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Three decades of environmental activism

United States
San Diego Union Tribune
Lily Leung

Three decades ago, Diane Takvorian branched out from her work helping the poor into the then-nascent environmental movement.

Since then, her work has prompted landmark reforms, from shutting down a chrome-plating business next to Barrio Logan homes to banning lead-laced candy statewide.

The cofounder of the Environmental Health Coalition also became the inspiration for the green community in San Diego County. Takvorian served as a model for other activists, as they appreciated her early successes and ability to unify unlikely partners: businesses, the working-class and elected leaders.

Since Takvorian’s coalition started, several other major environmental nonprofits have emerged, including San Diego Coastkeeper, the San Diego River Park Foundation and Wildcoast. This month, supporters are celebrating the coalition’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s hard to imagine an environmental community without Diane,” said Bruce Reznik, a close ally and executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper. “She was able to build the organization from nothing, from the ground up. Back then, nobody talked about the environment.”

The intersection of environmental justice, civil rights and health stemmed from Takvorian’s realization that low-income minorities tend to be the hardest-hit by environmental hazards.

Children in Barrio Logan, a largely low-income Hispanic area along San Diego Bay, had experienced high rates of asthma likely caused by pollution from port trucks. The coalition’s work led to the rerouting of trucks away from neighborhoods, and in turn, better living conditions.

Jim Peugh, conservation chairman of the San Diego Audubon Society, said the coalition is successful because it often collaborates with other members of the environmental community and other stakeholders. Peugh, a colleague of 20 years, said the coalition was key in creating a federal wildlife preserve at South San Diego Bay.

Takvorian’s work with the coalition reached a high point in May, when President Barack Obama appointed her to a commission that deals with ecological issues in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The 15-member panel discusses ways to promote ecosystem protection and sustainable economic development.

Nonprofit experts link the steady growth of environmental groups over the decades to increased education and interest in global warming and sustainability. But they also say there’s a long way to go.

At Coastkeeper, Reznik said San Diego County historically has had a smaller environmental community than other major cities because of a lack of support from foundations.

Reznik and others said the best way to develop that base is to cultivate relationships with government agencies and nonprofit groups outside of the environmental arena. He said that’s been a key to Takvorian’s success.

“She’s able to build coalitions and work across nontraditional aisles,” Reznik said.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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