A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists outlines wide-reaching environmental impacts affecting the health and economy of San Joaquin Valley communities from extreme heat to water scarcity and pollution.
The report acts as a guide to help community members and advocates address climate change issues and prepare for challenges. Advocates at the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability contributed to the report.
“We’re looking at an uncertain future, and the best we can do as individuals is know what that future looks like and be informed as best as we can,” said Amanda Monaco, water coordinator with the Leadership Counsel. The group’s relationship with community leaders around the valley highlighted the impact of climate change on people.
The report points out that the valley is home to more than half of the state public water systems that fail to meet water quality standards. Monaco says this means that rural communities are disproportionately affected.
“Low income communities of color are usually if not always on the front lines of environmental justice issues and climate impacts,” she said.
As the planet continues to warm, scientists expect an increase in extreme weather, such as severe storms and droughts. And because one of the valley’s main economic drivers is agriculture, that makes rural communities especially vulnerable. But change can’t just come from their voices, said Shayda Azamian, also with the Leadership Counsel. While the report details best practices on how individuals can take action at home and rally for change with their local agencies, structural change will have to come from policy leaders, she said.
“The power to adapt and be resilient still isn’t in the hands of community and community members at large, and still so much of it rests on districts and local agencies,” said Azamian.