Reno and Las Vegas are among the fastest warming cities in the country, and transportation has been cited as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Nevada. “According to the American Lung Association, the air quality here in Nevada is an F,” says Alexa Aispuro, a youth community organizer in Clark County, the 13th largest county in the U.S. and home to Vegas’s famed Strip. “We know that communities of color – and low-income communities – are more likely to be disproportionately affected by the impacts of air pollution.”
As Chispa’s Digital Campaign Manager and a former Youth Organizer for Chispa Nevada, Aispuro is part of a group of activists who work tirelessly to ensure that their community, as well as other Vegas residents, can start breathing more easily. Recently, she and fellow climate activists took matters into their own hands by testing the air quality in different parts of the city with personal, handheld air monitors, measuring how dire their breathing conditions really are. “The air quality is usually worse in low-income communities, or communities that don’t have a lot of funding, which means more illnesses such as asthma, or lung diseases,” says Abigail Herrera, a youth activist involved in the project.
Their unique community organizing story is the centerpiece of Community Power Nevada: Unidxs En Acción (United In Action), a new short film by The Redford Center, showcasing community power in a collective call for civic engagement around clean transportation.
Though Clark County is frequently issued weather alerts that come from southern California wildfires, all forms of smoke contribute pollutants that can cause or worsen diseases, including car exhaust. While Nevada became the 16th state to adopt California’s clean car standards in October 2021 via Clean Cars Nevada – and has made efforts to curb vehicles on the road that don’t meet zero-emission standards – Reno and Las Vegas are often the worst offenders in the state when it comes to adding to smog and pollution, thanks to their metropolitan-hub status.
This might seem obvious (and even excusable) to the high rollers who visit Vegas for a weekend, but local residents with families pay with their health. “More than anything, I got involved for my son’s health, because my oldest son has asthma,” says Angela Sanchez Ramos, a community resident and activist. “He suffers from asthma, and when the pollution comes, that’s when he gets sick with allergies, he can’t breathe, he gets upset. I tell him we can only continue to support the campaigns to change the laws on pollution.”
Luckily, the efforts and activism of those like Aispuro and Hererra have paid off: In March 2021, Clark County activists pushed Nevada to pass Assembly Bill 349, which will reduce smog by keeping older, higher polluting vehicles off Vegas-area roads, and eventually, replace them with cleaner alternatives. But despite a big win and reward for their activist efforts, Clark County residents are already looking ahead to make sure the legislation is implemented equitably throughout the community, in the name of creating a healthier environment for themselves and their children. “Our community here in southern Nevada has always been led by unity,” says Aispuro. “Whatever the situation is, we are going to be here for each other, we’re going to support each other, and we’re going to make sure that we’re fighting for our future, and for future generations.”
The Community Power film series is an initiative of The Redford Center, in collaboration with LCV and Chispa, showcasing local activists, storytellers, and culture-makers as visionary leaders with the collective power to enact lasting environmental change. The Redford Center uses the power of storytelling to galvanize environmental justice. The League of Conservation Voters builds political power for people and the planet. Chispa is a grassroots community organizing program building the power of Latinx and communities of color in the fight for climate justice. Community Power films are generously supported by Far Star Action Fund.
This story was originally published by Grist with the headline This Nevada community is ‘United In Action’ in pursuit of cleaner air on Dec 9, 2021.