by Peter Schurmann
Almost thirty years ago East Los Angeles resident and mother of nine kids, Juana Gutierrez, took on an oil giant and won. Hailed at the time in national and international media, Gutierrez was seen as being in the vanguard of a “fledgling” environmental movement, one deeply rooted in California’s expanding communities of color.
Today that fledgling movement has blossomed into what is fast becoming the new mainstream of environmental activism in the state.
“Things have obviously changed, not just in the last couple of years but over a number of years,” says Bruce Saito, head of the California Conservation Corps. A veteran of the state’s environmental community, he says that, thanks to the legacy of Gutierrez (who died in 2004) and other activists, today more than ever environmental leaders in California are placing a greater emphasis on the needs of people and communities, particularly in underserved regions.