I look at a picture of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge emptying into the Crown City against a waning yellow and orange sunset and the word “beauty” sums up all that I see.
And as one drives into Coronado there’s more beauty to be seen, little plots of sand, the green colors of a park and a golf course; it’s pleasant to the eyes.
As I reverse the trip in my mind, I find the sunset and gentle setting fading behind me and I remember how just a few days ago I listened to a woman’s voice tremble and watched as she, in mid-muddled-sentence, fought back tears. She was sharing a story out of her community’s struggle for environmental justice on a “Barrio Live” bus tour which was put on by the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC). She so desperately wanted not to cry but her emotions couldn’t be put aside as she described a neighborhood where people have had to keep their doors and windows closed at all times because the bad stuff that is in the air is at levels way, way, way above what is considered “unhealthy.”
How does one tell about a little boy who lived in one of the homes and became seriously ill, remaining so for years, and not feel like weeping?
How does one not break down to some degree, knowing that the same little boy, after becoming relatively hale and hearty, enrolls in school and immediately is labeled a “troubled kid” aka SED (Severely Emotionally Disturbed). Nothing about the reality that while other children played, he could barely breathe, let alone run about, so he could have very likely found himself in a “To be or not to be” SED kind of circumstance and chose to engage in a few “system-fulfilling prophecy” activities.
Our tour guide, a resident of the Barrio who, like others in her community, cares enough to dare turn things around, said, after finally drying her eyes and calming herself: “He’s a human being. Everyone should have a chance to live with dignity.”
Ain’t that the truth. On top of whatever chemical it was that delayed the boy’s development it’s doubly sad that we, as a society, don’t actively care enough about children like him.
I mean at the Coronado end of the bridge there are essentially no factories or asphalt paving companies; no auto repairs shops or welding shops or body shops or hydraulic and towing services; no warehouses and recycling centers; no shipbuilding and maritime supporting industries; no diesel trucks rolling by constantly.
At the Barrio Logan end of the bridge some residents, like those up the road in poor neighborhoods in National City, can’t avoid the excessive noises and potent fumes and vapors and smoke of industry because industry is their neighbor next door or down the street or across the street or around the corner.
At the base of the Coronado end of the bridge, citizens have full access to the bay, with ball fields (4), a playground, an exercise course, picnic benches, bike and pedestrian paths, restrooms and plenty of parking.
At the Barrio Logan end of the bridge the talk for years has been about “All the Way to the Bay,” a dream wherein one can walk from the edge of I-5 to the San Diego Bay without leaving Chicano Park. That dream is actively pursued. Other amenities
would be icing on the cake.
But this tour was more about informing us about the good and the bad that has been done by EHC when it comes to dealing with the overwhelming amounts of industrial toxins that have been foisted on Barrio Logan.
They have worked with communities for 30 years so that little boys like the one I’ve described can expect to grow up in neighborhoods that aren’t detrimental to their health; neighborhoods where the rights of humans, no matter who they are, are protected; neighborhoods where the air is fresh and where homes and places of work and schools and businesses aren’t exposed to toxic chemicals; neighborhoods where homes are affordable and the environment is preserved and the perils of climate change are taken seriously.
EHC focuses on the common causes and impacts of these issues. Check them out at www.EnvironmentalHealth.org and see how you might be able to invest in their work in making the Barrio Logan end of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge a healthy, equitable and sustainable part of the San Diego/Tijuana Region.
When I think of the possibilities, the word “beauty” sums up all that I see.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/