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Pricing Justice: Carbon Pricing and Environmental Justice Prof. Gerald Torres & Robert García

In order to hit a target two things must be true: first, you must have a target; and second, you must aim at it. Given the current state of environmental policy making, environmental equity has got to be part of the target.

Our brief essay is a response to others analyzing the elements necessary to produce an equitable climate policy. The reason for this response stems from the absence by others of a direct concern for environmental justice. The community that has shown the most consistent support for climate change, Latinos, is absent from the analyses and debate. Our response will proceed in the following way. First, we will describe the general problems associated with policy creation where it is necessary to reconcile fundamentally competing values. Second, we turn to specific issues related to cap and trade programs, especially the “hot-spot” analysis. Third, we explore the centrality of the environmental justice movement to the formulation of all environmental policy. Finally, we look at two concrete examples where failure to take environmental justice into account has resulted in policy failure: environmental bond funds under California’s Proposition 84, and distribution of cap and trade dividends under AB 32.

In comparing EJ communities to non-EJ communities the baseline for comparison is absolutely critical. It cannot be the claim that all we need to know is that there is no additional harm to these communities. The ethical justification for using dividends from trades has got to reflect the differing environmental burdens the communities bear by taking differing baselines into account.

What the environmental justice movement has demonstrated is that racially identifiable communities are at a greater risk of environmental harms, disproportionately lack environmental benefits, pay a larger cost, and carry a heavier environmental burden than other communities regardless of class. Once these costs are considered the distribution of benefits must necessarily be structured to pay down that debt.

What is the target and is our aim true? Analyses of Prop 84 reveal that despite a generally stated goal to use the park bond funds to improve environmental quality equitably, it was only when the goals were clearly and concretely stated under AB 31 that the equity benefits were achieved. As important as it is to clearly state the goals, parallel requirements are as important: establishing clear criteria to measure progress, and assembling the data necessary to assess progress and make mid-course corrections. Only through the creation of constituencies of accountability can government actors or the private actors they are regulating be obliged to conform to standards adopted by the people.

Understanding the conditions upon which environmental programs are built is the just the first step in achieving this goal. Pretending that it doesn’t matter is no longer acceptable.

Click here for the essay Impact of Carbon Pricing Schemes on Environmental Justice Communities by Gerald Torres, the Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, and City Project Director-Counsel Robert García.

Sun blotted out from the sky by 20,000 acre fire Santa Clarita climate change

Southern California sun blotted out from the sky by forest fire

National Park Service Gateway to Nature Center Sneak Preview #Find Your Park, The City Project

Western National Parks Association, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, National Park Service, US Forest Service, and California State Parks are hosting a Sneak Preview to the National Park Service’s Gateway to Nature Center on August 27, 2016, in celebration of the National Park Service’s Centennial.

This new center will bring the “parks to the people,” providing information and products about national parks, forests, and other public lands. Join us for a sneak preview of this new facility! There will be ranger talks, artisan demonstrations, Smokey Bear, live animals, and birthday cake.

Gateway to Nature: Sneak Preview

Saturday, August 27, 2016, 10:00am
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
430 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Click here for more information on the sneak preview of the Gateway to Nature Center.

El Pueblo Merced Theater and Masonic Hall, photo by The City Project


The City Project Encourages You to #FindYourPark #EncuentraTuParque with NPS Centennial Free Admission to all National Parks August 25-28.

Everyone in a National Park Centennial, National Recreation and Park Association article by The City Project

National Park Service Healthy Parks, Healthy People The Values at Stake

Mayan Tikal National Park Guatemala

Tikal National Park on The City Project’s flickr gallery

In the heart of the lush Maya Jungle in northern Guatemala lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. Tikal National Park, the first in Guatemala, contains superb temples, palaces, and public squares, and remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside. Tikal is home to an impressive diversity of flora and fauna across its various terrestrial and freshwater habitats.

Tikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the criteria:

  • Tikal National Park is an outstanding example of the art and human genius of the Maya. . . .
  • Tikal National Park has unique elements that illustrate the historic, mythical and biographic data of the Tikal dynastic sequence. These exceptional records span over 577 years (292 b. C. to 869 a. D.) and register the lives of 33 rulers who reigned over a vast territory of the ancient Maya world. . . .
  • The archaeological remains at Tikal National Park reflect the cultural evolution of Mayan society from hunter-gathering to farming, with an elaborate religious, artistic and scientific culture. . . .
  • The landscape mosaic comprising savannas, lush forests, wetlands and various freshwater systems is part of the Maya Forest, one of the conservation gems of Central America, hosting a rich diversity of flora and fauna as a result of a remarkable evolution of species and ecological communities. . . .
  • The Petén Region and the Maya Forest are home to an impressive diversity of flora and fauna across its various terrestrial and freshwater habitats. More than 2000 higher plants, including 200 tree species have been inventoried. Palms, epiphytes, orchids and bromeliads abound in the various forest types. The more than 100 mammals include over 60 species of bat, five species of felids – Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay and Jaguarundi, as well as Mantled Howler Monkey and many endangered species such as Yucatan Spider Monkey and Baird’s Tapir. The more than 330 recorded bird species include the near-threatened Ocellated Turkey, Crested Eagle and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, as well as the vulnerable Great Curassow. Of the more than 100 reptiles the endangered Central American River Turtle, Morelet’s Crocodile and 38 species of snakes stand out.

Guatemala Justice / En Español


Sam García #worldphotoday Obama on the Malecón

President Obama on the Malecon backlit by the Caribbean sky, March 21, 2016

President Barack Obama on the Malecón, back lit by the Caribbean sky, Habana, Cuba

Samuel D. García, Stanford ’18, The City Project photos.

Nic Garcia #worldphotoday 2016 High Line Water

High Line Park Water New York City

High Line Park New York City. Photo by Nic Garcia.

Nic Garcia The City Project photos.

NPS Centennial Free Admission to all National Parks August 25-28. The City Project Encourages You to #FindYourPark #EncuentraTuParque

Photo of Tunnel View by Cesar De La Vega from his first trip to Yosemite in May 2016

The National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 on August 25, 2016. To celebrate their Centennial, NPS will offer free admission to all 412 national parks from August 25 through August 28.

The City Project was present earlier this year at Yosemite National Park when President Obama said, “We’ve got kids all across this country who never see a park. There are kids who live miles from here who have never seen this. We’ve got to change that, because the beauty of the national park system is it belongs to everybody.”

The centennial should serve as a watershed moment to kick off increased efforts by NPS to ensure all people know firsthand that public lands belong to everyone. To achieve this, we must diversify access to and support for our national park system so that the makeup of park visitors and staff reflects the heritage and diversity of our country.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), half of the employees in park service leadership positions are scheduled to retire by 2016. 75% of NPS employees are at least 40 years old and only 7% are 29 or younger. Additionally, a recent survey found that 80% of NPS’ roughly 22,000 employees are white. In 2015, 307 million people visited our national parks. The majority of visitors are non-Hispanic white (78% in 2008-2009) and near retirement age. The Census Bureau projects that non-white will make up the majority of the U.S. population within 25 years. It is clear that in order to thrive in the next century, NPS must establish better relationships with the U.S.’s increasingly diverse population.

The City Project recently published an article in the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)’s magazine highlighting NPS’s efforts to begin to address this diversity issue. We presented our own recommendations on how NPS can do more, including breaking down barriers to park access for people of color.

Every agency or group that has spoken on the issue has endorsed Transit to Trails as a best practice to get people to parks now. Transit to Trails programs like Every Kid in a Park are effective short-term means to provide both transportation and education to help people feel welcome in and ownership of our parks.

NPS programs should address the full range of values parks offer people. These include (1) fun, health and human development; (2) climate and conservation; (3) economic values, jobs, contracts and displacement; (4) culture, history, art and spiritual values; and (5) equal justice, democracy and healthy living for all.

Make your plans now to enjoy one of California’s 27 national parks next weekend. And don’t forget to bring your kids, nieces, and nephews. Please visit or to begin your adventure. Happy exploring!

6 Ways Climate Change Harms Health in CA, Public Health Institute, The City Project

The new infographic created by Public Health Institute and the Center for Climate Change and Health describes how climate change is already contributing to California’s rising rates of disease, poverty, and death. Find out how you can take action now.

Samuel David García, Latinos and Climate Change: Opinions, Impacts, and Responses (GreenLatinos and The City Project Policy Report 2016)

Climate is a civil rights and moral issue as well as a health, economic, and environmental issue

Lake Atitlán Perseid Meteor Showers

I turned 21 on Lake Atitlán, a volcanic lake in Guatemala that is sacred to the Maya.  Lined with volcanoes, Atitlán is perhaps the most beautiful mountain lake in the world. Lush tropical forest covers much of the mountains down to the water. Atitlán, a mile above sea level in Guatemala’s Sierra Madre highlands, is bounded by three volcanoes on the southern shore. Each volcano rises almost two miles high.

Atitlán is sacred to the Maya. It is said Atitlán is an energy vortex, one of the few in the world along with Machu Picchu and the Egyptian pyramids. Seven villages of the Cakchiquel and Tzutujil Maya surround Atitlán. An ancient Mayan city lies submerged in the lake. “Atitlán” means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Guatemala means “land of many forests” or “land of many trees” in Quiché.

There are no roads connecting many of the villages. People go from village to village by boat or trails along the shore and up and down the mountains. The Maya grow corn and coffee in land cleared from the rain forest.

The spectacular natural beauty of the lake, volcanoes, and jungle in Atitlán is marred by poverty, the history of genocide in Guatemala over the past 60 years, and mass deaths from hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

I turned 21 in Panajachel, a town on the north shore of Atitlán. I was mesmerized skipping one stone after another across the glassy waters as the sun set and the sky and lake grew dark at twilight. Other people on the beach called me “El Loco Tira Piedras” that night.

There was no moon and no clouds that night. Atitlán is remote and high with no light pollution. I lay on my back with a woman on the beach staring up. More stars than you can imagine filled the sky. Constellations and the Milky Way were easy to see. Shooting stars streaked across the sky almost non-stop. Far away lightning storms silhouetted the mountain ranges surrounding Atitlán. From time to time thunder bolts would light up the sky above us. The surface of the lake was as smooth as a mirror that windless night. Reflections on the water doubled the number of stars and shooting stars and thunderbolts we saw in the sky. The silhouette of a lone Mayan man in a flat canoe glided silently across the lake in the dark. The stars and lightning bolts and thunder seemed like a mystical Mayan ritual. A cosmic, hallucinogenic light show. A giant pinball game in the sky.

I learned later that there is no better place in the world than Atitlán to see the annual Perseid meteor showers in early August each year. I returned to Atitlán last week.

-Robert García

“A breathtaking description by @Robert_Garcia of going home 2 the world’s most beautiful lake” @DrHarGold

“Que narrativa tan hermosa y descriptiva senti estar ahi me llevaste a ese lugar, gracias Robert.” Raul Macías What a beautiful and descriptive narrative, I felt like I was there, you took me to this place, thank you Robert

First Black Woman Swimmer Wins Olympic Gold Overcoming History of Discrimination against People of Color in Pools


Civil rights activists “wade in” on a St. Augustine, Florida beach in 1964.

Stanford swimmer Simone Manuel’s gold medal in the woman’s freestyle in Río revives the history of discrimination against people of color in pools and beaches in the US. While mainstream media generally portrays this as a black white issue, there has been discrimination against Latinos, African Americans, and Asians in the US.

Thus for example Black people were not allowed in the pool in many municipal parks, such as Centinella Park in Inglewood, CA. At other pools, such as the Plunge in Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians were permitted to swim only on “International Day” on Wednesdays between 2 pm and 5 pm. The pool was drained, cleaned, and refilled at the end of the day. Segregation at this and other pools throughout Los Angeles continued through the 1940s. There were some places of refuge, however. Central Playgrounds on Central Avenue in Los Angeles allowed African Americans to swim and play sports. Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles was a popular destination for Black youth from South Central and Latino youth from East Los Angeles, who could take the Pacific Electric railroad to reach one of the few parks where they were not feared, despised, and excluded.

The Bath House, a public pool located along the beach in Santa Barbara, CA, was only open to whites. Although there was no actual written rule prohibiting any other people from using the pool, it was well known among residents that people of color were not welcome. As was the case with other discriminatory practices in Santa Barbara, whether or not a person was allowed into the pool was based on skin color. Lighter-skinned Latinos were not prevented from swimming while darker-skinned Latinos and African Americans were excluded.

When Manhattan Beach was incorporated in 1912, the city set aside a two-block area on the ocean for African Americans. Charles and Willa Bruce, a black couple, bought the land and built the only beach resort in the Los Angeles area that allowed blacks. Bruces’ Beach offered bathhouses, outdoor sports, dining, and dancing to African Americans who craved a share of Southern California’s good life. As the area’s black population increased, so did non-Hispanic white opposition to the black beach. Manhattan Beach, with the help of the Ku Klux Klan, drove out the Black community and closed down Bruces’ Beach in the 1930s. City officials forced Black property owners to sell at prices below fair market value through condemnation proceedings. The nearby Peck’s Pier – the only pier that allowed blacks – and the surrounding Black neighborhood were destroyed. Black Angelenos were then relegated to the blacks-only section of Santa Monica beach at Pico Boulevard known as the Inkwell. In 2006, Manhattan Beach commemorated the struggle of the Bruce family and the African American community by renaming the park at the historical site as Bruces’ Beach Park.

See Robert García and Seth Strongin, Healthy Parks, Schools and Communities: Mapping Green Access and Equity for Southern California, pages 120-21 Policy Report (The City Project 2011).

Dick Cavett concludes his New York Times review of the book Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America by Jeff Wiltse: “I felt I’d had a good course in America. All its traits, fine and lamentable are found here — the most vivid being, alas, our stinking racism.”

Parks, pools, schools, and beaches have been core civil rights issues since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. In Watson v. City of Memphis, 373 U.S. 526 (1963), for example, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld equal access to public parks and recreation programs on equal justice grounds under Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (separate schools are inherently unequal and violate the Equal Protection Clause).

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