“The California you don't see on postcards” is featured in a new web series: Spotlight California. In each episode, comedienne Kiran Deol speaks to community activists and people directly affected by issues such as the state's drought, high gas prices, and the racial disparities of air pollution.
Spotlight California first takes viewers to communities including East Porterville, where more than half of the city’s residents struggle to find fresh water on a daily basis in the midst of California’s historic drought. As the second episode highlights, the drought is also impacting farmers, who are resorting to the use of water produced in the oil drilling process to irrigate their crops.
“My daughter got pneumonia three times, and it was all airborne. So I know that it has something to do with our environment,” Wilmington resident Jenny Castillo tells Deol in the series’ third episode. “At the age of five, they’re just like little sponges, taking in everything. And my daughter had to miss half of the school year.”
Californians also pay billions more at the pump compared to other states, while companies declare record profits. Cody Rosenfield of Consumer Watchdog voices his opinion in the fourth episode: “If you take the media’s normal response, it’s that [high gas prices in California have] to do with the price of crude oil and what’s going on in the Middle East. But in California, it’s actually price manipulation.”
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Each episode also highlights ways that the audience can help, such as through supporting the Community Water Center or Communities for a Better Environment (CBE).
The project is the brainchild of billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who is also the Founder of NextGen Climate, a San Francisco-based environmental advocacy organization. In an open letter, Steyer explained his rationale: “With this project, I wanted to shed some light on the powerful players who have tilted the economic tables in their favor, profiting at the expense of our families’ health and safety.
“But I also wanted to highlight stories from people working hard to balance the scales; folks who maintain a positive attitude during tough times, while making a big difference. I hope you find them as inspirational as I do.”