By Paula Torrado & Monika Shankar
On Saturday, August 10th, residents and advocates from across South Central Los Angeles gathered at the Avalon Carver Community Center to learn about a new and exciting air quality project. The South Central LA Project to Understand the Sources of Air Pollution and their Health Impacts, or SCLA:PUSH, is a project led by PSR-LA in collaboration with community based organizations, academics and residents that aims to better understand the quality and scale of localized air pollution in our community. At the information session, over 30 individuals engaged in dialogue on an important series of topics, ranging from how to hold air quality regulators accountable, to how to build power through community driven science research and analysis. While the sobering acknowledgement was made that air quality is and has historically been a challenging factor in the lives of South Central LA residents, a hopeful and excited atmosphere prevailed throughout the day with the prospect of future action and mobilization towards real and tangible solutions.
In addition to sharing information about the project and the regulatory program in which it operates – the AB 617 Community Air Protection Program – the information session also introduced participants to an exciting engagement opportunity. A central goal of the SCLA:PUSH initiative is to build our collective capacity to understand and identify sources of air pollution in order to mobilize around community driven solutions that could strengthen existing air quality policies. The primary method by which residents achieve this goal is through participation in the Air Quality Academy (AQA) – a two day training that educates participants on the basics of air quality, trains them to use community air monitoring devices and ground-truthing methods to collect real-time data, advises them in devising a monitoring plan in their neighborhoods, and supports them in the co-development of community-grounded advocacy strategies. SCLA:PUSH hosted the first round of the AQA in June (read more about our launch and the first AQA in our July blog post!), which focused on the neighborhoods around Western & Slauson. On September 26 and 27, the AQA cohort will explore the northern section of the South LA Community Plan around Adams between Arlington and the I-110. In this second round, the AQA cohort will focus on better understanding the impact of air pollution from industries such as auto-body shops and oil/gas extraction sites.
Over the next 12 months, we will continue collecting data throughout South Central LA communities in collaboration with residents and allies. We hope these efforts will begin to paint an accurate picture of the complex intersection of air quality, health, cumulative burden, and environmental justice in our communities. However, the long-term vision of this work is more ambitious and arguably more challenging. What we hope to see in the future are substantial changes in the physical and social environment, as well as healthier and more thriving communities in South Central LA. Furthermore, we want to see community voices and power challenge and systemically transform the regulatory structures that govern air quality regulation. We want to see decision-makers held accountable to the wellbeing of community residents. And we want to see direct emission reductions in our communities that are in line with our environmental and climate justice goals. We recognize this is an ambitious plan. But it is a necessary one if we hope to meaningfully address historic and current environmental injustices faced by our communities.
We invite you to join us in this project! If you are interested in participating in the Air Quality Academy, or learning more about SCLA:PUSH, contact Paula Torrado at [email protected], or call (213) 689-9170.