1. How does your faith motivate you?
As a Christian, I believe that God is on the side of poor and oppressed people. Because of my faith, I want to do what I can to be a blessing to people who are taken advantage of. Environmental justice issues, such as the right to breathe clean air and to have clean water to drink, are things that churches should be involved in.
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2. What are LUCA’s main ways of pursuing environmental justice?
Members give presentations such as "Air Quality 101" and "Clean Homes, Healthy Families" to school and church groups around Fresno. We also support sister organizations in our area who are struggling for justice for their communities. At least once a year, we go to the state capital to advocate for better laws that protect the environment we live in, especially for socially vulnerable communities.
3. Who is one person you've worked with that really inspires you?
Last year, LUCA went to Kettleman City, a town about an hour away from Fresno, where there has been a very high rate of birth defects. Several mothers who had lost their babies, or whose children are very sick because of environmental injustices, shared their struggle with us. I met Miguel Alatorre, a high school student who is the leader of Kids Protecting Our Planet, and I was very inspired by the way that he and his friends are helping to fight against the unjust amount of pollution near their town.
4. What's at the heart of your environmental concern?
I don't really consider myself an environmentalist. It is important to care for creation, but I'm much more passionate about environmental justice, because it’s about people. In California, poor people and people of color suffer the most from industrial and agricultural pollution. LUCA speaks out for Latinos and other groups who suffer because of the decisions that businesses and governments have made. We believe it is a moral issue, and we work alongside faith-based groups such as Fresno Metro Ministry to speak out for environmental justice.
5. How is your child's life different from your own childhood? What do you hope for his future?
In Caracas, Venezuela, where I grew up, there wasn't much awareness about environmental issues. Even though we live in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Fresno, which has some of the worst air in the United States, the air and water here are still cleaner than in the city where I grew up. I hope that my son, Gabriel, will get to live in a time when everybody can breathe clean air, no matter where they live.
6. What gives you hope?
It seems like churches are becoming more concerned about issues of environmental justice. Even in churches where people say that they don’t believe in climate change, the young people, at least, are becoming involved in social issues. Groups such as Kids Protecting Our Planet give me hope.
—Interview by Elizabeth Palmberg