As a kid, Alexandra Nagy dreamed of being an astronaut and trying “to figure out that big question of why are we here.” But while studying physics at UC Irvine, she realized that “the important question is how can we keep the Earth a viable place for us to live.”
She changed her major to political science and urban studies, with a focus on sustainability and minority politics. “I felt sort of a moment of panic almost, like, wow, the climate crisis is really happening now, and we need to do everything we can — I need to do something!” she says. Now 26, Nagy is a community organizer at Food & Water Watch, campaigning against fracking and for safe water and a sustainable energy policy for L.A.
“Being born and raised here, I just want to make sure that this is a city that lasts, and that’s viable in the future, and I don’t want to have to flee because it’s just getting too crazy,” says Nagy, who now lives in Hollywood.
Nagy and F&WW started working in Porter Ranch in April 2014, trying to prevent the Termo Company from adding a dozen wells to the 18 it already has there. She was perfectly positioned when news broke of the Aliso Canyon gas leak — in fact, F&WW had a town hall scheduled two days later, and Nagy had been working with residents on how to voice their complaints about the ill effects they were already experiencing.
Nagy now is lobbying Mayor Eric Garcetti to use the money from Aliso Canyon–related fines to fund “transition zones,” in Porter Ranch and a sister city, such as Pacoima, to get off of fossil fuels. She’s encouraged by the city’s commitment to stop using coal for energy by 2025 but wants it done sooner, and without relying on natural gas.
“L.A. has been focused on these really big solar projects in the desert, which aren’t great — they destroy fragile ecosystems, and we lose a lot of energy in transmission,” she says. “To me, local makes the most sense for our economy, keeping good jobs and clean jobs, local energy reliability.”
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Nagy also is working in Carson, where California Resources Corporation (formerly Occidental, and the state’s largest oil company) proposed 200 new fracking wells. “They thought, this is a working-class black/Latino/Filipino community — they literally target these kinds of communities for more oil and gas infrastructure — and they thought they were going to come into Carson and walk all over it. But the people there were totally savvy to what was going on,” she explains.
Although she may sound like a future politician, the quietly intense Nagy says she’s an introvert who can’t see herself in that position. “I like the power and the flexibility and creativity I have as an organizer,” she says. “I want to work on the issues I really care about, and when you become a politician you’re accountable for every issue on the planet.
“Everything is on a really fast timeline of urgency because of the climate crisis. This is where I belong for the next five to 10 years,” Nagy adds. “The wakeup call is just getting bigger and bigger. Whether it’s Sandy or Katrina or the gas leak, we’re all on the frontlines. Nobody’s safe.”