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Looking for Environmental Justice at USC

2010 June 8

EJvidHi! My name is Charlene and this past semester, I found myself in a six-person upper-division Communication class called Environmental Communication. All of us entered the class with an interest in environmental issues, but no clear idea of what the class would actually cover. Gradually, we came to develop a sense of how communication, both interpersonally and through the media or advocacy campaigns, really changes how people think about and behave towards the “environment.” When it came time for us to decide on a class term project, we weren’t really sure what to do, until one of us happened upon the EPA’s Environmental Justice video contest online. We decided that it was the perfect opportunity to look at an important issue from a communication perspective. In filming our video submission, we started by walking around campus and just asking people what they thought the words “environmental justice” meant. We found that while a few people had a vague idea, nobody really knew the actual answer. Furthermore, many people have never considered the fact that it is the world’s poorest people who in fact bear the largest environmental burden and are often left without an audience willing to hear and help them. We realized that one of the most important things everybody can do is take the time to give opinions about pending environmental issues. We cannot achieve environmental justice if people do not know it is a goal. Therefore, we focused our video on an explanation of what “environmental justice” is, in the hope that we would inspire other people to get involved. Making the film was definitely a great experience, and being chosen as a finalist was so exciting. Although I cannot say for sure what is to come, for our class or for the Earth, I have so much hope that people will believe they can make a difference in terms of climate change and environmental justice. I know that the hardest times are yet to come, but I truly believe that people can overcome these challenges.

About the author: Charlene Fowler is a junior at the University of Southern California.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Sher Graham permalink
    June 8, 2010

    I applaud you on using your creative investigative skills and determining what the term meant through researching and asking others. It is great to use that young minds are active in wondering how they can make a difference in the world we all live in. As an active advocate for social and environmental concerns, I have spent my career as a behaviorist, observing behaviors and recommending strategies for change. Congratulations.

  2. Anne permalink
    June 8, 2010

    Your blog information is very interesting. I only do simple things in order to help the environment I always use the 3 R’s, recyle, reuse, reduce.

  3. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    June 9, 2010

    Muchas felicidades Charlene, trasmite Usted un entusiasmo que contagia y motiva, considero de la más relevante importancia su labor de concientización de los Jóvenes respecto de la Justicia Ambiental; lo que Usted hace es algo que todos los que amamos el Planeta deberíamos imitar; TOMAR CONCIENCIA sobre nuestro compromiso con los más pobres y avanzar en el camino de la verdadera Justicia Ambiental en todos los Países, es avanzar en la construcción de una Verdadera Democracia Global
    Que Dios la bendiga Charlene y felicidades de nuevo
    Acciones Locales con Visión Global
    ¡SI SE· PUEDE!

  4. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    June 13, 2010

    You had a great idea for a project and vedio and it went real well. Environmental Justice is a critical issue now. Attention is rivited on what is happening now with the oil spill that is destroying much of the Gulf Coast. But there is another serious problem closer to where we live that needs attention as well. I saw in last week’s newsletter from the Pacific Institute that there is a problem with nitrate contamination of public water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. The people in some parts of the Valley have had to use bottled water for months or even years in some cases and they are having to pay 2 times for water–once for tap water they can’t use because of nitrate contamination, once because they have to buy bottled water. The biggest problems so far seem to be with small water systems with volunteer boards of directors and located in lower income areas. The full extent and degree of contamination is not yet known but an investigation is underway to document what it is. The report is expected by the end of the year that will also include recommendations for dealing with the problem. Several organizations are involved in the investigation. The lead one is the Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program; also Community Water Center; Clean Water Fund; and California Rural Legal Assistance. Nitrates have contaminated wells through water runoff from livestock manure, fertilizers for crops, and from leaking septic systems. Nitrate polluted water can cause respiratory problems, birth defects/complications; some kinds of cancer; kidney and spleen problems. Many people know that bioling water before drinking it eliminates much of the things that cause contamination; but what is not so well known is that boiling nitrate contaminated water makes it still more unsafe to use. Many farm workers have to live in lower income areas of the Valley and so do many people in the disability community of the San Joaquin Valley. People in the disability community have to live in lower income areas where the cost of living is usually less because many have SSI for their income and it is being cut back more every year. I am a member of People First, California, Orange County Chapter and have shared the Pacific Institute’s information with the Area Disability Boards that cover the San Joaquin Valley. A outreach and training program on nitrate contamination is being put together for the disability communihty of the Valley. There is also a large developmental center in the area with 578 severely disabled patients. Environmental Justice is something for us all to be concerned with. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  5. sergi permalink
    September 21, 2010

    This is a really interesting module to study in a Communication course Charlene. Environmental Justice is a critical issue nowadays and it is really useful to study from the perspective of Communication and also how the Media treat this topic and transmit it to the audiences.

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