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A New Dawn for Endless Opportunities

By Eddie Torres. Policy Coordinator

“I believe in living. I believe in birth. I believe in the sweat of love and in the fire of truth. And I believe that a lost ship, steered by tired seasick sailors, can still be guided home to port.”- Assata Shakur

In recent years there has been growing recognition of the interconnectedness between environmental justice and the carceral system. In the Inland Empire, no one is spared from the horrendous air quality-ranked last in the country, especially among those who lack the channels to advocate for themselves while incarcerated. Many carceral institutions are built within 3 miles of superfund sites. Superfund sites are areas the Environmental Protection Agency deems as highly contaminated with hazardous materials and chemicals. The IE is home to 9 superfund sites. One, for example, is the George Air Force Base located in the High Desert. The now-closed military base contaminated the local water supply with toxic chemicals that would take hundreds of years to clean up. Compounding this environmental injustice and furthering our economic dependence on carceral institutions, the federal government and local city officials built three carceral facilities including two immigrant detention centers-within the 3-mile range of the superfund site.

In order for the Inland Empire to reach environmental justice and fulfill its economic potential, it must move beyond its economic reliance on carceral institutions. Not only does this reliance pose a threat to our economic longevity but to the region’s health and livelihood as well. The IE is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. As it continues to grow, stakeholders and community leaders must ask themselves if our economic reliance on warehousing and carceral institutions is sustainable. Our community deserves more than warehouses and prisons. 

For decades, the IE has long been plagued by a severe lack of resourcing and funding from the state and federal government which has opened the door for extractive-minded corporations to exploit our land and our people. Our region will simply not be able to reach its full potential by being bound to low-paying, hazardous, and blood-sucking corporations like Amazon and GEO Group, the world’s largest private prison corporation. Now, in the face of unprecedented climate change, we must seek and find alternatives that have the best interest in mind for our communities. Our communities demand a Just Transition into a more sustainable and low-carbon economy that is fair, inclusive, and beneficial for all members of society – especially those who are historically marginalized and disadvantaged.

There are several reasons why Just Transitions are beneficial and ideal for the IE: 

Inclusive decision-making: A just transition involves engaging and including all stakeholders in the decision-making processes. This leads to more comprehensive and inclusive solutions that consider the needs of all communities, including those who may be disproportionately affected by climate change and extractive economies. 

Social equity: A just transition ensures that the benefits of transitioning to a sustainable economy are distributed equitably across society. This helps to address historic and ongoing social injustices, reduce inequality, and build more resilient communities. 

Reduced resistance: Just transitions reduce resistance to sustainability efforts by addressing the concerns of those who may feel left behind or marginalized by the changes. By engaging and including all stakeholders, we assure that the Just Transition plan has the best interest since it was curated by all those affected by the plan.

Just Transition Plans have been adopted by municipalities and cities across the country. They are akin to Green New Deal initiatives with a stronger emphasis on frontline workers. I encourage readers to visit this website to learn more about Just Transitions. Together we can build a regional economy that works for the working class and keeps our community safe. We owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and future generations to come. As we continue in this 3 part blog series, we will take a look at the City of Adelanto and model a Just Transition Plan from the city’s carceral economy to a regenerative one. Thank you for reading, and be sure to follow our social media platforms and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated! 

I’ll end with this powerful quote by Ella Baker, “Oppressed people, whatever their level of formal education, have the ability to understand and interpret the world around them, to see the world for what it is, and move to transform it.