Photo depicting a plane flying over the roof of a house with a chimney.

OPINION | ‘The Beacon Hill Pause,’ How Environmental Racism Impacts South Seattle Neighborhood

by Jackie Le

“The Beacon Hill Pause” is the moment when you have to temporarily stop your conversation because it was interrupted by the thundering sound of an airplane flying over your South Seattle neighborhood. These moments exemplify the continued impacts of environmental racism that BIPOC communities, like Beacon Hill, face as they bear the brunt of noise and air pollution. 

As a 17-year-old junior in high school who was born and raised in the South End, investing in climate action will always be a priority to me. I take investment in climate action personally. I have spent my life surrounded by all kinds of pollution: car exhaust, noise pollution from planes, industrial emissions, and waterways so dirty that they are Superfund sites.

More importantly, I have taken action against climate change. As one of two youth ambassadors for the organization Green Seattle Partnership, I helped lead restoration events in partnership with Lincoln Park and Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center to plant native plants and weed invasive ones. Last summer, I found myself in the sagebrush haven that is Wyoming doing conservation work in the Shoshone National Forest 50 miles away from Yellowstone. When I helped lead youth teams for Andrew Grant Houston’s mayoral campaign and Shukri Olow’s King County Council campaign in the 2021 election cycle, I joined a group of young volunteers who also believed funding public transportation and fighting climate change were key issues at the forefront of our candidates’ policy platforms. Now, I am finishing up my internship at Washington Conservation Action, a statewide nonprofit that advocates for environmental policies, where I have engaged activists through social media and direct events.  

On Jan. 1 of this year, the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) went fully into effect. This landmark law assigns prices to carbon emissions that fund climate action, caps climate pollution, and holds polluters accountable to pay for the emissions they produce. The CCA generates funds that the Legislature is now deciding on how to spend.

As the 2023 Washington legislative session comes to an end, I want to thank my representative Sen. Rebecca Saldaña for listening to my district’s concerns and for helping to finalize a budget that matches the urgency of the climate crisis. This unified budget of nearly $1 billion invests in clean energy and transportation, natural climate solutions, environmental justice, and tribal sovereignty. 

But what does this budget mean for the South End? South Seattle and South King County are both designated as communities that are overburdened by air pollution by the Washington Department of Ecology. For overburdened communities, $38.6 million was set aside for community-directed grants and $23.8 million went towards air quality projects, grant programs, and rulemaking. $26.3 million was granted for the implementation of the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, which ensures that key State agencies prioritize environmental justice when making decisions.   

We all deserve to live in a world with clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. Lawmakers must continue to work toward that better future, in which no one needs a Beacon Hill Pause.

In solidarity,

Jackie Le

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Jackie Le is a high school junior and intern at Washington Conservation Action.

📸 Featured Image: Photo via Steve Mann/

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