Things That Matter

Eco-Anxiety Is Real And Compounded Each Year I Live In Fire Evacuation Zones

California is on fire. As I write this, nearly 100,000 acres have burned, or are currently burning in the last couple weeks alone. Within a 25 mile radius of my home in Los Angeles, three major fires are burning. My Nuyorican mom is frantic. The devastation caused to families who lost their homes is undeniably tragic. After California lost a historic 19,000 homes to wildfires last year, Gov. Newsom signed a $21 billion fund into law to help address the rising costs of wildfires on Californias.

Let me tell you that the mental health costs are immeasurable. I was evacuated from my home for 11 days last year. Though I was fortunate enough to return home to a house still standing, my mental health deteriorated from there. As I write this, a year later, I am four days into a voluntary evacuation order due to the Getty fire, and there’s a new word floating around: eco-anxiety.

Experts now believe that eco-anxiety may affect Americans more than the actual wildfires and hurricanes that break records year after year.

Credit: @Ted_Howze / Twitter

In 2017, a report on climate change issued by the American Psychological Association focused on the trauma caused by acute extreme weather events. It explicitly determined that people living in risk-prone areas, indigenous communities, communities of color, and other populations would be especially vulnerable to the mental health effects of climate change. “Communities are also less resilient when they are weakened by social stressors, such as racism, economic inequality, and environmental injustices,” the report concludes. Documentary After Maria illustrates how climate change has permanently altered the lives of Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed. Those that remained on the island have endured PTSD triggers in the following hurricane seasons that have otherwise just been part of normal life.

I am a woman with trauma. I am a lesbian with trauma. I am a race dysphoric Arab-Latina with trauma. It’s taken all the courage I have to admit that, last fire season, I was less resilient to the drama of a fire evacuation.

The power went out, and we had no cell signal to alert us to our mandatory evacuation orders.

Courtesy of Danielli Marzouca

When my girlfriend and I woke up that morning, it smelled like smoke, and the power was out. I decided to hike the dogs up to a higher point where we typically have cell service. It was there I saw the fire and learned that our electricity company had shut off power to prevent a fire like the one that sparked the Getty fire, which was as simple an event as a tree limb falling on a power line. We went home and took a *bath.* Eventually, a neighbor alerted us to the evacuation orders. I packed clothes for a couple of days, medication, passports, and the yucca. 

This is all new to me because I grew up in Florida. 

Credit: @PFA809 / Twitter

I didn’t know “fire season” was a thing until I moved to Topanga, nestled in the Santa Monica mountains. I come from Miami, Florida so I am familiar with hurricanes and grew up loving the then-moderate hurricane seasons. The weatherman would tell us which days we’d have off school, and as a kid with no responsibilities, it was all a little bit thrilling to hear the lightning crack above us, and be huddled as a family in a closet having playing school or misa.

As we sped down the canyon highway, we soberly slowed down to pass a car that had flipped over onto its hood, blocking the lane.

Credit: @_Mauriaaa / Twitter

Everything after the evacuation was objectively delightful. I was privileged enough to stay with my girlfriend’s family, who lived nearby, and they even had cable. We watched the news 24/7 looking for updates on our home. The Paradise fire became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. It killed 85 people who couldn’t escape in time. It was traveling at the rate of an entire football field per second. Soon, the thought that we were taking a bath, and eating mierda for hours before a frantic neighbor told us we were put on mandatory evacuation orders three hours prior, felt terrifying.

A week later, we returned to our home. The worst thing that happened was our food spoiled. We were incredibly lucky. However, that’s when my anxiety and stress levels skyrocketed. For a week straight, I would panic when my girlfriend came home late, even if it was just by ten minutes. I thought she got into a terrible car wreck. I didn’t want to leave the dogs at home for fear that an unstoppable fire would overtake them. Meanwhile, my girlfriend was emotionally unaffected. I felt incredibly alone and fell into a severe depression.

In just a couple of hours, our evacuation orders are expected to lift.

Credit: @kgcurtis / Twitter

I eventually obtained health insurance and got therapy for my anxiety, which has significantly dissipated. The truth is, when I first learned about climate change in my high school’s Environmental Science magnet program, I experienced severe anxiety. I learned I would live to see my south Florida childhood home become part of the ocean floor. I begged my parents to move us more inland, to Okeechobee at least. “Popps, that’s going to be ocean-front property some day. Please.”

I’ve learned that doing the step work to fight climate change and be fire prepared eases my eco-anxiety.

Credit: @Mark_DMcKinney / Twitter

I later learned that animal agriculture is the single greatest contributor to climate change, and went vegan. I vote for policies that protect our earth, and my life on it. This year, I know where to look for emergency alerts. Since we were put on evacuation orders, my car has been packed, facing out the driveway. We take turns staying home with the dog to prevent the worst from happening. I’m learning to accept the things I cannot change, and pray for courage to change the things I can. Once every emergency preparedness task is crossed off my list, there’s nothing I can do. The fires are closer to my girlfriend’s family’s house, and at this point in my financial life, we can’t afford to evacuate and stay in a hotel for peace of mind. This is it. This is how I’m learning to cope with eco-anxiety while surrounded by fire.

Most of the year, it feels like a privilege to look out my window and see lush, green trees, home to red-headed woodpeckers, glowing, yellow-eyed owls, and the neighborhood hawk. The few times over the years that we’ve seen bobcats and mountain lions, these mountains feel so wild, I remember just how wild and dangerous it is for all of us to live here.

READ: Taco Tuesday: LeBron James Dropped Three Thousand Dollars On Tacos To Feed California Fires First Responders

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A Long Beach Street Vendor Was Attacked And The Community Is Showing Up To Help Him

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A Long Beach Street Vendor Was Attacked And The Community Is Showing Up To Help Him

GoFundMe

In 2020, we saw several street vendors attacked while trying to make ends meet. As the pandemic drags on and people are desperate, the attacks on street vendors have not abated and a Long Beach street vendor is the latest victim.

A street vendor in Long Beach was brutally attacked while working.

@moisesthechosen1

please spread awareness and Hispanic Lives Matter 😭😭😭. It happened on LB Blvd and Burnett today. #vendor #mexican #awarness #hispanictiktok #help

♬ original sound – Moises Rodriguez

Gerardo Iván Olmeda Del Pilar, 22, was working as a street vendor in Long Beach when he was attacked by two people. The vendor, according to LA Taco, was later than usual in setting up after dropping of fellow street vendors on his way.

Del Pilar was at the intersection of Burnett Street and Long Beach Boulevard on Saturday Jan. 16 when it happened. The street vendor was approached by two men who seemed to be regular customers when they attacked.

“Everything was calm, then I want to say four hours passed when two men came towards me and like any other customer they asked me for an order of fruit,” Del Pilar told LA Taco

Del Pilar is not letting this stop him from what he has to do to survive.

Del Pilar has been a street vendor for a while. The man, who is from Veracruz, Mexico, was suckerpunched and attacked. According to LA Taco, Del Pilar was giving the men their order when one punched him in the chin to knock him down. They then both started to attack him until they got his wallet and ran away. The men stole $500 from him.

Del Pilar told the Long Beach Post that there was not much he could do while being attacked. He was left with a swollen face and horrific bumps on his face from the vicious attack.

Two friends have set up GoFundMe accounts to help Del Pilar out.

Both Alex Diaz and Marissa Gomez have set up GoFundMe pages to help the young man. Combined, the two GoFundMe pages have raised more than $10,000 and are still accepting donations to help Del Pilar.

“While he was cutting up their fruit, one man reached into his backpack and took out an object and used it to punch him in the face. They broke his nose and lumped up his face and then dragged and kicked him while he was on the floor,” reads Gomez’s GoFundMe. “This man was an innocent victim just trying to provide for his family. All donations will go to replace this man’s lost income. There is no such thing as a donation too small anything is appreciated.”

READ: Family Sets Up GoFundMe To Help Paletero In Chicago Retire

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

The world is racing to vaccinate everyone to put a stop to the relentless Covid-19 pandemic. In the U.S., states and counties are rolling out their own plans based on suggestions from health experts. California, home to the largest population of farmworkers, is making them a priority.

California has laid out their vaccination plan and farmworkers are being prioritized.

California is facing a relentless Covid-19 surge of infections, deaths, and hospitalizations. According to The New York Times, California has the second-highest level of infections per capita in the U.S. More than 30,000 people have died of Covid in California and the vaccination effort has been severely lagging.

California’s vaccination plan has been criticized for its very slow roll out.

According to the California Department of Public Health, more than 816,000 doses of the virus have been given to residents. There have been more than 2 million vaccine doses shipped to California. Currently, California, the most populated state in the country, is still in Phase 1A. Phase 1A is for healthcare workers and long-term care residents. The Vaccinate All 58 campaign claims that there are 3 million people in California in Phase 1A. Almost 40 million people live in California.

Activists have been calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to make sure that farmworkers are prioritized.

California is home to the largest concentration of farmworkers in the U.S. The Center for Farmworker Families claims that 500,000 to 800,000 farmworkers, or about 1/3 to 1/2 of the farmworker populations, live in California. Seventy-five percent of farmworkers in California are undocumented.

As the rest of the state was able to shelter in place, farmworkers did not stop working. They provided a necessary lifeline to the nation in keeping the food supply running. Farmworkers are more likely to contract Covid because of their living conditions. Studies show that the low wages that farmworkers are paid means that many live in crowded conditions.

READ: As The U.S. Rolls Out The COVID-19 Vaccine, What’s The Future Of Vaccine Access In Latin America?

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