Ethnic Media Coverage

'Under Water': Bay Area Latinos, Minorities Most Vulnerable to Sea Rise

photo: Douglas Mundo directs the Canal Welcome Center in San Rafael. (courtesy of Telemundo 48)
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Sube el nivel del mar en la Bahía, parte I
Intro: Did you know that as a result of global warming in the last century sea level has risen over 20 centimeters(7 inches)? That process is now accelerating and threatens to cause severe flooding that could affect neighborhoods with high Latino populations here in the Bay Area, as Pilar Nino reports in her special series “Under Water.”

This is the first of a two-part series. To read Part 2, click here.

Pilar Nino:There’s no doubt that our proximity to the ocean is one of the major attractions of living in the Bay Area.

PN: But because of global warming, the melting of glaciers and the fact that hot water expands, the sea level is rising and it poses a threat to entire communities.

Catalina Garzon is with the Pacific Institute.
“Here in the Bay Area we are going to see 270,000 residents affected.”

PN: An independent organization of scientists and journalists, Climate Central, published these new maps that show the local areas that would be affected… The yellow dots show where there is a Latino population…

PN: “Have you heard that the sea level is rising?”
A Bay Area resident: “No, I haven’t heard that.”

PN: According to a study by the Pacific Institute in Oakland, two-thirds of the most affected communities would be ethnic minorities.

Again, Catalina Garzon.
“Mostly we see low-income communities, communities of color, Latinos, African Americans…”

PN: The most vulnerable populations would be less likely to have the resources they’d need to recover, a car to evacuate, or access to flood insurance… And the language barrier would prevent them from getting information in a timely manner.

Teresa Garza lives in a high flood risk area.
“I’ve never heard my son or daughter ever mention this [sea rise].”

PN: The Canal District in San Rafael is one of the flood-prone areas with a high Latino population… in addition to neighborhoods near the Bay in Oakland, San Leandro, San Mateo, East Palo Alto, Foster City and even San Jose.

Douglas Mundo is director of the Canal Welcome Center in San Rafael.
“We don’t want people to panic, but you have to take it very seriously because the environmental impact is a reality.”

PN: It is estimated that between now and 2050, the sea level will rise about 30 or 35 centimeters (about one foot) and by the end of the century it will be more than a meter….(about 3 feet).

PN: “Regardless of the projections, what is certain is that here in the Bay Area there are already neighborhoods that flood when there is a high sea level or big storm…Imagine if the water level were a meter higher…That would be up to here, above my waist.”

PN: Dams like this one in San Rafael were built to contain the danger of regular flooding…These photos give an example of how the water pours through the streets… However these protections would not be enough when faced with the threat of sea rise.

Douglas Mundo directs a local community organization that has already begun raising awareness of the risk.
“We often get more of a response from the Anglo community and very little from Latinos, so it’s important for Latinos to get involved.”

PN: Local authorities in different jurisdictions are starting to take matters into their own hands.

Angel Landaverde works for the San Rafael Fire Department.
“[It’s] pretty serious, because even now when we have heavy rain or high tide we have to pump the water into the street.”

PN: One of these is the fire department that serves the Canal District in San Rafael.

From the Canal in San Rafael….

Again, Landaverde.
“This area is pretty overpopulated. We are trying to establish a program to train residents in Spanish.”

In the second part of this series, we’ll tell you what Bay Area county would suffer the most from the dangers of sea rise and what they are doing to prepare for it.

Pilar Nino is a reporter and producer with Telemundo 48.

This story is part of a New America Media-led collaborative reporting project ("Surging Seas Coming to Your Neighborhood Soon?") on the local impacts of sea level rise involving six Bay Area ethnic and community media reporters. The project was conducted in partnership with Climate Central, Stamen Design and Investigative Reporters and Editors, and funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Mize Family Foundation, and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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