By Yassamin Kavezade, My Generation Campaign volunteer activist.
Typical days in the Inland Empire, just east of Los Angeles in Riverside and San Bernadino Counties, are plagued by smoggy skies that block views of the nearby mountain peaks, which soar to over 11,500 feet. This hazy soup is often coupled with the thick, acrid smell of fuel exhaust and industrial emissions, as if we lived in a time before catalytic converters were required equipment on vehicle exhaust pipes.
As one born and raised in Southern California, I was always aware of the region's smog problem. And because Southern California has enacted the strongest air-pollution regulations in the nation, I knew that the environment needed to be taken care of. But as I grew older -- I'm now in my early 20s -- I became aware of the connection between pollution and poor health, and the fact that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected. It is this environmental injustice that has prompted me to declare that enough is enough.
The Inland Empire, where I live and attend school at the University of California, Riverside, is afflicted with the worst air quality in the country. It is also primarily comprised of communities of color -- mainly people of Latino and African American descent -- where many residents are battling poverty.
A major driver of air pollution -- in Southern California, statewide, nationwide, and globally -- is the combustion of fossil fuels. The thing that motivates me to keep volunteering with the Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign is that too little is being done in California to incentivize and create local affordable renewable-energy options for residents, business, and infrastructure in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. As one who would like to have a family someday, I would like my children to live in a safe and healthy world, not one plagued by pollution that damages the health of my family and friends -- and ultimately the health of the only planet we have.