Conducted by Nawied Amin, Veronica Candelario, Kailin Storms, Daisy Flores and Olivia Equinoa. Brought to you by the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Committee (EAC)
Written below are the details and transcript of the California State University, Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) Environmental Affairs Committee (EAC) interview with Internship Student Coordinator Wendy Feng, who provides a woman of color’s perspective on climate change.
Name: Wendy Feng
Affiliation: Asian Pacific Islander Association (APIA) & Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3)
Terms to Know:
POC = People of Color
Global Majority is synonymous with POC
Cis = Cisgender; Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.
What does climate change mean to you?
“We need to raise awareness on climate change and on how it disproportionately affects POC communities. It happens 24/7. Even if nobody sees it physically acting, it is happening.”
How has climate change directly impacted you and your family in the present? How has it affected you/your family in the past?
“I am from Los Angeles (L.A.), so the wildfires definitely had a direct impact. My parents have been noticing that every year it gets hotter. Back in 2018, it was 106 degrees in September, but this year it was 110 in September. You feel a difference as the years go on, even on clear days it’s smoggy here [in L.A.], and the clearest days were during the shutdown due to COVID-19 when cars were not on the road as much. My parents came here in the 90’s, so I don’t have much of a comment on the past.”
“I am Chinese-American, so I feel a personal connection with the disproportionate effects of that community specifically. I notice that a lot of climate data is unequal because it showcases Asian countries as the largest producer of carbon dioxide, but fails to mention western countries that pay to have factories there. There was a lot of hostility and blame placed on the Asian Pacific Islander American community due to the rhetoric President Trump used to address coronavirus.”
“There are many pieces of Asian American history that are missing from our curriculum. One example is the Watsonville Riots that happened in 1930. Although Watsonville is so close to CSUMB, it is a relatively unknown event to students, staff, and faculty. We don’t learn about important histories even if it’s right at our doorstep.”
What do you think is missing from the conversation (regarding climate change) as it pertains to POC?
“How POC do not have the same access to resources. For example, people who are undocumented live in fear. Because of the lack of diversity in languages, COVID-19 information was only distributed in English. Knowledge is power, but if it isn’t inclusive, then not everyone has the same ability to survive.”
“People who live more inland are more susceptible to increasing heat, which can be very damaging to health. Most people do not have air conditioning, and people that are homeless are at the hands of the environment around them, but nobody really talks about that. POC who live inland are also disproportionately affected by pollution.”
What are some contributions that you/your family make to better the planet?
“I have been vegan for four years. It’s a privilege, and I use my privileged access to food to be vegan. I recycle, I compost, I bring my reusable straw, I shop at second hand stores, I try not to buy things or be an excessive consumer. I’m mostly purchasing things from friends and people that deserve the money, such as small and local businesses. I don’t think I’ve purchased anything from a big brand in a few years. I’m very active in how I talk about the world, especially climate change.”
To what level of severity do you prioritize climate change?
“It’s pretty high up there, I’m really worried about this election’s outcome. I just feel so small sometimes. I do want to go into environmental policy, make it better, make it equitable. I try to educate my friends and people around me.”
Do you see people of color / the global majority as environmental champions?
“Definitely. Specifically, learning about Native people and how they irrigated and maintained the land. If I’m talking about people living in Asia, I’m sure at some point they were more environmental, but due to globalization, it is cheaper for them not to be. It’s kind of sad, how it’s been capitalized so much.”
Do you think that the process to become an environmental champion is equitable?
“I think in our society that if you are a cis white male it is more accessible than if you are POC or female. If you are POC and/or female, then there is a lot of fight against you, and you have to prove yourself as a voice of reason. In science, women need to prove their point although they are the most knowledgeable about their research. I definitely think in those areas, it needs to be equitable. We need to give a voice to these people who actually do live these experiences so that they can tell their stories. These groups need the opportunity to talk about it and make their voices heard.”