OPINION: 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.


5 thoughts on “OPINION: Tacoma Teen Supports I-1631 Because He Grew Up in an Era of Racism and Climate Injustice”

  1. Listen up, folks. If it comes from the Democratic Party, it’s just not going to be good for the environment, even if they choose young people of color to give the initiative “progressive” cover to “sell” it to the public.

    Initiative 1631: an environmental injustice that won’t adequately reduce emissions

    With some important exemptions, it requires major polluters to pay a fee for each ton of carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere beginning in 2020, and with increases every year until 2035. But it’s a regressive fee because big oil will largely pass it onto the consumer by raising fuel prices in order to maintain profits, with the first year’s increase estimated to be 13-14 cents per gallon of gas. But these higher gas prices aren’t going to radically reduce its usage. In British Columbia, for example, the 10-year-old carbon tax has indeed raised the price of gasoline. And the result has been that while per capita sales have fallen, overall petrol sales have risen.

    The “compensation” for making the people pay, not the polluters, is that the state guesses that the initiative will bring in roughly $2.2 billion in its first five years. This money will no doubt go to many projects that are worthy and needed, including to wind and solar power. But $440 million per annum minus administrative costs is not a lot of money (the state budget is over 100 times that amount), and overall the initiative won’t achieve the needed reduction of green house gas emissions. Look at Europe: There the gasoline prices are much higher than anything I-1631 would bring about. They’ve also long invested more revenue in wind and solar power and mass transit systems than I-1631 would. They also usually have much stricter building codes and other regulations that save energy or stop pollution than in Washington. And in addition to carbon trading, some countries now have carbon taxes. But carbon emissions are still too high. After some leveling off, E.U. carbon emissions grew 1.8% in 2017, and in June the largest polluter, Germany, conceded that it is on course to widely miss its 2020 emissions target.

    Thus, if Initiative 1631 passes the results won’t be enough, and the struggle against climate change and other environmental crises will continue. Could carbon pricing be done better? We don’t think so. Carbon taxes or fees are an attempt to avoid direct regulation, and, moreover, they’re inevitably so complicated that it puts corporate lobbyists in charge, while it’s hard for activists to even know what a law contains. Instead, we think a key part of the continuing struggle to save the environment must be to force abandonment of the entire market-measure, save-the-polluters’-profits orientation that dominates the politics of both the Republicans and Democrats, and which is leading to ecological disaster.

    An orientation that we should struggle for
    Environmental activists cannot worry about infringing on the sacred profits of the polluters.

    There must be more direct environmental regulations. And there must be environmental and economic planning that takes account of the masses’ livelihood. Leaving it to the market to “manage” the closure of whole industries and the start of new ones, the creation of mass transit systems that go everywhere, the resettlement of millions of climate-change refugees, the rejuvenation and/or replacement of ruined croplands, and more, means disaster. (In this light, it’s not enough to re-train laid off workers for green jobs that may exist sometime in the future. The jobs must either exist or these workers must be given income until they do. Otherwise a whole section of the working class is pitted against necessary environmental measures.) But there also must be mass mobilizations and fights to ensure mass involvement in the formulation and enforcement of regulations, to force them to be just and effective. As well, there must be fights for mass involvement in planning, and fights against plans that tread on the mass interests. And both require fighting environmental racism and defending treaty rights.

    Mass participation in formulating environmental policy under capitalism will always be very limited, but the developing climatic crisis is showing we cannot wait until after the socialist revolution to begin fighting for it. In this struggle we need to look towards the working class in its hundreds of millions, not the business world, as the bastion of environmental movement.


  2. VOTE NO ON I-1631! Stop calling people racist for opposing a terrible initiative that will do NOTHING to curb climate change.


    Look to B.C. for evidence carbon tax doesn’t work

    What happened to making Washington’s taxes more progressive? Now elected officials are rushing to pass a regressive carbon tax, modeled on a British Columbia tax that’s failing to reduce emissions.

    If Washington wants to reduce pollution and fare better on its climate-change goals, it should reject Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed carbon tax.

    Instead, the state should put its efforts into environmental regulations that directly and measurably reduce harmful emissions.

    As proposed, the carbon tax is a grab bag of handouts for the powerful and politically connected, funded by a steep new tax largely on the middle class. Many of the handouts have dubious benefits in reducing emissions.

    Carbon taxes also don’t work as promised. North America’s first such tax, in neighboring British Columbia, is failing to reduce emissions.

    Emissions from driving are rising faster than population growth in B.C., despite a carbon tax higher than Inslee’s proposal.

    Recent data says emissions increased 2.3 percent from 2013 to 2015. That includes a 7.2 percent increase in transportation emissions, the main focus of the B.C. and Washington plans.

    B.C. won’t meet its 2020 carbon-reduction goals. Tax advocates there insist it works, but they’re seeking an overhaul and rate increase in hopes of meeting future climate goals.

    Environmental group Food and Water Watch examined effects on the 70 percent of fuels subject to the tax. It concluded B.C.’s tax is a “failed experiment” and proponents “have significantly overstated the purported beneficial effects.”

    “Greenhouse gas emissions have been rising rapidly in recent years even as the tax rate and total tax revenues have increased,” it said. “Moreover, the short-term declines in taxed greenhouse gas emissions were more modest and were reversed more quickly than the changes to the untaxed greenhouse gas emissions — exactly the opposite of what would happen if carbon taxes had a causal impact on changing emissions.”

    A cynical take is that Washington’s carbon tax is like Trump’s border wall. When first proposed, both were going to be free. Now they’ll cost taxpayers billions. Most don’t want either (voters said no to a “revenue neutral” carbon tax in 2016) and the benefits are debatable, but they’re being rammed through anyway.

  3. SABER monitors infrared emissions from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a key role in the energy balance of air 100 to 300 kilometers above our planet’s surface. By measuring the infrared glow of these molecules, SABER can assess the thermal state of gas at the very top of the atmosphere–a layer researchers call “the thermosphere.” As 2018 comes to an end, the Thermosphere Climate Index is on the verge of setting a Space Age record for Cold. “We’re not there quite yet,” says Mlynczak, “but it could happen in a matter of months.”

    Frost damage dashes farmers’ hopes of record harvest, as Perth shivers through chilly night
    A record-breaking cold spell in Western Australia’s agricultural heartland has shattered farmers’ hopes of enjoying a bumper crop harvest.

    Temperatures plunge up to 10 degrees below average across Australia’s south

    Western Australia: Crops Punished by Two Devastating Frosts in a Matter of Days

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