Austin has a longstanding problem with environmental inequality.
CapMetro and Creative Action’s teen visual art collective, Color Squad, recently collaborated on a series of four murals at Austin bus stops addressing different aspects of sustainability and highlighting ways public transportation connects and serves our community. The final mural, titled “We Will Sustain,” was installed in late 2021 and honors those advocating for communities in the crosshairs of Austin’s projected growth and disenfranchisement.
Austin’s Activists for Environmental Sustainability
“We Will Sustain” depicts activists like Susana Almanza, Director of PODER, (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources). Almanza co-formed this women-led, people of color grassroots social justice organization to “increase East Austin residents’ participation in corporate and government decisions related to economic development, environmental hazards and the impact on our East Austin”.
For the past 30 years, PODER’s team worked on hundreds of campaigns in East Austin to preserve the health of its community. Including (but not limited to) playing a critical role in discovering six major oil companies violating air emissions and contaminating groundwater in a predominately Latino and African American neighborhood. Located on a 52-acre site in East Austin, the “Tank Farm” was eventually rezoned thanks to the tireless efforts of PODER, neighborhood associations, and local politicians.
Carrying the legacy of protection, brothers and PODER’s Board of Directors, Pete Rivera and Raymond Rivera II, remain avid defenders of East Austin’s Red Bluff Nature Preserve. Their passion for conservation helped make way for residents of the Springdale neighborhood to nurture and support the 56.9 acres of natural land. Fighting illegal dumping, city development, and more, Pete and Raymond were instrumental in seeing Red Bluff named a dedicated parkland, and thus protected by the City Charter and State Law.
In this accompanying audio piece, you can listen to Pete Rivera tell his own story of advocacy in addition to his family’s history walking “La Loma”, the treacherous and sometimes dangerous trail Red Bluff residents still must take to get to school.
Environmental sustainability is an important aspect of this work, but it goes hand-in-hand with addressing the immense environmental inequality that prevails in Austin, especially in historically disenfranchised communities.Quinn Erickson (Color Squad Alum)
We Will Sustain
These individuals are just a few of the many activists in Austin dedicated to preserving the city’s land and opposing environmental racism. We encourage everyone to honor and support them by donating, getting involved, and sharing the causes and celebrations surrounding their work.