By Rick Polintan
There’s an old Filipino saying: You will not harvest anything if you did not plant anything.
The need to take care of our surroundings and the understanding that the resources that sustain life is scarce has been well understood in Asian and Pacific Islander cultures for centuries. You can see it in these Chinese proverbs:
The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.
One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.
Native Hawaiians have a deep respect for the land — He ali‘i ka ‘aina; he kauwa ke kanaka / The land is a chief; humans are its servants.
The common theme here is that we are all the products of our environment. Destroying what surrounds us destroys ourselves.
By nearly all measures, we as humans are profoundly failing at being good servants of our fragile ecosystem. But climate change can feel like a big problem, overwhelming our ability to take action that can have real and lasting impacts.
Well, you now have the chance to do just that.
Initiative 1631 is an incredible opportunity to reduce pollution and invest directly in communities — like the Chinatown-International District — that have been the most impacted by climate pollution.
How bad is the air in the C-ID? Burning fossil fuels fills our air with poisonous gases that accumulate in the highest amounts near major roadways like I-5 and I-90. More than 75 percent of the potential cancer risk is from diesel particulate matters. The total potential cancer risk from diesel particulate matter is approximately 400 per million people.
I-1631 is designed with equity as a core principle for transitioning to cleaner forms of energy. If passed, major users of fossil fuels will pay into a fund based on the amount of pollution they produce. Not only does this create a tremendous incentive for polluters to find cleaner ways of doing business, but it generates funds that can be spent to make our communities cleaner.
There are so many ways this funding could potentially benefit the C-ID. The electrification of port truck, ships, trains and other diesel-burning equipment; more effective transit, cash rebates to trade in old, dirty cars for new and used cleaner models, electric shared vehicles, and electric charging stations; energy-efficient affordable housing with rooftop solar; and more urban vegetation.
Passage of I-1631 will also make our waters healthier for our fish, funding green infrastructure to prevent the overflow of sewage and other pollution as climate change creates more storms.
This crisis is hurting our loved ones everywhere, as rising seas and typhoons batter the Asian Pacific Coast and islands. I-1631 gives me hope that we can improve the health of our communities by using clean energy to reduce pollution where it is worst and showing the entire world how to do the same.
While a large coalition of community groups led by people of color have dedicated itself to passing I-1631, out-of-state oil companies have put in more than $21 million to fight these efforts. The polluters are spending a fortune to ensure they can continue polluting without consequence.
As Native Hawaiians would say, this is not pono — righteous, fair, balanced, moral.
Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono — The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. This is your chance to make things pono. Vote yes on I-1631.
Rick Polintan is President of APACE (Asian Pacific Americans for Civic Empowerment).