Behind the Green Curtain

Guest post by Herman Gallegos, John Gamboa, and Robert Apodaca The world needs to know that not only is California our nation’s leader in tackling climate change — it also leads in homelessness, poverty, and a lack of housing. We have the highest percentage and highest number of homeless and poor people of any state in our nation: 9 million Californians, including 2 million children, are poor. Notwithstanding our “progressive liberal” reputation, our housing, homelessness, and poverty crisis are not color blind – the victims are disproportionately Latinos and African Americans. Decades of progress in minority home ownership, and housing-induced poverty, have been wiped out in California. And today’s new darling of the liberal elite is California’s climate program. We believe the world’s climate leaders also need to know that California’s climate program is anything but progressive; in fact, it is comprised of stunningly regressive measures that worsen global warming while also worsening the housing, poverty, and homeless crisis in our communities of color. In reality, California is not a true climate leader. Our environmental elites brag about reaching greenhouse gas reduction targets early; but, in fact, our climate leaders only rely on greenhouse gas metrics that favor the wealthy and punish the working poor. For example, we count as greenhouse gas “reductions” our substantial out-migration of California’s working class families (and jobs) to states like Texas and Arizona that automatically double (or more) per capita global greenhouse gas emissions. More “magic” greenhouse gas math applies to even the simplest — and normally locally sourced — low cost building materials, like wood and cement, that we desperately need to build the 3 million homes needed to solve our housing crisis. Closing a local cement plant means a greenhouse gas reduction for California, but producing and transporting cement from other states and countries with lower environmental, worker protection, and civil rights standards has zero greenhouse gas emissions under California’s climate programs. The products consumed by our wealthiest are also given a greenhouse gas pass: our regulators entirely exclude greenhouse gas emissions from consumer products, luxury imports, and plane trips — to name just a few examples. Our leaders invent new housing costs and obstacles to pile onto the minorities, millennials, and students most harmed by the housing crisis. One recent example? Requiring subsidized solar rooftops on single family homes that are entirely unaffordable to the hardworking Californians who teach our schools, nurse our sick, and fight our fires. We make those without solar panels subsidize those wealthy enough to afford new housing, and continuously raise housing costs even though we already pay 250% times more for a house than average Americans. What else? We charge working class families in our poorest regions like the Central Valley more than $500 per month in electricity costs. None of our climate elites have even bothered to acknowledge how much more we’ll pay under this year’s headline-grabbing 100% “renewable” energy mandate — but other experts confirm it will cost us more (a lot more). We impose these ever-escalating housing and electricity costs on the same inland California communities that house the millions of workers who cannot afford to live near to Bay Area and coastal jobs centers, and are forced to “drive until they qualify” for housing they can afford, in gridlocked commutes of three or more hours each day. California’s environmental elite have erected the Green Curtain, where to question the policies and discrimination caused by our environmental policies is a heresy. But this is the truth: our environmental policies discriminate against California minorities, and they amount to racist civil rights violations. We have turned to the courts to force California’s climate leaders to respect our civil rights, to disclose the economic and environmental impacts of their climate policies on our communities, and to prioritize greenhouse gas reduction measures that actually reduce global greenhouse gas instead worsening our poverty, homelessness, and housing crises. We ask world leaders to hold California’s climate leaders politically accountable for their overheated “hype” and their civil rights wrongs.
Note: This is a guest blog post and does not reflect the views of Hispanics in Philanthropy. The authors are each distinguished veteran civil rights leaders and members of The 200, which was founded to restore home ownership to California’s minority communities. Herman Gallegos is an emeritus Board Member of HIP and the founder of National Council of La Raza, now UnidosUS. John Gamboa is president of California Community Builders. Robert Apodaca is CEO of ZeZen Advisors.