teaching

EARTHSYS/URBANSTU 16SI:
Environmental Justice in the Bay Area

I instigated and taught a course called Environmental Justice in the Bay Area through the Stanford Earth Systems and Urban Studies Departments in Spring of 2016. The class sought to expose students to the intersectionality of social justice and environmental well being. Through student-led talks and field trips around the Bay, the course pushed participants to think about connections between issues of privilege, race, health, gender equality and class in environmental issues. Through community engagement I aimed to give my students place-based learning opportunities, promote critical thought around local issues, and encourage both an academic and applied understanding of environmental justice. Environmental Justice in the Bay Area was a Cardinal Course endorsed by the Stanford Haas Center for Public Service and the Associated Students of Stanford University.

My students were both underclassmen and upperclassmen, had national and international origin, and came with varied levels of experience in environmental justice. I prepared open discussions for class, seeking ways to bring the students together, draw out each of their strengths and encourage them to take ownership of the course material. By making space for each student, I encouraged relationship building and built off of the diversity of our group.

 

Our class website was used to communicate with my students and provide resources for other Stanford students and nearby community members. The public platform organized relevant environmental justice resources and shared our weekly class discussions with a broader audience. Through weekly blog post exercises, I sought ways to encourage my students to take ownership of the course material and draw on their diverse experiences to frame their understanding of environmental justice.

 

My academic and professional pursuit of environmental advocacy has often been defined by my work on environmental justice. Stanford University coursework such as Global Protest and Civil Unrest, Conversations on Race and Ethnicity, and Ethical Issues in Engineering gave me perspective on the social implications of environmental engineering and science, and the impacts of environmental degradation and development inequity. In leading this class, I sought to fill a gap in environmental advocacy coursework that was available to my classmates and myself.

What Next? 

Last day activity and sharing for Environmental Justice in the Bay Area

Spring 2016

 

SF Chinatown Social Justice Tour 

Students visit downtown San Francisco to explore and understand social justice issues in Chinatown with volunteers from Chinatown Alleyway Tours 

Spring 2016

Field Trip to Veggielution Farm

Students pose with our host after volunteering at Veggielution's San Jose urban farm

Spring 2016

 
¿De dónde viene el agua que usamos?
Where does the water we use come from?
The Water Forest

While working with Conservation International Mexico as the Stanford International Public Service Fellow, I was invited to lead a morning conversation with the Ahuayoto Community Center in Santo Tomás Ajusco in the southern reaches of Mexico City. The Center brings together community youth and adults each weekend to learn from experts in science, cultural history and media. 

My talk in August 2018 focused on the watersheds that fill the aquifers below Mexico City, an area regarded as the Water Forest. These aquifers provide 70% of the water used by nearly 23 million people in central Mexico, and the watershed region is an area of high biodiversity. Few people know where their water comes from, including the communities that live within the watershed such as Santo Tomás Ajusco.

 

Conocer para Proteger - Know to Protect 

Until we understand the importance of natural systems in providing the basic services we need, little will be done to protect them. Through a talk and engaging, tactile activities, participants learned about the Water Forest and aquifer system we rely upon for our water and the many other animal and plant communities that call the region home. 

Exploring Effects of Contamination

Stepping outside, youth and parents learn how contamination and chemicals at the surface can infiltrate into the aquifers during the rainy season.

 

Presenting the Water Forest

Sharing about the watershed and aquifer systems where 23 million Mexicans get the majority of their water in accessible terms with an image-rich, simple presentation

Building Aquifers

Children learn to build aquifer watershed systems using volcanic rocks, pebbles, grass, water and toys. 

 

Guardians of the Water Forest

To close our activities for the day, participants shared ideas on how they can help protect the watershed and aquifers below their community

 

Original Images by Maria Doerr © 2018