On Clean Air Day we demand Community Benefits Agreements that will improve our lungs

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A guest op-ed by Erika Del Carmen Ruiz, a queer Latinx social justice writer, poet, and community organizer from San Bernardino, California.

Trucks idle outside our windows–churning out the black soot that helps to damage our lungs. With more warehouses and truck stops come the abundance of diesel trucks that create the current cruel reality of our daily lives. 

We’re struggling to breathe. And yet, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and local elected officials in the Inland region do very little to stop the harm. In fact, some of them turn the other cheek, while developers and corporations take up our space and provide us community members with very little in return.

It was 87 days straight of smoggy air in 2018 and 85 straight days this year. The facts have proved that we breathe some of the worst air in the nation. Disregarding our testimonies because of “emotions” is no longer a good argument. However, ignoring us because of our sentiments and experiences is in poor taste. 

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In reality, the true solutions to resolving our air quality issues stem from the front line communities being affected by the logistics and fossil fuel industry. The community is tired of band aid solutions.  We want to see actions that hold industry accountable for their toxic mess and movement to build a better future for our community.

We made that clear on September 20 when we held a rally at an Amazon Fulfillment Center in San Bernardino to make it clear that we’re looking past short term goals.  Historically, logistics centers and other harmful projects have been approved with little or no feedback from residents. We’re pushing for a new culture of community development that truly centers workers and families.

Amazon and Hillwood Investment Properties have the chance to work with us to create a Community Benefits Agreement that will emphasize strong measures to improve our quality of life. Hillwood and their tenants should be helping protect the health of locals by pushing for the use of zero emission heavy duty vehicles and equipment at their facilities, while working with community on local jobs.

Year after year, our leaders and air regulators fail to address what’s causing these emissions. Today, on Clean Air Day, our communities have had enough with the band aid solutions. Gas and diesel are killing us. There must be a call for community benefits, with working class people at the forefront of making agreements that will hopefully allow us to breathe clean air again.  

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