A partnership of Alianza Coachella Valley; the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy; the UCR Center for Social Innovation; and the Institute for Social Transformation at UC Santa Cruz
The Our Salton Sea initiative launched in 2021 to provide a more inclusive vision for remediation of the Salton Sea. More than a diminishing body of water requiring environmental mitigation, the revitalization of the Salton Sea creates an opportunity to provide a healthy and economically resilient future for the tens of thousands of people who live within the immediate area.
Talk to people living closest to the sea, like the families in the community of North Shore, and they will tell you about the need for basic infrastructure and services. Beyond the essentials, they realize more than anyone the potential the sea holds for open space and a thriving economy.
The devastating economic and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the region’s most vulnerable members reinforced the need to come together to define a more equitable and sustainable future for the people, as well as the animal and plant life that call the Salton Sea home. The Our Salton Sea initiative brought together elected leaders, researchers, economic development experts, and the community to ask: How can we foster economic mobility and equity in a rural desert economy? The following reports — Measuring and Developing Inclusive Economies and Community Perspectives on Economic Development — begin to lay a framework for how to achieve economic prosperity while balancing and sustaining the region’s economic vitality and opportunity with environmental, and community health.
People who do not live here or who have not had the lived experience of the compounding effects of a remote location, multi-generational poverty, and systemic disinvestment all in the middle of an environmental disaster, philosophically make the economic argument that by simply addressing the environmental crisis at the Salton Sea things will be good for the local economy and thereby help nearby economically depressed communities. This assumption has no basis in reality, unless other resources are deployed and guided by a focused strategy that supports a range of these outcomes and sees that Salton Sea communities prosper at their full potential.
Our Salton Sea calls for a new approach to the Salton Sea, one that is direct and intentional about addressing the needs of communities. Dr. Chris Benner and his colleagues at the UC Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation have produced insightful indicators for developing an inclusive economy in the Salton Sea region. Modeled around a solidarity economics framework, this body of work stresses that economic growth benefiting marginalized communities occurs when economic strategies are centered around a community context and inclusive of the people participating in the policy-making process.