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August 07, 2013

New Survey Shows California Communities of Color Support Climate Action


This week, the Sierra Club was invited to an exciting briefing by the ethnic media consortium New America Media (NAM) presenting findings of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)'s 13th annual survey, "Californians and the Environment." The poll looked into the opinions of Californians of different ethnic and racial groups on climate disruption, energy policies, and pollution.

The briefing was held at the World Affairs Council in downtown San Francisco. A panel of five climate and social issue experts evaluated the findings of the poll: Sandy Close, executive director of NAM; Michel Gelobter, climate strategist and CEO of Cooler, a climate change reduction firm; Rue Mapp, founder of OutdoorAfro.com, a group that works to get African American communities out into nature; Sonja Petek, research associate for the PPIC; and Miya Yoshitani, associate director of Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), a group that is actively involved in many environmental justice issues that affect Asian and Pacific islander communities.

According to Ms. Mapp, the findings of the poll "reveal what we already know: People of color do care about mitigation of our environmental challenges." The survey found that 65 percent of California Latinos and 55 percent of blacks consider climate change a very serious threat: 20-points higher than concern among whites. Black and Latino respondents were also more likely than whites to support state programs and regulations to address climate change. Panelists unanimously agreed that these findings may reflect the fact that communities of color are more likely to be exposed to pollution.

Another finding of the survey addressed disparities in regional air pollution: 69 percent of Latinos and 64 percent of African Americans think air pollution is worse in low-income communities, as opposed to only 34 percent of whites. Ms. Yoshitani said, "Low-income communities know they are 'first and worst' when it comes to impacts and they want to see direct improvement in these areas."

At Monday's briefing, panelists also addressed the controversial topics of fracking (the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas) and nuclear power. According to the poll, only 35 percent of adults in California support increased use of fracking in the state, while 50 percent of Californians oppose it, with Latinos and African Americans showing the most skepticism about fracking. A majority of Californians surveyed also oppose the construction of more nuclear plants in California.

The official report and press release for the event can be found here.

-- Dan Onken, Sierra Club Media Intern


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