it be a state legislature, teachers across the County or across the state, across the nation, local, political, you know, local political leaders all have backgrounds in Chicano, Chicano studies. And, and I say that to emphasize that one of the things that, uh, we do separate from the actual content of history, we will, the content of knowledge is to also provide a space where, uh, where individuals are empowered and have a better sense of self. And, you know, studies have shown that the more students are able to have a sense of self and see, even themselves reflected in the curriculum in the teachers that that's gonna improve their, uh, possibilities for success.

Speaker 2: 03:42 Our tourism in my, my feeling was that S we choke on, you know, the implementation of Chicano studies that there was, uh, a high interest of, of, uh, students being recruited because we, as part of the, of the community here, we're emphasizing the recruitment of Chicano students, Latino students, Hispanic students. Uh, and it was a big responsibility because we were out there at the high schools. That's where, that's the, uh, the time that we started having the high school conferences, the Chicano high school conference was just still going on. And Roberto, so there's

Speaker 1: 04:26 been a debate over what ethnic studies curriculum should look like at the high school level. And critics say these programs are too exclusive. You think that criticism is valid or no, actually on the contrary, right. I think what we need to do is we need to look at the history of not only ethnic studies, but the history of the traditional disciplines in the university to see how ethnic studies emerged as the voices excluded from the traditional departments. Right. Whereas, uh, some of the critics that have argued that is exclusive, you know, have reduced it to simply histories of different communities. That actually to me is rather offensive in that it doesn't recognize ethnic studies for what it has historically been, which is the inclusion of those voices that have been excluded. You know, part of the distinction Chicano studies was also to produce not just knowledge for knowledge sake, but knowledge in the service of our broader communities.

Speaker 1: 05:25 And I think that's been a hallmark of our department of the field as a whole. And in this current context, you know, it translates to, you know, how do we make sense of a, you know, a rigorous study and analysis of power, power relations, PR at the local level, at the state level, at the national level. I would love as much as I'm a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, I would love to not have to be, which is to say that I would love for our histories, our knowledge to actually be part and of the entire curriculum, but until the entire traditional curriculum, we should, this day remains exclusive until we're actually part of the canonical writings and different disciplines. There will still be a need for Chicano, Chicano studies, ethnic studies, Africana studies, women's studies. Yeah. LGBT studies. Right. This is why weeks is because of that need.

Speaker 2: 06:21 And you know, traditionally the people that are supposed to impart this part of history really have not because, and if they do it, they do it kind of like an experimental research way. Whereas like now, you know, as administrators, as leaders of of these, you know, efforts in the departments, we can plug in our history not only as looking at it through a microscope, but as part of being it in part of that, having lived history, haven't lived it. Having, having gone through the whole process of starting as a, you know, as a child in the Barrio. You know, all the way to becoming a professor at the university, and we can, we can instill that in the other youth Chicano youth that are coming up.

Speaker 1: 07:18 I've been speaking with Roberto Hernandez, associate professor of Chicano studies at San Diego state university, and our Touro Casarez, founding director of the nonprofit Barrio station, serving Latino youth in Barrio Logan. Thank you both very much on thinking of San Diego state as holding a series of events to celebrate the history of Chicano Chicano studies department. We've got a link on our website, kpbs.org.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.