In 2005, Catholic Charities: Diocese of Stockon created the Environmental Justice Project and began advocating for a cleaner environment for the communities they serve. Air quality and air pollution have been an issue in Stockton for years. The air pollution in the county missed meeting national standards by narrow margins yearly, and there is a lack of awareness among those who live in the community about air pollution.
Based on a concern for families and children living in the area, Catholic Charities, as well as two other local organizations, reached out to the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Santa Clara University (SCU) to delve into the disproportionate effects of air pollution in Stockton, CA. For my senior capstone project as an SCU student, I worked with two others to determine the responsible industries, what pollutants the community was most exposed to, and what policies should be implemented to curb these issues. Based on what we found from our research, we were able to determine that high-impact polluters are located in a specific area in Stockton, most notably the Port of Stockton, and pose significant health concerns for the community members. These results were used to identify the industries to hold accountable and promote community health as a primary priority.
By not enforcing pollution standards, the people in Stockton are exposed to a myriad of problems such as health risks, a loss of socioeconomic mobility, and even a degree of social distress regarding the unknown chemicals and long-lasting impacts they inhale every day. Marginalized communities, such as the Boggs Tract in Stockton, don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on lawyers who will fight for their behalf, and instead, this hard work is done by nonprofits and community members. They deserve to be heard.
This is why the leadership of the Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton is so important. There are few organizations in the area focusing on climate and working within marginalized communities that are most impacted by environmental vulnerabilities. Catholic Charities is a trusted voice with moral authority in the community and continues to advocate for Stockton, CA, as well as the greater San Joaquin Valley area. They are currently working with the Valley Air District to improve policies and regulations, and ultimately improve air pollution and quality.
Faithful leadership on issues of environmental justice and climate change matters. This is a perfect illustration of the important role local faith-based organizations and faith communities can play to raise awareness and pursue stronger policies for climate action.
Looking to do this kind of work in your own community? The Blessed Tomorrow Moving Forward Guide provides helpful information and ideas for how faith communities can play a larger role to advance local climate solutions.
About the author: Monioluwa (Moni) Adeyi is currently the Blessed Tomorrow project intern and a masters student at the American University’s Kogod School of Business in Sustainable Management. She is enthusiastic about the intersection of sustainability and environmental justice and the role faith communities play in leading climate action and advocacy.
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