Fostering community-driven research for social and environmental justice
A Food Justice Response to Covid-19
Building on last spring’s Food Justice in the South Bay workshop, organized by Christopher Bacon and Maria Eugenia Flores Gomez, Bacon convened a research team that collaborated with community partner Fresh Approach to conduct a participatory assessment of how Bay Area farms and justice organizations have worked together to confront the Covid-19 crisis. The project assessed a unique model of food relief, which enlisted local farms that lost restaurant customers during the pandemic to distribute food to out-of-work residents through community-based organizations in Richmond, Oakland, East Palo Alto, and East San Jose. The evaluation, funded in part from a grant from the Lawrence Foundation, included SCU student Paige Whittaker and UC Berkeley MD/MPH student Rachael Abraham.
Access to Safe Water and Green Space in the Central Valley
Iris Stewart-Frey and her students have collaborated with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) on research to address nitrate contamination of domestic wells in California’s Central Valley, which especially affects communities of color. Stewart-Frey, Lilah Foster (SCU ‘21, Clare Boothe Luce scholar), and partners at CRLA were invited to present this research at a recent workshop of CV‐SALTS, a stakeholder program to develop sustainable salinity and nitrate management planning for the Central Valley. In response, the Central Valley Water Board committed to include more frequent monitoring, greater transparency in determining nitrate risk zones, requirements for data sharing, and greater community involvement in processes to develop access to safe water. In addition, Stewart-Frey and SCU students Meghan Adams and Chloe Gentile-Montgomery are collaborating with the Tuolumne River Trust (Modesto Office) and Catholic Charities Stockton under an EPA environmental justice grant to plan and implement an extension of the Tuolumne River Regional Park, using a participatory process that includes the surrounding communities, where safe park and open space is less available than in other parts of the city.
Environmental Law and Advocacy at Home and Abroad
Tseming Yang and Zsea Bowmani have focused attention on climate and environmental justice and the law both locally and around the globe. Yang moderated an expert panel on international climate negotiations, climate adaptation in the Mekong River Delta, and pending climate litigation in Australia. He also co-edited the recent book, Comparative and Global Environmental Law and Policy and published an opinion piece entitled “Complainant Rights and Civil Rights Act Title VI” as part of a Debate on “Advancing Racial Justice Means Advancing Environmental Justice” in the Environmental Forum. In April 2021, the Law and Advocacy Project co-sponsored a law school symposium in which Bowmani organized a panel discussion of national and local Law and Climate Justice. Speakers included leaders from Greenaction for Health & Environmental Justice, with whom Bowmani has worked this past year as a National Lawyers Guild Weinglass Fellow on environmental justice advocacy in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point and Treasure Island neighborhoods. In addition, Bowmani has led SCU undergraduates and law students in providing legal research and advocacy support for a number of local environmental justice campaigns, including a memorandum on the failure of environmental regulations to protect Bayview-Hunters Point residents from the air quality impacts of a nearby animal rendering plant.
Northern California EJ Networking
The Northern California Environmental Justice Network, led by Iris Stewart-Frey and colleagues from area universities such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and San Jose State University, has organized several events and workshops to grow community-academic partnerships for environmental justice teaching and research in our region. Recent events have brought together community leaders, faculty, and students from multiple institutions to share knowledge about how to fund community-academic partnerships; build research partnerships on issues such as food security, air pollution, and climate change planning; and learn from long-term partnerships in the Klamath Basin that have advanced Karuk tribal sovereignty and self-determination through organizing for water quality.
John Burns Funds Laudato Si across the Curriculum
A major gift by SCU alumnus John Burns (‘66) will support SCU students and faculty to understand, reflect, and act on the twin crises of environmental and social justice. Burns’ gift will support the new Laudato Si across the Curriculum program, inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical of the same name. The Initiative’s Chad Raphael will lead the development of this program, helping to train faculty to incorporate social and environmental justice themes into their curricula, support student learning through community-engaged research and advocacy, and inspire interdisciplinary teaching and research collaborations across disciplines, centers, and campus units. Burns has committed an additional estate gift to endow the program for the future. (Read more).
Ecojesuit is a web-based newsletter of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network - Ecology network, published in Spanish, English, and French with editorial and technical assistance from the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research institution in the Philippines. Ecojesuit’s Coordinator, Pedro Walpole, S.J., has been a source of inspiration and insight to our Initiative for several years. Recently, we partnered with Ecojesuit and the Jesuit Conference of South Asia to organize an online dialogue on using agroecology to drive food system change. Speakers included Dr. Vandana Shiva (Director of Navdanya International), the Initiative’s Chris Bacon (SCU Associate Professor of Environmental Studies), and Fr. Walpole. Over 150 participants from the USA, Latin America, India, Philippines and other parts of the world participated in the webinar on Zoom.
Supervised by Christopher Bacon (Environmental Studies), Annalicia analyzed the food security discourse of smallholder coffee farmers, using Atlas.ti to code the ways smallholder coffee farmers characterize their livelihoods. She analyzed the ways newspapers are framing the livelihoods of smallholders and designed a qualitative analysis to understand how gender impacts farmers' experiences. She also helped clean and cross-check data quality from surveys on farm diversification in Nicaragua. Her work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1539795) and the Agropolis Foundation. (Read about more student researchers).
COMM 113B - Community Organizing.
Chad Raphael’s students participated in organizing and advocacy on environmental justice issues with Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Sacred Heart Community Services’ Social Justice Program, the Surfrider Foundation, and ENACT (SCU’s environmental justice student organization).
COMM 120A - Environmental Communication.
Chad Raphael’s students developed content for the EJCGI website and social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
ENVS 101 - Environmental Studies & Sciences Capstone Seminar.
Students in Iris Stewart-Frey’s section worked with community partners at the Tuolumne River Trust and Catholic Charities to research nitrate and uranium groundwater pollution in the greater Modesto area; with Catholic Charities, Little Manila Rising, and student groups at Stanford and UC Berkeley to document emissions of airborne toxics outside Stockton, CA; and with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory on restoration-focused projects. Students in Christopher Bacon’s section worked with community partners to advance environmental and food justice. Projects included partnering with Santa Clara County to help develop methods for implementing SB 1383 (a bill to address short-lived climate emissions and recoverable food waste), working with a community farm to assess a COVID-19 Farm Box Relief Program, and a student assessment of food security and sovereignty at SCU.
ENVS 120 - Introduction to Environmental Law & Regulation in the U.S.
Zsea Bowmani’s students studied the U.S. legal system's approach to environmental protection, including the roles of legislatures and environmental agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, the independent role of the judiciary in establishing environmental law, and statutes such as the Clean Air Act.
LAW 608 - International Environmental Law.
Tseming Yang’s students studied climate justice and other environmental justice issues related to global hazardous waste trade, environmental human rights, Indigenous peoples’ rights, and rights of nature. Several students prepared related blog posts.
Comings and Goings
Daniel Mendoza and Jaylinn Solis
Congratulations to Daniel Mendoza, our student intern and first employee, who is graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering this spring. Welcome Jaylinn Solis, a Bioengineering major who is taking over our communications work from Daniel, including our website and social media accounts.
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