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Can California Solve Its Air Quality Inequality?

Can California Solve Its Air Quality Inequality? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

From right to left: Mary Nichols, Catherine Garoupa White, Saul Gonzalez, and Manuel Pastor. Illustration by Joycelyn Cabrera.

A Zócalo/California Wellness Foundation Event
Moderated by Saul Gonzalez, KQED Correspondent and Co-Host of The California Report

As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of our community, this event will now be streaming-only. We hope you’ll join us virtually and participate via live chat.

While smog in Los Angeles and wildfire smoke in San Francisco dominate headlines, California’s rural communities are also besieged by a constellation of forces that foul their air. In the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most polluted parts of the state, one in four children have asthma, and the impacts of air pollution cost the region $6 billion annually. Air quality is a statewide issue—more than half of California’s counties fail to meet federal pollution standards. But the burden isn’t evenly distributed: Black and Latino people are exposed to about 40 percent more fine particulate matter from cars, trucks, and buses than white Californians, and low-income communities about 20 percent more than their higher-income counterparts.

What would it take for the more privileged parts of California to reduce air pollution that disproportionately affects low-income and rural communities around the state? What political and economic strategies have succeeded in improving air quality locally and statewide? And can people and organizations fighting for clean air find inspiration from coalition-building and organizing efforts in other arenas? Former California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition executive director Catherine Garoupa White and USC sociologist and Solidarity Economics author Manuel Pastor visit Zócalo to discuss how we can help all Californians breathe easier.

The Takeaway

Why Can’t All Californians Breathe Clean Air?

How Communities and Coalitions Are Working Toward a Future Where Race and Income No Longer Determine Pollution Levels

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