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Andrea Vidaurre, a 29-year-old Peruvian American organizer from Southern California, has won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts in protecting her predominantly Latino community from widespread air pollution. Vidaurre is being recognized for her grassroots leadership in persuading state officials to adopt regulations that will substantially improve air quality for millions of people in California and reduce toxic emissions from the local freight industry. The prize, administered annually by the Goldman Environmental Foundation, was first awarded in 1990 and honors individuals from all six inhabited continents who are taking extraordinary actions to protect the planet.

Born and raised in California’s Inland Empire, an area known for having some of the worst air quality in the country, Vidaurre’s childhood memories of the region are idyllic. However, in recent years, she began noticing the negative impacts of air pollution as homes and schools were replaced with warehouses and diesel truck fumes permeated the community. As a co-founder and policy coordinator of the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice, Vidaurre worked with her neighbors and community members to address the environmental and health risks associated with the changing freight industry.

The freight industry plays a crucial role in the nation’s economy, but it also contributes significantly to air pollution in many communities, particularly those located near highways, ports, rail yards, and warehouses. Vidaurre highlighted the toxic chemicals emitted by transportation that contribute to climate change and harm human health. In response, she organized efforts to lobby for improved air quality regulations and founded a nonprofit organization focused on environmental justice in the Inland Empire.

Through years of organizing and advocacy, Vidaurre and her community members successfully persuaded California state officials to adopt two transportation regulations that will limit trucking and rail emissions and pave the way for 100% zero emissions for freight truck sales by 2036. Despite facing challenges from a well-funded industry, Vidaurre emphasized the importance of building a strong community coalition to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. She hopes that their success can serve as a model for other cities and states facing similar environmental challenges.

Looking ahead, Vidaurre is focused on monitoring the implementation of the new regulations and continuing to work towards improving transportation systems in a way that is more efficient and less harmful to communities and the planet. She stressed the need to prioritize environmental sustainability and the health of communities in transforming the transportation sector. Vidaurre’s dedication to environmental justice and her efforts to protect her community from air pollution have earned her recognition and praise through the Goldman Environmental Prize, highlighting the importance of grassroots activism in addressing environmental issues.

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