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Can California Solve Its Air Quality Inequality?


January 27, 2022 • 7:00 pm PST

Online Event

UPDATE FROM ZÓCALO: 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.

Moderated by Saul Gonzalez, KQED Correspondent and Co-Host of The California Report

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? A panel including Central Valley Air Quality Coalition executive director Catherine Garoupa White and USC sociologist and Solidarity Economics author Manuel Pastor visits Zócalo to discuss how we can help all Californians breathe easier.

Image credit: Farm workers wear masks as they begin the process of resurrecting trees turned over by high winds during wildfires in Poway, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi.