Opinion

Chavez: It’s time to invest in our Arizona communities and the environment

Posted 11/16/21

When I was 10 years old, I witnessed my grandfather, Cesar Chavez, fasting to demand a ban for pesticide use on table grapes. The pesticides poisoned the soil and posed serious health impacts to the …

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Opinion

Chavez: It’s time to invest in our Arizona communities and the environment

Posted

When I was 10 years old, I witnessed my grandfather, Cesar Chavez, fasting to demand a ban for pesticide use on table grapes. The pesticides poisoned the soil and posed serious health impacts to the farmworkers who tended the land.

At this early age it ignited in me a passion to ensure that our communities and our environment are protected and have access to clean air and fresh water.

Today this connection has led me to advocate for legislation that will mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis that my community is experiencing first hand. From frequent heavy pollution days and increasing concern over access to clean drinking water, it’s high time for comprehensive legislation that will address these important issues.

Fortunately, Congress has passed a historic budget bill that, which will make critical investments that will tackle the climate crisis and issues of environmental justice by cleaning up decades-old pollution and reforming outdated programs that impact our public lands and great outdoors.

Not only will these bold investments deliver on President Biden’s climate promises, they will also bring tangible benefits to Arizonans, including the creation of good-paying jobs, strengthened local economies, reduced pollution, and long-term protections for our air, water, and outdoors.

In Phoenix, droughts, wildfires and other extreme weather events have picked up in frequency. We can see that the climate crisis is here, and that it’s disproportionately affecting Latinx people and other vulnerable communities. It is absolutely imperative that we act now. With the Build Back Better Act, we can reach our economic goals while simultaneously addressing climate change, strengthening our communities, and building resilient infrastructure that will last for future generations. Our children deserve to be able to thrive in a world where we prioritize protection for our nation’s public lands and waters.

The Build Back Better Act underscores this.

Tackling the climate crisis and protecting our cherished public lands are key aspects of this legislation. For decades, the broken and outdated federal oil and gas program costs us taxpayers billions of dollars each year, and has failed to protect public lands, waters, and wildlife, all while oil and gas CEOs have profited from worsening the climate crisis.

Our public lands are one of our greatest resources and President Biden and champions in Congress have proposed reforms to the oil and gas program that will create jobs, address the climate crisis, and invest funding into important projects like wildlife habitat restoration, trail maintenance, and waterway protection. These reforms are a great step toward protecting our public lands and communities from climate change, pollution, and inequality, and help to cultivate a legacy of stewardship.

My grandfather believed we have a moral obligation to leave the world a better place. We can work toward this with both the oil and gas reforms and with the creation of a Civilian Climate Corp. The implementation of a Civilian Climate Corps will put a new generation to work in good-paying jobs to restore our public lands and waters, bringing many benefits to communities in Arizona.

Investing in the stewardship of the outdoors will bolster resilience and advance environmental justice by having members of the CCC complete essential, restoration and resilience work throughout communities and on our public lands and waters.

This important investment will bring billions of dollars in funding to underserved communities, help eliminate harmful pollution and protect our environment — all things that can help Arizona tackle the climate crisis, protect the outdoors, and move forward with a stronger economy.

Further investments in our air, land and water will ensure Arizona is ready to tackle the climate crisis and properly prepare for its impacts. Past environmental impacts such as devastating wildfires, drought, increasingly hotter summers, and flash floods have highlighted the need for a quick emergency response or else there are immense, long-term consequences.

With these investments, communities will be protected from the widespread harm caused by the climate crisis which will ultimately save countless lives.

Congress must prioritize these investments so that our health, communities and outdoors will be protected, and most importantly, so we can prevent environmental disasters from happening in the future.

By advocating for these protections, I continue my grandfather’s legacy. The connections between his fight for the health and safety of farmworkers across the nation, and the environmental justice disparities Latinx communities experience today are intertwined. As his grandson, I’m proud to carry on what he began and to share our advocacy tradition with my own children, who are already acutely aware of the fact that to clean up our air, we need better infrastructure.

Sens. Sinema and Kelly will both play a crucial role in making sure Congress passes the big, bold investments that our communities need. They must do whatever it takes to ensure that the bill passed is the best one for our children, so that the connections they have to the outdoors can be fortified. In the past, our community has been overlooked and underrepresented in conservation legislation.

This is an opportunity to have our values reflected and our voices heard. We need an economy that is strengthened by good-paying jobs, investments that will combat climate change, and strong, resilient infrastructure that will last for generations.

Editor’s note: Alejandro Chavez is political director for Democratic Municipal Officials and grandson to American labor and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

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