How climate change affects young californians –

Growing up in the heart of California’s Central Valley, I learned to appreciate the agricultural workers who work tirelessly to feed the nation, but living in Fresno also gave me another souvenir: severe acute asthma. I have been hospitalized more times than I can count for sudden-onset exasperations. Especially during the California fires, it’s not abnormal for me to feel as though I’m breathing through a thin red coffee straw.

Climate change, global warming, impending doom — call it what you like. But it’s real, it’s happening, and it’s all our fault. There are things we can do, however. Recycle. Ride a bike, or walk more. Plant trees. Buy local food. Eat less meat — go vegan. Support environmental acts and activists. Run for office! Educate yourself and others.

Coming from the Bay Area, I grew up worrying about the drought. My second-grade teacher was the first person to teach me about water conservation. I started to save water in a bucket while I waited for my shower water to warm up, and reuse it for watering plants. Then, when I was in middle school, California entered the worst drought in recorded history so saving water seemed even more urgent — and routine.

If I have to hold myself accountable for my water consumption, what are our politicians doing to hold corporate farms accountable for theirs? I’m literally saving droplets of water, but I can’t change how Big Agriculture operates. As I get older, I start to think: Is this climate change the new normal? This is more than just bad weather, and it’s all I’ve ever known.

I remember my mom in the ER with pneumonia a few years ago. Doctors provided my parents a remedy they couldn’t afford: Stop working in the fields to prevent exposure to pesticides. But there’s no escaping the fields — we’re surrounded by them. These same contaminants that are inescapable in my Coachella Valley community have been fed to the Salton Sea for years. Now that the sea is drying and has become a widely known environmental hazard, I know the impact is deadly.

Someone like me, who grew up in Richmond, can’t enjoy a casual day without having to drop what I’m doing and listen closely to unusual sounds or sirens, or take a moment to question the air I breathe when it starts to smell like rotten eggs, a smell close enough to compare to the smell of sulfur. Every so often, I step on a high pedestal to check up on the Chevron refinery to make sure the “steam” that is being released into the air isn’t a huge black cloud.

Big Oil, bought-out politicians and climate deniers should not be the ones who make decisions about our health and our climate. Programs like cap and trade are false solutions that increase climate problems like wildfires and droughts happening everywhere. Those of us who live on the front lines of our fossil-fuel economy, and our family members or friends who work within these polluting industries, are being impacted every single day.

I was born and raised in Sacramento, so I know the air quality is bad here. Sometimes there is so much smoke in the air, you can’t even see that far. And it can get really bad for your health — you definitely notice when you’re coughing a lot more. And because Sacramento is in a valley and shaped like a bowl, smoky air can stay there for a very long period of time.

One of my favorite ways to practice eco-friendly living is by thrifting and upcycling, that is, making new products from unwanted materials. I found this the perfect way to marry a love for fashion with a frugal budget and a moral responsibility to abstain from environmentally negligent fast-fashion. I love the process of upcycling so much that I decided to collaborate with my friend to create an upcycling brand called Freshcycle. As our brand grows, we hope to integrate an educational program where other youths can learn to up-cycle as well, thus creating an outlet for creativity that promotes a greener, cleaner world.