With the haze of Butte County’s “Camp Fire” looming over the Bay Area, the injustices people face have become ever more evident. During this fire, we are most concerned for the health of children, those with asthma and other respiratory issues, outdoor workers and our unhoused neighbors.
Suggestions to stay indoors and switch out masks every eight hours are not feasible as an ultimate solution. It took hustle to get masks to share with schools, local organizations and the unhoused.
We still do not have enough for all that need them. We know that masks are not enough.
Our adult masks do not properly work for children because of fit and activity. The recommendation has been to keep children indoors with air filtration. This is difficult as air filtration devices are not affordable for low-income people, and information on making your own air filtration device is not as accessible.
Everyone has been told to stay indoors to avoid this poor air. This is not possible for our unhoused neighbors and for those housed in spaces unable to keep outdoor air from coming in due to poor insulation.
Poor air quality impacts are nothing new to East Oakland residents. Exposure to pollution from 880, industrial land uses, the Oakland Airport and the Port of Oakland has resulted in harsh smells, nausea and flare-ups of asthma.
In East Oakland, there is twice the rate of asthma emergency department visits. People in the hills of Oakland, on average, will live 15 years longer than those in the flats. Smells reach local schools and recreation centers, which do not have air filtration.
Breathing in East Oakland is a problem year-round. Many residents in East Oakland are Black and Latino, and race has historically not been considered in planning decisions. Most recently, a mega-crematorium, which will burn 3,000 bodies a year, was approved near a neighborhood that is nearly half Black and Latino.
The following are some of CBE’s demands, calling on the City and other regional agencies to act with urgency to bring forth justice year-round:
- People must be housed, and housing must be affordable. Our unhoused neighbors and those struggling to stay in their housing need shelter. We demand 100 percent affordable housing on public land.
- Make major investments in community centers, senior centers, schools and libraries to turn them into hubs for daily healing and emergencies, including climate change-related disasters.
- Schools need air filtration, including: Brookfield, Madison, Esperanza, Fred Korematsu Discovery, Rise, New Highland, ACORN/Woodland, EnCompass, CCPA, Greenleaf, Community United, Roots, Futures School of Languages, Aurum Prep, Aspire Golden State, Lodestar, Lighthouse, and Lionel Wilson.
- Address local air quality by funding major greening projects and air filtration.
- Help families in healing from long-term exposure to air quality
- Rezone East Oakland. Current zoning does not provide enough of a buffer needed to protect neighborhoods next to industrial uses.
- Develop an environmental Justice element in the City of Oakland’s General Plan.
- We demand local jobs.
We demand urgency but must work at the pace of the community. Major education is required to inform people of upcoming impacts and emergency resources.
Mask Oakland and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) deliver breathing masks to local communities.