Farmworkers, Community Organizers, and Latinx power: How Communities are Fighting Against the Climate Crisis in California

by Valentina Stackl

January 11, 2022

Right now, millions of people in California are living with toxic oil and gas drilling in their neighborhoods. Watch our new episode of Planeta G to learn more and take action!

Planeta G is back for Season 2 where we’re telling the real stories of powerful Latinx activists, farmworkers, and other community members, who are fighting on the ground to stop the devastating impacts of oil extractions near their homes.

This season, we are doing things a little differently. First, my comadre, my ride or die, my Planeta G co-host from episodes past, Crystal Mojica, has moved on to another job. It won’t be the same without her, but we wish her the best of luck on her journey! 

But, that is not the only difference this season. Instead of going broad (check out our season 1 playlist where we talked about everything from vegan empanadas to art) we decided to go deep– and focus on the Latinx fight against the climate crisis in California. California is almost 40% Latinx (that is over 15 million people!). It is also where so much of the country’s agriculture and oil production happens, often dangerously close to schools, homes, and hospitals.

How did we get here? Well, we were so inspired by our last episode of season one with Nalleli Cobo and Representative Barragan, that we wanted to know more! Also, I started my career in the farmworker movement, and spent some formative years at the UFW compound in Tehachapi, California and in the fields with farmworkers near Bakersfield. I wanted to know more about the struggle against extractivism, especially the role farmworkers play in that fight. Facing the simultaneous challenges of fossil fuel racism and being in the center of the climate crisis (experiencing extreme heat, fires, climate migration), California farmworker communities are facing interconnected and deliberate capitalist crises on all fronts. This mini series explores what is happening and why, and what we can do about it.

In this first episode, I invited my new friend Mercedes Macias who is an organizer at the Sierra Club, and who was born and raised in Kern County, California, one of the main oil producing regions in California. In this episode, we learn about what the oil fields in California look like, what the adverse health effects are of living near extraction sites, and how Californians are dealing with extreme heat, fires, and other climate crises in their everyday lives. 

Oil Drilling in Your Backyard 

Statewide, 2.7 million Californian’s live within 1 kilometer (3,200 feet) of an oil drilling site, and of those 69% are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color. Late in 2021, California Governor Newsom announced there will be a rule implemented requiring a 3200 foot setback distance for new oil extraction sites. While this is good news, frontline communities are still dealing with the repercussions of existing sites of oil drilling right next to their homes and schools. 

Climate Migration and Toxic Living Conditions 

The Bakersfield area is home to many climate refugees and agricultural workers escaping harsh conditions in Central America and Mexico. And yet, they are often working in just as bad conditions in California. From the toxic air quality because of oil and gas extraction sites near agricultural fields and homes, to harmful pesticides and contaminated water.

Que Caliente! 

With increasing fires and heat waves, communities who live and work in California (like farmworkers) put their lives at risk every day and many do so with  little or no protection. Smoke from climate-driven fires are connected to so many illnesses and hospitalizations.

Watch the episode to learn more:

So what can you do? Right now millions of Californians are living with toxic oil and gas drilling in their backyards. If you live in California, call on Governor Newsom to stand up for the strongest possible protection for communities living near drilling. 

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Valentina Stackl

By Valentina Stackl

Valentina Stackl is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural communications specialist and storyteller. As Senior Communications Officer, Valentina works on Democracy (including criminalization of protest) and Climate for media, storytelling, and other communications projects.

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