Degrees podcast banner illustration
Degrees podcast banner illustration

How a farmworker’s son-turned politician is fighting “the serious crisis with Mother Earth”

Working with his parents harvesting produce in the 100-degree agricultural fields of southern California, Eduardo Garcia never imagined growing up and becoming a state assemblyman. But unlikely events led to a spark to make decisions for his community—and today, Garcia is the climate-change-fighting assemblyman representing California’s 56th District.

Fierce about saving California’s embattled ecosystems, Garcia authored a bill to allocate almost $4 billion to fight wildfires and drought. He talks with Yesh Pavlik Slenk about how he got here, what he’s fighting for, and why he still has to battle for basic rights to clean water and air.

Show episode notes

Most people don’t think about running for office when pondering environmental careers. However, California Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia may change your mind.

In a state ravaged by air pollution and wildfires, Garcia has crafted policy that fights climate change. Recently, he introduced  AB 1500, which helped inspire the Climate Resilience Bond. This allocates $3.7 billion of the state’s 2021-22 budget toward shoring up disadvantaged communities against “catastrophic wildfire, sea level rise, drought, extreme heat and flooding.” It also provides for infrastructure investments.

“The connection here to climate, the drought, the fires . . . is recognizing that we have a serious crisis with mother earth,” Garcia said. “We’ve got some work to do when it comes to not just building the infrastructure, but the conservation aspect of it is key for the first time.”

Garcia hardly followed a traditional “green” education and career path. He took time off after high school, then attended his local community college and completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of California Riverside. His journey eventually led him to the Coachella City Council at 27. At 29, he became Coachella’s mayor, the youngest ever elected in that city. In 2014, Garcia became assemblyman.

Garcia believes that young people can help save the planet by serving others. “I never thought that going into public service would end up being a career,” he said.  “When I came to realize that it is something that one can do to contribute to the betterment . . . of conditions in our communities, I kind of got married to the idea. I’ve been doing it since.”

Resources included in this episode: 

Additional Information:

More episodes

  • Wes Gobar of BlackOak Collective

    Building a Black community for green jobseekers

    The environmental workforce remains overwhelmingly white. But not if Wes Gobar of BlackOak Collective can help it. Yesh talks with him about his journey.


  • Jenny McColloch

    The woman greening the golden arches

    Can you use your MBA to save the planet? Yesh teams up with Mike Toffel of Climate Rising to ask the chief sustainability officer at McDonald's, Jenny McColloch.


  • Degrees podcast artwork - Christie Gamble

    How a psychology major is on the frontlines of decarbonizing a global industry

    Yesh talks with Christie Gamble, Senior Sustainability Director at CarbonCure, a company that’s on a mission to decarbonize the concrete industry.