California Gov. Jerry Brown has described the increase in massive wildfires in his state as “the new normal.” ©NASA Earth Observatory

Big Oil, Big Heat, Big Problems: Three Stories from the Frontlines of Climate Change in California

Part 1: "At the end of the day, I can’t breathe for my daughter."

by Guest Blogger

California Governor Jerry Brown has the opportunity to show real climate leadership in his last few months in office. That’s why people all across the state are writing him — because inaction on addressing climate change can speak just as loud as meaningful steps in the right direction.

The climate is changing, and people around the world can feel it. Fossil fuel infrastructure – like refineries and oil fields – is not only part of climate change, it is deeply impacting local communities. California Governor Jerry Brown has the opportunity to show real climate leadership in his last few months in office. That’s why people across California are writing to Governor Brown to make sure he fully understands the impact of his action….and non-action. Over the next three weeks, we will be highlighting three stories that have been shared by Californians.


Governor Brown,

My name is Kimberly Trujillo, and I have a 19-year-old daughter named Jasmine Vilchis. My daughter has debilitating allergies and asthma. She’s been on intense medication since she was 8 years old, but nothing really helps — they’re all just temporary fixes. Expensive temporary fixes. One of her inhalers costs $300. We have to go to the emergency room 3 to 4 times a year, sometimes in the middle of the night — one of those three-hour visits cost over $7,000.

Kimberly Trujillo and her 19-year-old daughter Jasmine Vilchis.

There’s nothing I can do to help her except keep our house as allergen-free as possible. When she was younger we lived in Gilroy (California) in a newer apartment with central AC — that was the only thing that helped since it also filtered the air. But now we live in an older apartment in Union City and nothing helps. The air quality is terrible, and it’s getting hotter every year. The rising temperatures just exacerbate terrible air quality, and carbon pollution just contributes to the rising temperatures.

The medication that she’s taking is keeping her alive, but wreaking havoc on her body. It’s damaging her internal organs. And the side effects are serious. When they give her steroids she shakes, her heart rate increases, and she’s now at risk of having a heart attack at 19 years old.

When the weather is bad and the air quality gets worse, she sometimes has to take multiple breathing treatments a day — we have a breathing machine at home. But that doesn’t always work, and when it doesn’t, the only thing we can do is go to the emergency room. As her mother, I try to help her as much as possible but there’s only so much I can do to protect her. And at the end of the day, I can’t breathe for her.

My daughter can’t play sports, she can’t play outside, she can’t join the army like she wanted to. She’s missing out on so many things because of her physical ailments and the pollution we are living in. And it’s not just her, I see other children and elderly people facing the same challenges.

Governor Brown, please think about us not having clean air or clean water. Our bodies are 80% water — if we don’t have clean water we will die. If we don’t have clean air we will die. Our kids are our legacy and they are sick; if we don’t protect the earth, we don’t have a legacy. At this point, I don’t even want my kids to have children because I don’t want to think about what my grandkids will have to go through because of our inaction on cleaning up the planet.

Something drastic needs to happen now. We can’t just say we’re going to wait another 5 or 10 years. We have to do what’s right for our kids. You can’t eat or breathe money. We can’t leave anything for our children if we don’t leave them a clean planet.

Do you have a story of how climate change and oil and gas infrastructure has impacted you, your family, your community, or a place you like to visit? Share your story here!

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