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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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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Gov. Newsom And California Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Checks, Relief For Undocumented Residents

Things That Matter

Gov. Newsom And California Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Checks, Relief For Undocumented Residents

Americans are still waiting for the $1,400 check from the federal government to make good on the $2,000 promise In the meantime, some Californians will get extra help from the state government. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $9.6 billion stimulus package for state residents and undocumented people.

Low-income Californians will be eligible for a $600 stimulus check from the state government.

Gov. Newsom and California lawmakers have agreed on a $9.6 billion relief package for the Golden State. The relief package is offering much needed relief to businesses, individuals, and students. The relief will come to Californians in different ways.

According to a statement, the package is making good on the promise to help low-income Californians, increase small business aid, and waive license renewal fees for businesses impacted by the pandemic. In addition, the package “provides tax relief for businesses, commits additional resources for critical child care services and funds emergency financial aid for community college students.”

The relief package is aimed at helping those who are hardest hit by the pandemic.

“As we continue to fight the pandemic and recover, I’m grateful for the Legislature’s partnership to provide urgent relief and support for California families and small businesses where it’s needed most,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “From child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals, financial aid for community college students and more, these actions are critical for millions of Californians who embody the resilience of the California spirit.”

The package will quadruple the assistance to restaurants and small businesses in California. Small businesses and restaurants will be eligible for $25,000 in grants from a $2 billion fund.

Undocumented Californians will also receive a boost from the state government.

Low-income Californians will receive a one-time payment of $600 while undocumented people will be given a $600 boost. The money will be sent to tax-paying undocumented people in California.

According to the California Budget & Policy Center, undocumented people in California pay $3 billion a year in local and state taxes. Despite paying taxes, the undocumented community has not been ineligible for relief payments from the federal government. These payments will give needed relief to a community overlooked throughout the pandemic.

“We’re nearly a year into this pandemic, and millions of Californians continue to feel the impact on their wallets and bottom lines. Businesses are struggling. People are having a hard time making ends meet. This agreement builds on Governor Newsom’s proposal and in many ways, enhances it so that we can provide the kind of immediate emergency relief that families and small businesses desperately need right now,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said in a statement. “People are hungry and hurting, and businesses our communities have loved for decades are at risk of closing their doors. We are at a critical moment, and I’m proud we were able to come together to get Californians some needed relief.”

Learn more about the relief package by clicking here.

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