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Celebrating Earth Day with action

 April 22, 2024 at 3:27 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on KPBS. It is Earth Day , and we're talking with San Diegans working to protect our planet 365 days a year. I'm Jade Hindman. Here's to conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. The Tijuana River was a source of food. Now it's too toxic to be near.

S2: It went from being pristine and utilized by people to now a danger in hazard for everybody.

S1: We'll talk about what's working in efforts to clean up the toxins. Plus , the Interfaith Coalition joins us to talk about the intersection of faith and climate change. That's ahead on Midday Edition. This Earth Day. Top of mind for many environmental groups is toxic pollution along the US-Mexico border. The Tijuana estuary is the largest remaining coastal wetland in Southern California. Each day , tens of millions of gallons of untreated sewage and chemicals flow through it from the Tijuana River. That's causing major health issues for residents and wildlife in the area. At a press conference last week , Bethany Case with Surfrider San Diego shared her experience. She's lived in Imperial Beach for 15 years.

S3: We're disgusted by what we have learned about what we are breathing anytime we are outside. And inside when we have our windows open , because it's likely seeping into our home that way. Hmm.

S1: Hmm. Well , the river was just named one of America's top ten most endangered rivers by the nonprofit American Rivers. Joining me now to unpack that are two climate advocates working to bring attention to the border pollution crisis. Here with me is Sarah Davidson with the Surfrider Foundation. She leads their Clean Border Water Now program. Sarah , welcome.

S4: Thank you. Jade , it's a pleasure to be here.

S1: Glad to have you here. Also , Bobby Wallace of the Verona Band of Mission Indians of the Kumeyaay Nation. He's a longtime environmental activist. Bobby , welcome to you.

S2: Hey , Jane , how's your day going ? Um , thank you so much.

S1: My day is great. Even better now that you all are with us. So , Sarah , the river was just designated one of the most endangered rivers in the country. Can you walk us through how we got to this point ? Sure.

S4: Yeah. You know , this is an issue that's not new. It's been going on for decades and decades. Nearly 100 years now. Um , it's gotten particularly worse in the last 5 to 10 years , and it's now worse than it's ever been. Um , and , and I think one of the main points that we really wanted to make is that it's not just the river that's endangered. Um , it's the communities that live in proximity to the river. As you mentioned , there's severe health impacts due to this pollution. It's the ecosystems and the surrounding area that are impacted. Um , it's the species that rely on those habitats. The local economies are being threatened. National security is being undermined at times. Um , lifeguards and first responders are being forced to perform rescues and contaminated water. Um , this is really become an issue that's permeating every aspect of life in frontline communities. Um , and , and this designation acknowledges just how bad it's become.

S1: Um , Bobby , I'm wondering if you can tell us about the Kumeyaay history and significance of the land we're talking about here , the Tijuana River valley and estuary. Yes.

S2: Yes. You know , we is Kumeyaay people of the human speaking people. We've utilized this territory for thousands and thousands of years. We had villages down there , um , clam beds , um , and our people utilize the ocean since time immemorial. So I know for me , it's really personal. I am a tribal member of the Verona Band of Mission Indians and a member of the nation. And for thousands of years it's , you know , been cleaned. But in this short amount of time , you know , 100 years is kind of like just a snap of a finger. It went from being pristine and utilized by people to now a danger in hazard for everybody. Um , it's really personal to me that it went bad in such a fast amount of time.

S1: Yeah , it sounds like it was full of resources for the people who lived on that land. Uh , for people who were indigenous to the land. Can you describe what the landscape looks like for me ? What does it provide.

S2: The landscape before , um , it was rich , you know , there were clam beds. You know , we utilize , like , the San Diego River and that river for thousands of years and was clean. Um , people could go fish , you know , right around there , because where water meets water , the fish tend to migrate to , um , and we would travel from the desert to the ocean , you know , as the seasons changed and we lived down there all along the coast. Um , now it's full of houses and it's full of stuff , but now it's full of pollution. And I was so overwhelmed when I went with Surfrider down there. Um , we did a tour and it was horrible and smelled bad trash everywhere , plastics , you name it , it was there and we went to many different spots and got to , you know , go up the hill and look down. You know , I only imagined what it looked like a thousand years ago , but we're not a thousand years ago. We're here today and it's really a mess. And we all need to do something about this.

S1: Um , Sara , there was a recent victory for you all. Congress approved some more funding towards the South Bay International Treatment plant.

S4: And it was the result of a lot of hard work of local residents and champions and governments and longtime activists like Bobby and others who have been fighting hard just to be heard on this issue. Um , and so the Congress did pass some funding. Um , it will a large majority of it , we understand , will go towards fixing and expanding the South Bay international treatment plants. Um , that's a huge piece of solving this problem. We've been trying to get funding towards that for many years. Uh , and , and that's really what we need more of. We're still several hundred million dollars short of the total price tag for building a comprehensive infrastructure solution that has already been designed and vetted by the EPA. They've already received public comments on it. Um , it's just needing more funding and more prioritization to get around some of the bureaucratic processes that are lengthy , um , at this point. And so , um , this funding is critical , and we're very pleased that it passed with , with the help of many champions in government. But , um , it's not enough.

S1: And that's why you're pushing for an emergency declaration. Can you talk to me about what that would do ? Sure.

S4: Yeah. This was an initiative that was first brought by Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre this past summer. Um , and it was quickly supported by all all 17 other mayors in the county and several other um elected officials at the state and federal levels and the county level as well. We understand that if there were to be a federal emergency declared , it would streamline funding , it would cut through a lot of the red tape , would prioritize this issue. It would open up additional sources of funding towards addressing this issue , and it would just get the solutions that we already have ready to go into the ground more quickly. Um , and so this is just one of many avenues that Surfrider is advocating for. Ultimately , we want to get the funding , uh , to see these this comprehensive suite of solutions built as soon as possible. Um , and we suspect and are hopeful certainly , that an emergency declaration would help speed up that process.

S1: And , Bobby , I know you recently pushed a resolution through the Southern Indian Health Council related to the river. Uh , talk to me about the significance of that.

S2: You know , I I've thought about it and like , all the avenues which would be best. And , um , you know , we have seven tribal nations down here , more towards the south , and that's through the Southern Indian Health Council. And sometimes I think it's better if we have government to government relations , all government to government relations. Just how Sarah was talking about all the mayors. Well , we need all the tribal leaderships to , to support this. So we took a resolution to Southern Indian Health. It was unanimously voted on for the cleanup. And what they're going to do is they're going to bring it to the other councils and other groups. And it's not just the Kumeyaay to , you know , they're going to take it to Southern California Tribal Chairman Association , which is big. This is a big , big problem. Um , for myself , I believe , like water is my sister and we need to protect her. You know , in the the ocean , Venus polluted as it is going up and into the bay. It's a hazard for everybody. So support from the tribal nations , I think , can help speed things along a little bit. It's everyone that that needs to be involved. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , you know , in terms of who's responsible for cleaning this up , there seems to be a lot of finger pointing going on with this issue , too.

S4: And in fact , the Mexican government is ahead of the United States government in their commitments to the binational agreement that both countries signed to address this problem. Mexico has already broken ground on , um , building a new treatment plants five miles south of the border that will help to alleviate a lot of the , uh , untreated sewage entering the ocean and traveling up the coast in the summer months with the northern current. A lot of that is responsible for , um , beach closures in San Diego County during the summer. So they've already broken ground. They've already committed a substantial amount of money towards this and that. That treatment plant is expected to be complete by the end of September , whereas on the US side , um , we're still trying to get the project to fix the our South Bay international treatment plants in San Isidro and San Diego County. Uh , we're still trying to get that funded. And part of the reason that we're so behind is because there's been years of , uh , deferred maintenance at this international treatment plant in San Diego County due to lack of funding and really just neglect of this region. Uh , you know , this plant was built to protect the communities that live here. And the fact that it hasn't been funded is something that's that's really neglect of this region. And we certainly feel that , you know , the the environmental injustice here is that if this were to happen in more affluent areas of San Diego County , like La Jolla or Del Mar , that this would have been fixed years ago. Mhm.

S1: Mhm. And Sarah , tell me more about some of the negative health impacts due to pollution from the river.

S4: Um , one of the biggest revelations of the last couple of years is the data coming out about the impairments to air quality. And so what's happening is that the water is so inundated with pollution that it's entering the air. It's being aerosolized , as they say , through sea spray , um , at the coast and along the river and in farther east , communities that don't live right on the coast , you know , once it's in the air , it's pretty hard to escape if you live and work and go to school in these communities. So you can avoid not you can avoid going in the water to protect your health when there's polluted water , but you can't not breathe. So there are children sitting in school eight hours a day , every day of the week , right next to the estuary and right next to the river. And who knows what the long term impacts of that is for them. There's been an increase in gastrointestinal illnesses noted every time there's a rainstorm , and more contamination comes through the watershed and out into the ocean. But , uh , cases of asthma are getting worse. Um , and it's probably just scratching the surface. I'm sure there's a lot more that will come out as data continues to be collected about the air quality impacts. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And we're having this , this conversation on Earth Day. But I know for both of you , climate activism and advocacy is really a huge part of who you are.

S2: You know , I believe in water so much. We had a run and we ran for water across every major waterway across this continent in the longest run in history , um , across from the east to the west. Uh , and it was called the run with the sun. It was a prayer for all water. And , you know , we started , um , at the corner of Canada and Main at West Quoddy Lighthouse , and we brought water from all these different places that people wanted to merge with the Pacific Ocean. This is just one of many things that we do for water. You know , the drilling for lithium , you know , the big problems , huge problems in the desert. They're puncturing water systems. And we can't let this happen. Once the water is gone , we will be owned to get water. Seriously , that's the way I believe. I think once there's no more clean water , we have to bow to get water from somewhere.

S1: And that is a big question. Sarah , what about you ? What keeps you coming back to water and climate work in general ? Hmm.

S4: That's such a good question. Um , you know , Bobby said it's personal for him. It's also personal for me. I feel very connected to water and to making sure that people have equitable access to clean water. It's it's become my life's work. And one thing that's very clear when you're looking at this particular case of the Tijuana River is how intricately linked all of our health is to this river , and the health of our coastline is as well. And so when the river's unhealthy , we're unhealthy. And that's become more and more apparent. Um , the longer this crisis goes on and and the worse it gets , people are getting more and more sick. And I , I really think that we we just don't even know yet how bad it is. I think it's worse than we even realize. Um , but I think the other side of this is that it offers an incredible opportunity to all of us to come together , to cooperate across jurisdictions , um , to to continue to build this growing social movements to solve this problem. Um , and it's , it's really just an opportunity for us to figure out how to work together , um , to address things like climate change and major environmental catastrophes. And if we look at it that way , hopefully that will help to build some of the political will that we're still lacking here to solve this issue. Yeah.

S1: Yeah.

S4: I envision a place that is bustling with beachgoers on a hot summer day , instead of covered in hazard signs. I envision a healthy and joyful and thriving ecosystem and series of communities.

S1: And Bobby , I'll let you have the final word here.

S2: You know , we have all this crazy technology. We have things going at such a fast pace , and I think we're forgetting a little bit about Mother Earth and what is taking care of all of our people since forever. I think we have to come together. I think we have to be united. I think we need to take care of our water and our Mother Earth a little bit more , say a little prayer to whichever gods you pray to and wish for the best. And I know we can do this.

S1: I've been speaking with Bobby Wallace of the Verona Band of Mission Indians of the Kumeyaay Nation. Thanks to you , Bobby.

S2: Thank you very much. Much appreciated.

S1: And also Sarah Davidson. She leads the Surfrider Foundation's Clean Border Water Now program. Sarah , thank you very much.

S4: Thank you. Jane. It's really an honor to be here.

S1: Coming up , the Interfaith Coalition joins us to talk about the moral implications of environmental pollution.

S5: I feel it's imperative that as people of faith , we speak up and say we need to do a much better job taking care of the earth than we have done so far.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Today is Earth Day. It's been observed on April 22nd each year since 1970. On the show today , we're highlighting community groups in San Diego fighting for climate justice. We now turn to a group of faith leaders coming together to advocate for the planet here in San Diego. Here with me is Phil Petry , co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice. Phil , welcome.

S5: Thank you. Very , very glad to be here.

S1: Glad to have you. And also Yusef Miller , he's another co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition. Yusef , welcome back to midday.

S6: Thank you very much for having me.

S1: Glad to have you both here.

S5: 350 so I've been connected with San Diego 350 since its founding , and , um , early on , uh , Maceda Dizon House , who's now the Ed , uh , really wanted to have a faith , uh , a faith group that got launched , um , sort of out of 350. So there was a big event , actually at my church , which is Saint Paul's Cathedral on Bankers Hill. Um , and , uh , out of that event eventually took a little time , but I won't go into the weeds on that. Um , the Interfaith Coalition for Earthjustice was founded , and our philosophy , you know , I guess I would say in a nutshell , it's that as people of faith , both lay and clergy , we believe deeply that we're called to care for the earth , um , that the earth , if you're if you're Theo centric , like I am. And as a Christian , then you believe that God created the earth and that it was good and that it has an inherent dignity and beauty and human beings are having a huge impact on that dignity and beauty. Unfortunately , because of our because the industrial revolution , our consumerism and so forth. So , um , I feel it's imperative that as people of faith , we speak up and say we need to do a much better job taking care of the earth than we have done so far.


S6: So in our tradition we have even from our prophet , peace and blessings be upon him. Where you're not supposed to destroy trees or fruit bearing trees that do some good for people , you're not supposed to do that and not to spoil the water or the land. And all of that is in our tradition. As a matter of fact , in our tradition , if you even see doomsday coming , a great , great deed to do is to plant a seed in your mind. You know , the seed is not going to grow. Here comes an asteroid or something. But it's so valued in our tradition to plant a tree , you're going to get a blessing even if an asteroid is about to hit the planet. Wow.

S1: Wow. Well , in the tree could still sprout up.

S6: That's right.

S1: Out of the ashes.


S1: Absolutely.

S5: Absolutely. Well , you know the example. I guess I like to use , um , the most in a certain sense out of my tradition is Jesus's foot washing at the Last Supper as an example of this kind of radical love and humility that we're supposed to have for each other. And then I would extend that Jesus didn't exactly. But I would extend that to the whole planet. Um , you know , I feel that we're really supposed to be here to to love God and love each other and serve our serve God and serve our neighbor. And , um , and that includes all of God's creation. And that includes a certain kind of humility in how we make our decisions. I feel like if we had truly incorporated that humility into the way , at least those of us who profess to be Christian in the way that we act vis a vis creation , we would not be doing mountaintop removal to get coal. We would not be sending all this CO2 into the atmosphere. We would have this different attitude that we need to approach things with reverence and humility and love and make these decisions very carefully. So that's something that's really , really important to me. And , and , uh , I could talk a little bit more about the consumerist piece , but maybe I should save that for a little bit.

S1: Well , we'll jump into it in a bit. But , you know , all of this brings us back to the interfaith part of , of this group , both of. Your environmental beliefs are rooted in your faith. Although you come from different religious backgrounds , what have you been able to learn from one another ? Yousef , I'll start with you.

S6: Well , we've been I've been able to learn that no matter what tradition that you investigate , you'll find an Earth friendlier , Earth centered perspective in that religion. And it doesn't matter which one it is , you can go all around the world and you'll find the care for the soil , the air , the the water and each other. Because we're part of the environment as well , our neighbor is part of protecting the environment. So you'll find that in every religious tradition , the problem I see is that a lot of us have went away from our tradition. And that's not that it doesn't exist. It's not that , um , uh , we had to create something to be modern , but it's it's a tradition that we've all neglected. And I find that in this tradition where , where we have interfaith interaction , we are pulling that together and reminding each other of our duty to care for the planet.

S1: How odd is that , though ? Does that seem to you that we've neglected that part of what's so deeply ingrained in culture and religion ? The the idea of taking care of the planet , the earth that we walk on every day , every day.

S6: I think we have a misplacement of our definitions. We see civilization as Wi-Fi and running cars and things like that. But we forget the civil and civilization , and it is not civilized to do such a , um , suicidal event as fracking , digging for oil , putting oil in our water table which impacts our indigenous brothers and sisters , the people of color who live in these areas that depend on these waters. And , um , and people have concern which no matter which ethnicity you are , um , these things impact us all are are air or soil. So we have forgotten and mislabeled what our purposes here. And we see modernity and we see technology as the epitome of existence on this world. But the basics we're forgetting in the basics is our Achilles heel. Hmm.


S5: And the way I look at this level of consumerism in the first world. Speaking of the developed world , um , is that in a sense , we're trying to fill a God sized hole with stuff , with lots of things and the sort of prestige that those things , uh , can give us. You know , if you have enough , uh , toys , then you're you're the winner. Somehow , at the end of all this , that's to me. Not at all why we're here. Um , we're here to serve something bigger than ourselves , and not just to indulge ourselves in wanting more and more and more. And of course , it's that it is that consumerism that's driving the ecological crisis. It's , you know , we're we're not to put too fine a point on it. We're raping the planet to get all of those raw materials , to make all the stuff that we in the developed world want. And then , of course , the another irony about climate change is that we are the ones causing it. But the people who live in the global South , who are the least responsible for climate change , are the ones who are seeing the most horrifying impacts. So there's a justice issue there , too , that I feel as people of faith we have to address. But , you know , I can't emphasize enough , I feel deeply that the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis fundamentally , because , again , it's driven by this lust for things and the prestige that things give us. And so to me , as people of faith , we have to stand up and sort of shout out against that and say , that's not why we're supposed to be here.


S5: Um , yes. I have always gravitated toward environmentalism. So I was born in 1958 , and so I'm 12 , when Earth Day , the first Earth Day , happens. And in the late part of the 1970s , I was very active in the anti-nuclear movement. We tried to take over the Seabrook Seabrook power plant in New Hampshire , and it was an utter failure. But anyway , it was interesting failure. Um , what I would say is I was not a Christian at that point. Uh , my folks were lapsed Presbyterians , and so I wasn't even baptized. Um , my evolution to becoming a Christian was over a long period of time into graduate school and then after. And , um , so you could sort of say for me , the environmentalism came first , actually. Um , but that doesn't mean that my Christianity. Ours is is more important than the environmentalism. But it to me the one should flow out of the other. And I think that's one of the things we try to do with the Interfaith Coalition for justice is , you know , recognize that , um , our faiths are kind of the bedrock. That's where we stand. Um , but out of that , hopefully comes real activism to address not just climate change , but all sorts of environmental issues that are confronting us , and issues of racial justice , of human justice , that , that are all connected. This is all part of one kind of big piece. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And Yusef , can you talk about that more ? The , you know , environmental justice and racial justice and how all of those things are connected in this environmental activism ? Absolutely.

S6: Before I got involved with environmental justice work , there was no place for me or my people. That's the way I saw it. We were worried about polar bears and ice caps , but in my community there was heat zones. There was not a lot of greenery. All this impact in. Nobody was talking about that. So it seemed like something far off , something that's removed from my community. But as I started studying more about this , the impact in communities of concern , I found that we have these manmade , uh , hot boxes with this all this concrete in the in the black and brown community. Um , the parks are not as green. Um , you know , people talk about miracles all the time. They want to see a miracle. They want to see a miracle , uh , in this day and age. But I asked them , have you ever really looked at a blade of grass ? Have you ever looked at a leaf on a tree ? That is miracle right in front of our faces , and we're destroying it. And then some communities don't even have it. So we see the in the wider , um , environment that we have , let's say for San Diego , we see micro environments. In southeast , we see micro environments in , uh , Logan Heights and places like this and those places are ignored. So we in this movement that we have the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice , we stay in tuned with the equity piece. We're not just trying to , uh , have better water and better air at the beaches , the coasts. We're trying to make sure that even inland , is taking care of the places where people of concern live who can't get to the beach for for relief from the heat zones. So what do they have to do ? They have to rely on SDG and E power to , uh , relieve themselves from the air pollution from the heat zones and things of this nature. So these equity pieces are front and center when it comes to the Interfaith Coalition of Earth Justice. We want to make sure that everyone is feeling the change of the legislations that we put forth in in protecting our planet.

S1: After the break , we continue our conversation with Phil Petrie and Yusuf Miller and hear about the Interfaith Coalition's environmental priorities.

S6: We bring the community together to say this is an issue that impacts everyone because there is no planet B , this is the only option we have.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. It's Earth day. So on the show today , we are finding out what motivates climate activists here in San Diego. We're talking right now with the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice here with me , our co-chairs , Phil Petry and Yusef Miller , to continue our conversation. I want to hear more about some of your group's environmental priorities. I mean , I understand you've been protesting banks with fossil fuel ties. Phil , tell me more about that. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. Okay. So that , uh , most recently , we're up in Solana Beach and we protested at Citibank and at Bank of America there. So there's really four big banks , the other two being Wells Fargo and Chase , who are funding the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions of dollars. And , you know , I understand this is about making money. Banks are in the business of making money. But the problem is , um , it's it's leading to massive planetary degradation and in the long run , it's not going to benefit anybody , including banks. Um , so that has to change. You know , this whole mindset of business as usual , um , is so pernicious. It's it's very human , but it's we've we've got to change that because the usual , I like to say usual is over. That's done. We're into something else now , you know , like Bill McKibben had that book Earth with two A's. You know , we're we're into a different period , really , of Earth's history. So back to the event that we held in Solana Beach. We we had a mock funeral for the climate dead. Um , you know , it's hard to get really absolute numbers on how many people have died directly due to climate change , but I would guess it's in the millions in the last 50 or so years , and it will just get worse and worse. And , you know , which is a terrible crime. And again , often it will be the people who are least responsible who are dying. Yeah.

S1: Yeah.

S6: And these impacts , you know , there have unintended consequences. And those consequences , uh , could lead to cancer , lead to all kinds of different ailments that that we're not intending to have. So with these impacts and we we want to propel the information to our youth so that we , we have them taking our place. So , for example , clean earth for kids there at Clean Earth for kids org , they have bolstered our numbers with youth. So we have people in their teens , people in college that are are standing with us as we've grown. I believe that absolutely the youth are coming alongside because we're not just like the other old folks who were just speaking and talking. We're actually walking the walk. So it's not enough to carry the coffin in our climate dead. Um , uh , scenario. But we also go inside the bank and sit down and have meetings with the bank managers and board members to get our message out. So the youth are tied into this ? Absolutely. They understand it. They know this is their future. And they're coming alongside Interfaith Coalition of Earth Justice , along with other community members , because they see we walk the way we talk. We're not just a soundbite , and we're not just a a a news flash. We're actually doing the non sexy work behind the scenes with legislators to make changes in those areas.

S1: And I want to acknowledge again that , you know , activists like you all are working on this every single day. Um , how do we keep this momentum going ? Yousef , I'll start with you.

S6: I think by proper mentorship to the generations that are coming up behind us to make sure that this , uh , awareness of the situation that we're in is so critical and to put it in ways that people understand , I think , like in the black and brown community , if we're not speaking the language of the black and brown community , something that impacts them. Uh , we're that's where we're failing to bring in people. So if you're talking about polar bears and ice caps instead of the heat index in your community and the diesel fuels that are putting out , uh , particulate matter that your children and your elderly are suffering from , you're not talking to proper language. This language change will , uh , is a marketing technique to make sure that everyone knows how does environmental justice and earth equity impact you and your community no matter where you live ? I don't live in in the ice caps. I've never seen a polar bear in its natural inhabitant habitation. But what I do see is the smoke and. The brown grass and the dead trees. It's what I actually see. And there's no , um , not even manmade lakes in my area to absorb the heat there. Drop the index. So when you speak to the African-American , the black and brown community , that way they understand and they connect. And when you speak to our indigenous brothers and sisters in their community about their water tables being impacted by fracking and by drilling , and that could spill into their water tables in other things , this nature , they understand and they come alongside. And you speak to our brothers and sisters who are of white background and of lower income , and they're in the areas that also where industry is and the pollution from those industries are going on affecting their children as well. We bring the community together to say this is an issue that impacts everyone because there is no planet B , this is the only option. We have to make sure that it is an equitable spread of clean , earth and clean environment. Bill. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. Something to add to that. Um. So Pope Francis , when he wrote Laudato Si , his encyclical on the , you know , on creation care , really made the connection that when we marginalize the environment , okay. And say this collateral damage and we're going to , you know , we don't worry about this brownfield and blah , blah , blah. The next step is marginalizing people. And unfortunately , I think our economy is sort of built on marginalizing both of those segments hugely. And my feeling is as a person of faith , I'm going to do this in that wonderful colloquial phrase , God , don't make no trash. There is nothing both human and and in all of creation that is trash that God made. All of it is enormously valuable and it deserves our love and compassion and care. Uh , so that includes everybody and everything. And , you know , it's not a zero sum game. It's not like , well , we've only got enough love to to go around with this little circle of people or , or maybe it's only enough love just for human beings. You know , to me , it's like love is always expanding , it's expansive. And so it needs to keep radiating outward. Um , and then you have to really walk the walk on that which is which is hard. I won't pretend I do a great job , I do what I can , but , um , you know , that to me is is a key part of my faith. And so it leads me to these , to the activism piece and the activism piece , both in terms of earth justice and in terms of racial justice and economic justice. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S6: And when you look at the impacts from oil companies , when you look at impacts from , uh , businesses that pollute our water , this is not charitable , nor is it merciful , and not only for human beings , but also for our neighbors that are are squirrels and that are , uh , deer and that our fish and all these things , they are our neighbors and they have to live in this environment as well. So we're here to speak up for the bird. We're here to speak up for the bees. We're here to speak up for the even the snake and the rat , that all of those are God's creation. And we have to live here together in a symbiotic way. They know how to do that without us. But once you add the human species to these environments , then we start. We lose mercy. We lose charity , we lose all of these things. So then we lose trees. We lose plants , we news animals. So if you look at it at its fundamental root , the mercy and the charity of earth , justice is something that's incumbent upon every living human being.

S1: Because there are consequences for not doing exactly what you all have laid out here for us today. And I remember speaking with a Franciscan priest who was talking about the moral implications of climate change , and he said , you know , when a pathogen enters the human body , the human body heats up , it runs a fever to get rid of that pathogen. And he said , that's much like what the Earth will do with people. There are consequences.

S6: If I may start. I spent 24 years in the medical field and that is absolutely right. Our our bodies heat up and have fever not because it wants to harm us. It is a byproduct of it trying to defend itself. And when we have colds and we have runny nose and watery eyes , all of that is an immune self-defense mechanism that makes us uncomfortable. Yes , you have to go to bed. You have to take medication. It makes you uncomfortable. It lays you down. But it is a self-defense mechanism for not taking care of your body. Not being in places that are clean and hygienic. This planet is a living thing. It it breathes , it exhales and inhales. It scratches its back. When it has earthquakes and tsunamis , it does these things. And we're going to feel the consequence of not keeping our earth in a healthy situation. And that uncomfortableness is going to react on us. But unfortunately what we're going to have is the climate dead from these environments. The way the Earth scratches its back , the way it yawns , the way it stretches , we're going to face those consequences , not only us , but also our animal neighbors.


S5: Um , I think one of the key things we need to do as a , as a civilization is put the economy , um , within the ecology , not on top of it. The economy needs to. Function as a part of the ecology of the whole planet , which would mean every decision would be different than it is now , and it would be driven by different factors. And so I actually believe that the kind of changes we need to make to address the climate crisis are good for us. They're really good for us there. We've kind of gotten off track , I think , fundamentally off track. And so this is a wake up call. Um , this could lead us. I'm not saying it for sure , Will , but it could lead us to a much better civilization. I sort of think we're still kind of a young species , you know , in this country. We've gotten awfully jaded , I think , somehow and cynical. And I don't know exactly why , because we're still figuring things out , and hopefully we'll really figure this out and create a better civilization that's truly egalitarian , that takes into consideration nature and all of this glorious world that , that we have. Um , so that's my that's my dream , and I'm sticking to it.

S1: All right. Well , hey , even though my name is Jade , I am not jaded. I'm still very hopeful.

S7: Uh , so there we have it.

S1: I've been speaking with Yusuf Miller , co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition. Yusef , thank you so much.

S6: Thank you for having me.

S1: Also , Phil Petrie , co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice. Phil , thank you.

S5: Thank you so much , Jade. It was a.

S1: Great conversation and I appreciate you both. That's our show for today. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in to Midday Edition. Be sure to have a great day on purpose , everyone.

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The Tijuana River Estuary is pictured from Imperial Beach, Jan 31, 2020.
Erik Anderson
The Tijuana River Estuary is pictured from Imperial Beach, Jan 31, 2020.

Monday, April 22 is Earth Day, an annual event honoring the natural environment and calling for a healthier planet.

On KPBS Midday Edition, we speak with local organizers who are dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment not just today, but all year round.

Top of mind for many local environmental groups right now is toxic pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border. Each day, millions of gallons of untreated sewage and chemicals flow through the Tijuana River. Last week, it was named one of America's most endangered rivers by the nonprofit American Rivers. We hear from local organizers working to bring attention to the border pollution.

We also speak to the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice, a group of faith leaders coming together to advocate for earth justice here in San Diego.

Phil Petrie and Yusef Miller join KPBS host Jade Hindmon to discuss their organization, the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice.
Ashley Rusch
Phil Petrie and Yusef Miller joined KPBS host Jade Hindmon to discuss their organization, the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice, April 17, 2024.