Environment, Race, and Socioeconomic Status

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Throughout the quarter, our class has explored how race and socioeconomic status play a role in the environment. One article that our class read that is a good example of how the environment, race, and socioeconomic status interact is Pollution, Poverty, People of Color: The Factory on the Hill by Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz. This article discusses the negative impact the Chevron Richmond Refinery has had on the residents of North Richmond, California.

“It’s the triple whammy of race, poverty, and environment converging nationwide to create communities near pollution sources where nobody else wants to live.”

– Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz

The communities of color in Northern Richmond have been victims to the refinery for over 100 years. Toxic emissions from the Richmond refineries are believed to increase residents risk of heart disease, stroke, and asthma.

This is only one example of environmental racism. Throughout the United States low income and people of color are forced to deal with the consequences of living in a poor environment. I believe that living in a clean, healthy, environment is a right and not a privilege. Regardless of race and socioeconomic status, no one should be subjected to living in an area that is detrimental to their health. In an ideal world refineries and other buildings that negatively affect the environment wouldn’t exist, but I believe that industries that produce toxic emissions should be relocated to areas where people do not live.

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Veggielution Trip

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Highway 280 crosses above the Veggielution orchard

Last weekend our class volunteered at Veggielution’s Saturday workday. Veggielution is a beautiful six acre community farm located in East San Jose. This was my first experience on a farm and I was not quite sure what to expect. The beginning of our workday consisted of an hour long tour of the farm. My first reaction to the farm was shock – the farm was larger than I expected. It was very surprising to me that a farm this big could be located in the middle of an urban area. During the farm tour we learned about the many different programs and events Veggielution hosts. For example, they hosts “Veggielution Kitchen,” which is a cooking class that teaches participants on how to prepare healthy dinners using the farm’s produce. The farm offered so many different ways for the community to get involved!

Following the farm tour we pulled weeds in the orchard. In the short two and a half hours we pulled weeds, we were able to transform the area. Beforehand, it was impossible to walk through the area and by the time the workday was over we were able to walk through much of it and see all the fruit trees! I felt accomplished each time I successfully pulled out a stubborn weed and enjoyed seeing the end product of our efforts.

Veggielution aims to distribute 70% of their produce at lost cost or for free to the local communities. Knowing that I was able to contribute to the farm and the local community despite the little knowledge I have about farming was very rewarding. Regardless of your farming experience I recommend taking the time to volunteer at Veggielution!  Community farms are a wonderful way to connect to people within the community while making a meaningful contribution to the local community.