The mission of Literacy for Environmental Justice is to foster an understanding of the principles of environmental justice and urban sustainability in our young people in order to promote the long-term health of our communities.
What We Do:
We provide paid internships to Bayview Hunters Point youth in environmental health, natural ecology, and food security, and we offer free hands-on environmental educational programs to schools, colleges and youth programs.
How We Define "Environmental Justice":
There are many working definitions of environmental justice, and all of them are accurate. For the sake of simplicity, we say that environmental justice is the right of all people to have equal access to their basic needs. This includes safe energy, healthy food, clean air and water, open space, non-toxic communities, and equitable educational and employment opportunities. At LEJ, we see these things as basic human rights.
Bayview Hunters Point (BVHP) is predominantly a low-income community of color which has historically served as the dumping ground for San Francisco's most toxic industries. Fifty percent of community residents are African-American, twenty-five percent are Asian-Pacific Islander, fifteen percent are Latino, and ten percent are white. More than fifty percent of area households are considered low or very low income.
While one third of the Bayview's residential population is comprised of children –– the highest rate in the city –– there are over 325 toxic sites in this six-square-mile community. Two dozen schools and childcare centers are located within three miles of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, a federal Superfund site. BVHP residents are hospitalized more often than residents of other SF neighborhoods for nearly every disease. Twenty percent of children have asthma, and the prevalence of chronic illness is four times the state average.
Compounding these environmental health hazards, 15-20% of the Bayview's African American and Latino/a residents suffer from diabetes, 40-50% are obese, and 20-25% smoke. One of the major reasons for our community’s poor health is the lack of access to fresh food. Corner stores are many people's primary food source, because of supermarket flight and lack of access to reliable public transportation.
Primary environmental justice struggles in Bayview Hunters Point at this time include:
Cleaning up the Hunters Point Power Plant site;
- Remediation and redevelopment at the Hunters Point Shipyard; and
- Increasing healthy food access throughout the community.
One of our greatest concerns is how to improve conditions for people in the Bayview without gentrifying the neighborhood –– making sure that the people who have suffered the consequences of all these years of neglect aren't driven out by the higher prices of housing and services when they finally succeed in making things better.
Fortunately, there is fierce community involvement in all of these areas and we are moving forward together. However, the restoration of Bayview Hunters Point will take years, and our community's leadership must continue to re-generate. LEJ's role is to train a new generation of leaders to take their place at the forefront of the struggle for health and justice in the Bayview.