Moving Forward Network meets in Houston

This week the Moving Forward Network (MFN) met in Houston for its annual convening. The Moving Forward Network is a nationwide network of 50+ organizations with the shared mission “To transform the global trade system by supporting the organizing, advocacy, education and research efforts of partners around the United States toward improving public health, quality of life, environmental integrity, labor conditions and environmental justice.”

Air Alliance Houston is a founding member of the MFN. This was the first year that the annual convening was not held in the same city as the larger Smart Growth Conference. So this was the first year that the Network itself was able to decide in which city to hold its convening. Houston was chosen because it is at the center of so many of our issues: goods movement, ports, and environmental justice.

Earlier this year, the Healthy Port Communities Coalition joined up with some of our partners in the Moving Forward Network to host a trip to the Long Beach Container Terminal. The Long Beach Container Terminal is the world’s first all-electric, all-automated container terminal. It has been called the greenest terminal in the world.

Generally, in Texas, we do not spend too much time looking to California for guidance. From the perspective of public health and environmental protections, California is many years ahead of Texas. But the philosophies of the states are so different that it is difficult–if not impossible–to convince most Texas power brokers that what works in California will work in Texas as well.

Nevertheless, we think it is important to introduce people in Texas and Houston to the work that is being done on the west coast. During this year’s MFN convening, we were able to introduce communities members and decision makers from Houston to our allies from Los Angeles.

Jesse Marquez is the founder of Communities for a Safe Environment. From his home in Wilmington, CA, an environmental justice community on the Port of Los Angeles, Jesse has made amazing strides in the fight for clean, healthy ports and port communities. Jesse and his allies have filed several successful against projects at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach. One of these lawsuits resulted in the creation of the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation, which collects a per-container fee to fund community improvement projects.

Jesse was also the first proponent of the AMECS system, IMG_2658which he describes as a “vacuum cleaner the size of a house” that is placed on top of the emissions stack of marine vessels of locomotives. Originally just a wild idea, Jesse saw the promise in the AMECS system and helped to make it a reality.

There is nothing inherently different about fighting for environmental justice in one port community versus another. The strategies employed in California aren’t unique. They are simply further along in the struggle than we are. The Moving Forward Network has what it calls The Zero Campaign, which is a vision for a future in which there are no air pollution emissions from the goods movement industry. We believe the day will come when all ports have banned diesel trucks, required marine vessels to use cleaner shore power, and converted all of their equipment to electricity that is fed by clean, renewable energy sources.

By drawing inspiration and energy from our friends in California and in the Moving Forward Network throughout the country, we believe we will achieve this vision sooner in Texas.