“‘Seriously’ means that equitable strategies are enforced and regulated.”

Salote Soqo, MSC
SF Bay Area Program Coordinator, Climate Change and Water Justice
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

California is highly susceptible to the growing risks of climate change. With prolonged and more intensive droughts, frequent earthquakes, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels, the state’s natural and built up environments are at high risk to environmental pollution, inundation, destruction and inevitable loss. These impacts will disproportionately burden already vulnerable communities (see reports and stories here, here, and here).

In such a context, what does it mean for California to continue to take climate change seriously? In our world, ‘seriously’ means that equitable strategies are enforced and regulated, that existing environmental burdens on low income communities and communities of color are resolved, and that the structural causes of environmental injustice are dismantled, California’s future in the face of climate risks would look pretty strong. If such a serious approach were continued, then all people will have equal and reliable access to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water and food, and low income communities and communities of color would be as equally resilient to rising sea levels, earthquakes, droughts and intense heat conditions, as affluent communities.

However, as we all know, there are a multitude of challenges and barriers that we will need to overcome now for California to “continue” to take climate change seriously.  For environmental-justice communities (such as the Bay Area’s Resilient Communities Initiative), these challenges have lived for far too long through the way we develop and implement our policies, our existing governance structures and inequitable systems. Nevertheless, in places strides have been made to integrate equity, but this progress must be accelerated to create a just and resilient California.