Locus Focus on 08/20/12

Locus Focus
Air date: 
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 10:15am - 11:05am
Short Description: 
A look at the recent Richmond refinery fire's impact on Richmond, CA health and community gardens.


At 6:30 in evening on Hiroshima Day this month, the Chevron Oil Refinery in Richmond exploded in a massive fire, spreading a mushroom cloud of thick black smoke over the homes and gardens of the residents of this marginalized community. That night thousands of people flocked to local hospitals complaining of respiratory problems. No one seems to know what toxins were contained in that dark cloud that settled over the city for a couple hours, before the winds changed and the toxic cloud dispersed above more affluent communities. In the aftermath of the fire which burned out of control for over six house, Richmond residents not only worry about the toxins they may have inhaled during the fire. They are worried about what poisons linger on the plants in their vegetable gardens and in the soil, rendering their gardens toxic.

On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Doria Robinson, who heads Urban Tilth, a Richmond resident-run urban agriculture program, operating 11 different school and community gardens in the city. She'll talk about why it's urgent to hold Chevron accountable for the release of a myriad of dangerous contaminants into the air, that among other things, may result in the potential loss of thousands of pounds of food grown by local school children and residents, intended to help alleviate problems of food scarcity.

Urban Tilth cultivates agriculture in west Contra Costa County to help its community build a more sustainable, healthy, and just food system. They work with schools, community-based organizations, government agencies, businesses, and individuals to develop the capacity to produce 5% of their own food supply. Urban Tilth believes that environmental restoration is inextricably connected to economic and social restoration. They are committed to training and employing local people, working collaboratively within the community, engaging in local policy decisions and growing their food (and themselves), locally and organically.

Doria Robinson is a 3rd generation resident of Richmond, California and the Executive Director of Urban Tilth. Formally trained as a Watershed Restoration Ecologist, Doria has also worked on organic farms in Western Massachusetts where she attended Hampshire College; at Veritable Vegetable, a women owned organic produce distribution company; Real Food Company and Mixed Nuts Food Co-op. She is passionate about  physical, social and economic health being dependent upon ecological health; the restoration of one depends on the restoration of the other. She was recognized as Environmental Advocate of the Year for Contra Costa County and as Woman of the Year for Contra Costa County in 2010 and in 2011 she was presented with a Community Resiliency Leadership Award from Bay Localize. Doria currently lives in the neighborhood she grew up in in Richmond with her wonderful 10 year old twins.

Learn more about Urban Tilth and how you can support their efforts to keep growing abundant gardens in Richmond in the aftermath of the August 6 refinery fire by visiting their facebook page.

Urban Tilth is featured in an upcoming documentary film Gaining Ground, produced and directed by Elaine Velazquez and Barbara Bernstein. You can learn more about the film and see a clip featuring Doria Robinson at

A preview edit of Gaining Ground will be screened at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, OR on September 13.


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