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 New to Planet Harmony? Let us introduce ourselves, we are an environmental news site from the National Science Foundation and Public Radio International’s Living on Earth.  We cover the environment and health issues that affect black and brown communities- but we can’t do it ourselves.  Watch and find out how you can help us tell the stories that matter to you.

For the past month Living on Earth has been featuring stories from our Planet Harmony. They’ve broadcast reports from all over the country about communities often under-represented in environmental decision-making. Well, today, one of our Planet Harmony reporters has some thoughts on the importance of bringing more voices to environmental conversation.

HAHESY: Hey this is Mwende Hahesy and I’m sitting here next to the Pacific Ocean on Westcliffe Beach, in Santa Cruz, California. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist; it’s just the state of the environment has a lot to do with the health of my family and friends. The health of a community can be measured through the health of its environment. And to me, no other community lives up to this more than the one I grew up in.

I was raised in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. When you drive through the Valley, as we like to call it, you pass through an endless succession of alfalfa fields, orange trees and dairies. It’s a pastoral piece of Americana. On the flip side, the Valley has some of the highest rates of obesity and childhood asthma in the country. And these rates are even worse for people of color. So then I have to take a step back and remind myself to give things a second look.

When I was a kid, I had severe asthma. But I was hardly a special case. I remember my daily midday asthma treatment at school. I would stand in line outside the nurse’s office and wait with at few other kids who were almost exclusively Latino.

We never really thought much of it; this was simply a fact of life. But the older I got, the more this general acceptance bugged me. The Valley was my home but it made me sick. Now that I’m older I see all the signs around me: the thick layer of smog on the horizon and the crop dusters that drop pesticides on fields near housing developments. Valley residents are unhealthy because of these very things. Why wasn’t anyone angry?

Planet Harmony has created a space. Now we can follow underrepresented communities’ struggles and accomplishments in environmental and health issues across the country and the globe.

YOUNG: Mwende Hahesy reports for Planet Harmony. Planet Harmony welcomes all and pays special attention to issues affecting communities of color. Check out more from Mwende and contribute your own thoughts, ideas and stories at My Planet Harmony dot com. That’s My Planet Harmony dot com.

mwende pH.mp3 941.4 KB