Environmental justice advocates may be feeling discouraged as they watch the Trump administration dissemble regulations piece by piece.
However, each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize winners remind us that activism can start with one person.
The 2017 awardee from North America is mark! Lopez, a 32-year-old community organizer from East Los Angeles.
Lopez, who received a degree in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz and a Master's from Cal State Northridge, came to his calling early. Raised in a family where his parents and grandparents were advocates in defense of their neighborhood, he attended rallies and marches alongside them.
East Los Angeles is described by Lopez as a "hardworking, family-driven community." It is also a frontline zone that is oversaturated with industrial sites, heavily trafficked freeways, and emissions emanating from port related cargo transports. School, homes, playgrounds and parks are in immediate proximity to these sources of air pollution.
To make matters worse, in 2000, Exide Technologies took possession of a battery recycling plant in Vernon. The smelter, eight decades old, was made operative skipping needed repairs and improvements. They functioned with temporary permits and collected numerous violations .
The equivalent of forty truckloads of lead-acid car batteries per day was processed. Fumes included arsenic. The lead dust was pervasive; 7 million pounds were released into the air. Samples revealed lead to be at a "hazardous level."
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