In the San Francisco Bay area, where the technology industry is booming, rapidly growing economic and social inequities displace and disenfranchise working class residents and communities of color. As of 2015, San Francisco has the highest rents in the US overall, and between January 2014 and January 2015, across the Bay from San Francisco, the City of Oakland had the second fastest rising rents in the country. Community instability is further exacerbated by the impacts of the ecological/climate crisis, such as rising food costs caused by drought, and preventable diseases caused by poverty, pollution, rising temperatures, and limited access to affordable, healthy food. Young people of color in the Bay Area are among the hardest hit by this confluence of economic, environmental, and racial disparities, bracketed by a statewide trend of educational divestment, and a war on drugs that targets communities of color, feeding the massive prison system in California.
Therefore, young people of color have a vital role to play in advancing a climate justice and resilience vision in which communities grow their capacity to meet essential needs, while addressing the root causes of the crisis. The Map Your Future Toolkit created by Rooted in Resilience is designed to support youth organizers in conducting community-driven assessments of climate vulnerabilities and community strengths and assets. Envisioning long-term climate solutions based on community-derived data, young people reimagine how resources and land can be managed differently for everyone to live a healthy and dignified life. Using community surveys, paper maps and simple GIS applications to map resilience assets in their own communities, youth organizers identify and propose potential job opportunities that could be created from public investments, and the policy changes needed to ramp up neighborhood resiliency. Ultimately, the community-based research and recommendations garnered can be used for more effective and trust-based collaborations between community groups, planners, and policy makers. Rooted in Resilience recognizes that these recommendations, unless taken up and advocated by community-based organizations like PODER, who have organized with residents to build community power, are unlikely to result in tangible change.
People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (PODER)---the only Latinx base-building, environmental justice organization in San Francisco---implemented the Map Your Future toolkit with youth leaders as part of their PUEBLOTE campaign. The Campaign is designed to reclaim neighborhood assets, like parks and other public lands, to meet the needs of low-income residents of San Francisco’s Excelsior and Mission districts. In collaboration with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), PODER created a new community farm on SFPUC-owned land, demonstrating SFPUC’s commitment to implementing environmental justice and land-use policies adopted in 2013. As part of PODER’s Urban Campesinx program, they converted a five acre area adjacent to Crocker Amazon Park into a thriving food-producing farm. The Farm provides space for community members to come together and grow their own food and medicine. Additionally, in order to steward the farm collectively, the Urban Campesinx young adult participants have created their own governance structure.
As a part of the community assessment and subsequent farm development process, young people at PODER created a community survey, going door to door in the neighborhood to ask community members about their priorities, concerns, and ideas for building resilience. Community mapping conducted through the Map Your Future Project built on the knowledge that Urban Campesinx had about the park’s importance as a community resilience asset. At the end, they created a comprehensive map of existing community assets and key climate related vulnerabilities paired with options for solutions. Importantly, these clearly articulated resilience strategies were informed and led by young people and residents. Some of the key policy recommendations that resulted from this process included: support community organizing and people powered planning, prioritize the use of public lands to meet the needs of the communities most in need in San Francisco, ensure all people have access to healthy organic food systems, develop projects that create a closed loop economy and local jobs, and secure enough affordable housing is built to house all the families in need and those being displaced.
When residents lead their own community vulnerability and asset assessments, it increases resident capacity to participate in climate resilience planning and implementation, and lays the groundwork for culturally relevant solution sets that meet real community needs and advance community visions.