Environmental Justice in the Bay Area
I initiated and taught Environmental Justice in the Bay Area at Stanford University in Spring 2016. It focused on connections between lived environments, health, justice, and privilege (race, class, gender, etc.) in neighboring cities and communities in California. I sought to fill a gap in coursework available to my classmates and myself; while there were many environmental and social justice classes, few looked at their intersection.
My syllabi explored a different environmental justice topic relevant to Bay Area communities each week, from housing insecurity to air quality and mobility equity. I organized weekly readings from academia, local news sources, and environmental justice experts and prepared open discussions each week. In addition, I coordinated several local field trips to foster place-based learning and an applied understanding of environmental justice. One week, our discussions focused on food insecurity, and our field trip was a Saturday afternoon volunteering with Veggielution, an urban farm nonprofit that provides fresh produce to nearby residents.
My students were both underclassmen and upperclassmen and came with varying exposures to environmental and social issues. I was attentive to the students and their strengths in class as I sought to make space for each and foster a class community.
I designed a class website that served as a platform for the students to share insights and learnings and for the Stanford community to find environmental justice resources. I curated lists of courses, on-campus groups, and local organizations for those interested to learn more. Through weekly blog post exercises, I encouraged students to take ownership of their learning and draw on their own diverse experiences to contextualize and approach new topics.
The class was designated a “Cardinal Course" by the Stanford Haas Center for Public Service, endorsed by the Earth Systems and Urban Studies Departments, and funded through the Associated Students of Stanford University. See the class Syllabus here.
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.
Last day activity and sharing for Environmental Justice in the Bay Area
Field Trip to Veggielution Farm
Students pose with our host after volunteering at Veggielution's San Jose urban farm
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
¿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
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