Tacoma Teen Supports I-1631 Because He Grew Up in an Era of Racism and Climate Injustice

by Nate Williams

In my lifetime, I’ve seen how much we take a healthy environment for granted.

As a child I’ve always had a love for trees and all animals. When I was little I used to go on hikes with my dad. I was amazed at how tall the trees were and by the different colors of the forest. We loved going down to the beach and walking through the zoo to learn about animals from across the world. Nature was a way for me to find peace of mind.

But as I grew up, I became aware of the many ways those trees, animals, and people were in trouble from polluters.

I was 10 years old when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the ocean. More than 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. When I watched the news, I couldn’t shake my lingering worries about the animals in the ocean and the people devastated by this spill.

I was about 14 when news broke about the Flint Water Crisis. One thing that scared me was that both disasters were caused by people. They were so preventable. At first these crises felt far removed from my home in Tacoma. But I asked myself what hazards are in my community that we could prevent?

These stories made me uneasy, but they also made me feel passionate about protecting the air and water in my community.

As a Black teen, I’ve seen that communities of color often feel the effects of pollution first and worst. I’ve experienced first-hand that asthma is affecting my nephews more than past generations. Children should be able to play in a safe environment and not have to worry about health conditions caused by our environment. Front and Centered, a grassroots coalition of organizations based in communities of color for racial and climate justice, released a report in August that shows how pollution hits communities of color and low-income communities worse than white and affluent communities.

That’s why I’m using my voice to fight against pollution right here in Washington.

This November will be one of my first elections, and I’m so excited we have the chance to protect clean air with just our vote. In November we can pass Initiative 1631, a pollution fee that would charge the state’s largest polluters like big oil companies, and redirect funds back into communities most-impacted by the health effects of pollution. It would invest in expanding clean energy, public transportation, water cleanup projects and  job training for new clean energy jobs.

It is inhumane to put people at risk so big polluters like the oil industry can make money. We only have one home and I want to do everything I can to do my part and help take care of the Earth.

If we pass 1631, we can help make sure we protect the future for people in my generation, and generations to come.  

Nate Williams, 19, grew up in Tacoma, and just graduated high school. He is a member of Washington Community Action Network and an advocate for climate justice.


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