Meet Kevin Patel the climate justice activist advocating for clean air in South Central Los Angeles and beyond

Kevin Patel is a 20-year-old climate justice activist and founder of One Up Action International

Patel became an activist when he was just 12 years old to address food apartheid and food deserts. And that same year, he became directly affected by climate injustice when the air and smog pollution in South Central Los Angeles became a major health crisis.

“Air and smog pollution causes many health issues, such as heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, cancer, asthma,” Patel told In The Know. “I said you know what? This is not just an issue that’s affecting me. The fossil fuel industry is right in people’s backyards.”

Patel was speaking literally. He took In The Know to the Inglewood oil field, just one of 53,000 oil wells in the area. For Patel and company, it was clear that this would never be tolerated in affluent white neighborhoods. 

In the U.S., communities of color are hubs for air pollution. The issue came to a head during the pandemic when lung health could be the difference between surviving a COVID-19 infection or dying. 

“These communities are devastated with not only the air and smog pollution, but [also] the chemicals that are coming out of these drills of the fossil fuel industry and the corporations,” he said. 

Patel became involved with the Youth Climate Strike L.A. movement in March 2019. He was so inspired by his experience that he founded One Up Action International to get young people even more involved in climate action.

Today, One Up Action International has over 30 global chapters. “We’re empowering leaders by turning their ideas into action, supporting them with the resources and the funding that they need,” he said.

Patel hopes Gen Z will work intersectionally and intergenerationally to solve the world’s major issues.

“We make sure that we include the communities that are at the front lines of the climate crisis, like our Black communities, like our indigenous communities, like our Brown communities,” Patel said. “We have to rethink these systems and say what works for everyone.”

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