Lylianna Allala, Climate Justice Director for the City of Seattle, discusses the connection between nature and culture, her work to address environmental inequities, and her vision for a future where marginalized communities can thrive in the face of climate change. Lylianna emphasizes the importance of slowing down and embracing inclusivity and diverse perspectives in the conversation about creating a just and sustainable future for all.
Environmentalist Lylianna Allala, the Climate Justice Director for the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, grew up in a household where the intricate connection between nature and culture wove the fabric of family and everyday life. Lylianna’s early memories are filled with strolls through her grandparents’ garden, where they imparted wisdom about healing plants, such as aloe, and their cultural significance. These moments became the foundation of her understanding that she, as a Chicana, is not separate from nature but an integral part of it.
“I was raised with values around being in relationship with nature and the Earth, knowing that I’m not a separate actor in nature, rather part of it,” Lylianna said. “My family taught me to care for Mother Earth because she cares for us.”
However, Lylianna’s formative years in a Chicago neighborhood near O’Hare Airport starkly contrasted her early experiences interacting with nature. Living under flight paths and near a busy highway, she experienced the environmental injustices that plague Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in the U.S. Noise and particulate pollution became an accepted part of life. It was only later that Lylianna realized her family settled there due to affordability and the accessibility of a good education.
The impacts of systemic inequities in urban planning shaped Lylianna’s upbringing and fueled her determination to address the root causes of environmental injustice. Another influence on Lylianna’s journey was her extended family’s life in the Eagle Ford Shale Basin in South Texas, where the detrimental effects of fracking on the Latinx community were impossible to ignore.