By Diana Dunn
I’ve been up since 3:30 a.m., and as I am looking at the distant glow of our nation’s capital building from my airplane window, I know I should try and get some sleep. But I can’t. I’m too excited! Too excited about the future of the environmental movement. Especially in regards to environmental justice movement.
The Watershed Project at its core is an outreach and education nonprofit organization. We take every opportunity we have to work alongside and collaborate with disadvantaged communities. Communities, like Richmond, that are not only exposed to legacy pollutants, but also face the problem of dealing with current industrial polluters as well. It is because The Watershed Project goes beyond caring about healthy watersheds, by also considering the people living in them, that we received an Environmental Justice grant from the EPA. As part of this grant, I had the opportunity to attend an EPA workshop in Washington D.C. and confer with other grant awardees.
While there, I shared the work of The Watershed Project, and our new program Waste Matters. Waste Matters is a unique pilot program that will take place at Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito. We will teach classes at every grade level using 4Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle and rot) curriculum. We will help develop the gardening and composting systems at the school, and we hope to reduce 50% of the waste being produced at the school.
It was great for me to hear about all of the other inspiring organizations that, like The Watershed Project, are working on the frontlines of the environmental and environmental justice movements. Twenty years ago, the environmental justice movement didn’t have a name, but it has grown significantly in its causes and impacts. While at the conference, the founders of the environmental justice movement including We Act organizer, Vernice D. Miller, told us of her triumphs and tribulations. She inspired us with her sense of pride and purpose for our united cause, reminding us that sometimes we become so entrenched in our pursuit, that it can be difficult to recognize our progress. But, if we take time to invest in ourselves and our community, by continually taking steps forward and coming to the table to speak with different stakeholders about our vision, we can transform our community and environment for the better.
As we embark on this new decade of the environmental justice movement I realize there is still a lot of work to be done.We must work to not only preserve open spaces, but the human culture as well. We must work to rehabilitate our local watersheds and the people living within them. We must discuss our challenges, but also speak of our community treasures; whether they be our youth, elders, or natural resources. I believe through these efforts we can all play a part in transforming the frontline of the environmental and environmental justice movements into a network of ever-expanding concentric circles. Circles that will create outcomes of environmental equality for all.