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Green space blues

Robert Garcia touches on issues of equal access for all

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Urban advocate Robert Garcia spoke at the McLean building for the sustainability lectures that are held every Thursday evening.

Garcia opened the lecture by commending Dalhousie University for the College of Sustainability saying, “If you are lawyer or shop keeper you need to understand the importance of sustainability.”

Garcia is a civil rights attorney who has led a longstanding career in the United States’ legal system, including public policy, legal advocacy and litigation. Complex issues such as social justice, civil rights, human health, environmental, education and criminal justice matters have all been a part of Garcia’s impressive career thus far. Currently, his main focus is on equal access to public resources for all.

As the Founding Director and Counsel of The City Project, his goals are to empower and educate the communities within LA that have been discriminated against due to ethnicity and now have less access to public parks. This non-profit organization is based in Los Angeles, California.

Garcia continued to comment on his most recent project, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The Gabriel area is largely populated by variety of ethnicities such as African American, Asian and Hispanic. Through polls and statistic reports, the LA project found that this group of people have less access to green space and the children of these communities have a higher chance of gang violence or involvement and obesity.

As Garcia put it, “what the project does is allow people who would not be able to access the green spaces and parks to enjoy the positive outcome of the environment.”

On Oct. 10, 2014, US President Barack Obama visited the Monument and made a speech on the power equal access to parks explaining that too many children of LA don’t have access to parks where they can enjoy the environment in which they live in. The President also spoke about the issue as a social justice issue rather than just an environmental issue.

The history of LA and the USA is largely at fault for unequal access to parks. The pattern of historical housing issues for people of colour and the separation of ethnicities around the LA area is a main cause of the issues seen today. As well, the issue of Health Disparities such as Racial and Ethnic Disparities is prevalent in the areas without equal access. The rate of diseases such as diabetes is significantly higher here than the other parts of the LA area.

To combat these issues, as well as other social justice issues, Garcia’s project created the Civil Right compliance and Equity Plan. This plan insures that the overall well being of the community is always the most important aspect of recipients of federal funding.

The plan outlines the following: what do you plan to do, analyze burdens and benefits and alternatives, include people of colour and low-income and implement a plan to distribute benefits and burdens fairly to avoid discrimination.

Garcia ended his speech saying, “ultimately we can appeal to the values that we strive to achieve as a community and democracy and emphasize the inherent democratic nature of public spaces.”

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