Introducing Our Youth Air Quality Task Force New Voices Are Rising

The Youth Air Quality Task Force meeting over Zoom. They did a participatory activity to better get to know each other and their communities.

Our New Voices Are Rising program, which develops environmental justice leadership and helps to build power among youth-of-color, is engaged in a new project this fall. Over six weeks, New Voices students in the Youth Air Quality Task Force will create media projects focused on air quality, associated health risks, and utility advocacy. The task force offers students an opportunity to discover the aspects of clean-air advocacy that are most important to them, and to educate and engage their communities in this work. Learn more about this exciting new project below.

The goal of the Youth Air Quality Task Force program is to give youth the chance to bring attention and awareness to their communities on air quality and energy injustices. These problem areas are particularly salient to our New Voices students as many of them live in designated ‘priority communities’ marked by high levels of air pollution. Communities labeled by the government as “AB 617 ” receive funding to mitigate air quality issues and health problems through air protection plans. Despite living in polluted areas, a number of communities in the Bay Area have yet to be classified as AB 617 and have thereby been withheld government funding to tackle the problem.

AB617 is a California State Assembly Bill, signed into law in 2017, designed to promote more community participation in reducing the levels of and exposure to air pollution in order to improve public health. The bill tasks the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and local air districts to protect neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution. The local air districts recommend certain areas to be designated as ‘priority communities,’ and then work with these communities to develop an air protection plan. CARB oversees this process, approving and implementing the plans. 

The Air Quality Task Force offers our New Voices students an opportunity to discover the aspects of clean-air advocacy that are most important to them. The youth and program leaders are meeting over the course of six weeks to learn about local air quality issues and work on a project focused on community-based solutions.

Spearheading the Task Force is our New Voices Youth Coordinator, Mars, and our interim New Voices Program Manager, Jessica Tovar from Local Clean Energy Alliance. We are confident that Mars’s strong foundation with the New Voices students combined with Jessica’s expertise on energy-related issues will make the Youth Air Quality Task Force a success. 

At the end of the 6-week program, the students will present projects that encompass what they learned and wish to relay to their communities. We are proud to participate in the Task Force which recognizes the importance of engaging youth and communities in building solutions to environmental injustices. 

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