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ICYMI 12/21/20: Emerging Stockton

The Vibe Of It All: Turning Stockton Into ‘An Oasis Of Joy’ – Capital Public Radio Ezra David Romero @ezraromero 12/19/2020

Editor’s Note: The effects of a warming planet are often easy to see. But in the heart of California, bold activists are demonstrating the impact climate change can have on problems that mark life in Stockton’s troubled neighborhoods. They’re working to turn the city into a model for what others can do as the climate crisis worsens. The key: investing millions of dollars in the most vulnerable communities. This article is another in a collection of stories chronicling the lives of people least able to adapt safely to climate change.

…To the casual passerby, Stockton’s vibe might still feel stagnant, but look more deeply and one can see that this city is being reborn.

Work to mitigate the looming effects of climate change — droughts, heat waves and floods — is unifying Stockton. Residents banded together to win a $10.8 million state grant this year that will help their city adapt sustainably to rising temperatures.

The grant will help finance a walkable and bikeable downtown. The funds will also support creating green jobs, increasing household solar panels, planting trees and teaching urban farming in schools.

For the community, this investment is about ensuring climate solutions are equitable for all the city’s residents. In the latest census, Stockton’s racial makeup was 42% Hispanic, 21% Asian, 21% white, 11% Black and less than 1% native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander…

Investing in areas where the poor and Black and Brown people live will make life better for all Stocktonians, said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, a longtime environmental advocate and Stockton resident. The entire community of southwest Stockton ranks in the top 5% of the most disadvantaged in the state.

“You can’t have climate equity without having racial equity,” she said. “Across the board, communities of color and the poor are who will be impacted first.”

Later, I met  Barrigan-Parrilla at the Port of Stockton under Interstate 5, about 1,000 feet from where Hatten lives. The first thing I noticed was a giant dead fish floating in the mat of algae.

The blooms are getting worse as waters warm, said Barrigan-Parrilla. An outbreak last summer was the worst in her memory. “I even went into the more affluent neighborhoods on the north side of Stockton where the algae isn’t as bad, but there was still a green tint to the water that normally isn’t there,” she said.

Barrigan-Parrilla’s environmental group, Restore the Delta, began sounding a statewide alarm about these blooms in 2019. If consumed, the algae could kill a dog or make a child sick, she said. But even though the algae is another source of atmosphere-warming air pollution right next to disadvantaged communities, the city’s climate grant doesn’t have enough funds to address the problem. Nor does Restore the Delta have money for aggressive monitoring. However, there is one upside. While no full statewide water-testing program exists, the California Air Resources Board is working to clean up carbon emissions from ships that transport goods along this port. 

Read and listen to the entire story here.