This track focused on environmental and public health issues, in the larger context of other social and economic issues vital to community development. This track explored a range of perspectives on the challenges, barriers, and impacts that communities face and address, and how communities can build capacity to learn from these lessons and best practices to better understand and solve this problem. Sessions in this track included:
Moderator: Vernice Miller‐Travis (Skeo) Speakers: Omega Wilson (West End Revitalization Association), Kamita Gray (BTB Coalition), Rep. Harold Mitchell (ReGenesis).
Non‐profits, universities, government agencies, and other groups use different community engagement approaches to address local environmental justice and health issues. In this session, speakers discussed models for community engagement, acknowledging the challenges that community members and organizers face when advocating for community interests. The session also explored strategies for building capacity within communities and for collaboration with city governments, state governments and federal agencies. Further, the panelists shared stories, challenges, and lessons learned from their efforts to use partnerships and community‐driven research to address environmental injustice and health disparities across the country.
Omega Wilson spoke of the Right to Basic Amenities, a Community‐Owned and Managed Research (COMR) approach to address environmental health disparities in low‐income communities of color serving the smallest EJ communities in North Carolina. Train people in the communities to collect data – you need data to find a solution.
Kamita Gray emphasized cooperation between the whole community. Bring all the groups and leaders together to develop a citizen‐centered cohesive plan. Help the community understand what is happening to them, look within the values of the community and prioritize what the community wants.
Harold Mitchell emphasized the importance of being at the decision‐making table – electing a representative to city council ‐‐ and grassroots action. We don’t have time to wait for the grants. Texas Southern University, did a health survey and used the data to secure a community health center grant. Find the ways and means to meet community needs. For example, a mobile unit for rural, migrant health care and find experts to help with local food access. Create an interagency workgroup to bring in the right agencies together to address the issues.
Moderator: Dr. Scheherazade W. Forman (Prince George's County Community College) Speakers: Dr. Rosa Smith, Alicia Jackson‐Warren, Danette Johnson, Brian Hamlin, Dr. David Buonora, Monique Burton‐student (all affiliated with Prince George's Community College)
The community college is often overlooked as a viable option for training and education. However, those engaged in the mission to provide education for all commit to do this through an open access admission policy and comprehensive programs with a community‐based approach to teaching and lifelong learning. In this session, speakers shared how Community Colleges serve their communities, specifically focusing on Prince George's Community College. The session showcased the many services and programs available at Prince George's Community College and the diverse base of students and community members benefiting from job training, accredited degrees, noncredit degrees, certifications and many other services. It further highlighted how the community college engages the internal and external community to provide education, services and training. The conversation included how to incorporate social justice and environmental consciousness in the process.
Dr. Scheherazade framed the discussion by highlighting that the community college is the center of community opportunities.
Dr. David Buonora advocated for job training, not accredited degrees. Noncredit, customized training for businesses, and workforce certification. Build partnerships for short term trainings. Connect to Chambers’ of Commerce, Workforce Development Board and business advisory boards and enlist business leaders to teach classes.
Dr. Rosa Smith recommended having a single location where students can get all the information they need about career opportunities in one place for degree work, certifications, workforce training and extension classes.
Danette Johnson stressed the importance of seeking out private and public funding and knowing when to go to the external institutions and organizations to develop and work on programs. Bring in the people who will be using the money into the process of getting the money.
Alicia Jackson‐Warren advocated for a college of and for the community that supports job search and career development to get students well connected. They sponsor an annual Career and Job Fair and partnered with internal groups to provide professional attire.
Brian Hamlin shared about a mentoring program focused on retention, academic performance and leadership for men of color. (see www.pgcc.edu to view the documentary.) Bring in outside professionals of color to mentor, give success strategies and open doors.
Thoughts shared during discussion: Look outside the campus to see what issues our students are dealing with that we can help with. Program activities so students can develop their own power, expertise and are able to advocate for themselves. Give them the training to go out and do the work that needs to be done. Keep up with workforce trends – currently Healthcare, IT, Hospitality and Culinary are hot sectors. Partner with institutions to get the students on board. We partner with nonprofits on outreach to the community. We go where the community is, churches, halls, community centers, Target. We don’t shy away from the need.
Hoops of approval from the audience after this presentation concluded.
An audience question from Sustainable Communities Atlanta: Community colleges often don’t want to take on certain topics and subjects, how can you get around that?
Moderator: Dr. Adrienne Hollis, Esq. (We ACT for Environmental Justice) Speakers: Sarah Dresher (Forest Co. Potawaotmi), Dr. Mildred McClain (Harambee House), Sara Pennington (Kentuckians for the Commonwealth), and Dr. Yomi (Eco Action ‐ Hercules Program)
Climate Change has and will continue to produce an increasing burden on vulnerable populations including children, the elderly, low‐income communities of color, and tribes. Beyond an increased burden, climate change impacts will continue to result in the need for a strong, coordinated, and intentional disaster response and ultimate recovery for communities affected by climate‐related disasters. In the session, speakers discussed how climate change disproportionally effects venerable communities. The session shared how some communities are preparing for climate change using citizen science and collaboration to create climate adaptation plans and make sustainable choices for the future.
Dr. Hollis noted the Leadership Forum on Climate Change hosted by WE ACT.
Sarah Dresher of the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe emphasized that tribes are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Project Greenfire has a goal of energy independence using renewable carbon‐neutral sources to develop a tribal utility. Strategies include: Internal efficiencies; Proper reuse of brownfields; Creating a climate adaption plan; Emergency planning and monitoring; Healthy and sustainable food initiative, including a seed bank to maintain a traditional way of life. Collaborating with the Midwest Tribal Resources Program.
Dr. Yomi of Eco Action shared how 75 counties in Georgia are building capacity to address environmental health threats, including flooding, contaminated waterways, climate change. At Eco Action, we listen, build capacity and help them transform their complaints into strategies. Community resilience, ability to anticipant, resist and recover from extreme environmental issues. Strengthen youth and community leadership. Examples are the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council and Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition. The power of collaboration helps the work continue. Leveraging and respecting one another. Build on social cohesion.
Sara Pennington distinguished between Energy and Power: Energy is the capacity to do work. Power is the rate at which work is done. Energy keeps you going, but it is Power that brings about a bright future for all. A just transition for coal communities. Coal industry is in rapid decline, coal jobs have been halved, and it isn’t coming back. We need vision oriented approaches that are unified, place based, and rooted in place, regenerative, that create shared political will. Reclaim Act currently in Congress would allocate one billion for jobs that would be created to reclaim the land, the same skills that strip miners used to strip mine they can use to revitalize these spaces.
Dr. McClain, encouraged participants to keep talking about the history of issues in communities. Climate Change is already here with record heat waves and flooding impacting disadvantaged communities. With Emergency Preparedness and Response Training, Climate Change = Economic Power and Community Revitalization.
Moderator: Jerome Shabazz (JASTECH Development Services, Inc) Speakers: Robert Noblett (Water Quality), Danielle Collins (Environmental Fashion), Ally Philyaw (Water Quality), Johnathan Cohen (Water Quality)
There is a need for a diversified young green leadership and relevant best practices for our most vulnerable communities. The benefits of active and strategic community engagement can be explored through the use of project based learning as youth investigate and respond to questions to solve problems. In this session, speakers shared youth perspectives on environmental problem solving, discussing a variety of topics from the interconnection between fashion and the environment, to sustainable groundwater solutions, to international youth problem solving. This session addressed the essential question, “what’s in it for me and my community?” through presentations on community‐based learning.
Danielle Collins emphasized the significance of communications in creating social change to reduce consumption and increase sustainable manufacturing. Think and be observant about your consumption. Supply and demand, buy less, there will be less. Buying from ecofriendly stores, find three that have something in common with you.
Ally Philyaw and Johnathan Cohen – Swarthmore Environmental Engineering Senior Students discussed the benefits of green Stormwater Infrastructure to reduce sewage overflows, increase green space and property values, and simulate the natural water cycle. Using models to minimize costs while maximizing outflow reduction.
Candice Mott, HD Woodson High School shared about the Worlds Smarts STEM Challenge, a partnership with Ghana supported by Carnegie Mellon University. Investigated water problems in Ghana and Anacostia, through a Virtual Exchange to explore the problems and potential solutions. Students developed a wire mesh to cover sewers, with a three compartment machine to remove plastic, organic waste, and lead and toxic materials
Moderators: Jay Benforado (EPA/ORD) and Shannon Dosemagen (Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science) Speakers: Omar Muhammad (Low Country Alliance for Model Communities), Omega Wilson (West End Revitalization Association), Dr. Mildred McClain (Harambee House), Craig Kreman (Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma)
Exciting developments in inexpensive pollution sensors, apps and data visualization can empower communities to conduct their own environmental monitoring. This session provided an overview of these trends using examples from different communities working on different issues. The audience was engaged in learning about what is possible; discuss how more communities can get involved; and, hear ideas about what kinds of community monitoring are most valuable. Speakers discussed techniques for collecting environmental justice data through citizen science efforts. Speakers also shared examples of citizen science efforts in their communities and tribes, highlighting the need for collaboration and community engagement.
Shannon Dosemagen, Executive Director of Public Lab in New Orleans, remarked on the creativity of human agency over the last decade, keeping people at the center. For example, cameras on kites at the BP oil spill. Map the areas you care about and have data to counter company information. Examples include Mapknitter, Bucket Brigade and Safecast.
Craig Kreman described the tribal perspective in monitoring 40 square miles of lead tailings with TAMS ‐ Tribal Air Monitoring Support. Resources include EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists and www.epa.gov/air‐sensor‐toolbox.
Omar Muhammad with the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) received four million dollars in the first ever NEPA community mitigation settlement from the Port of Charleston expansion rather than just 12 jobs at the Port. The Charleston Community Research to Action Board supports partnership development, stakeholder assessment and data collection for environmental sites in the neck area. He recommends the EJRADAR Online Mapping Tool that allows the community to access and use data to advocate for policy changes.
Omega Wilson shared the Community Owned and Managed Research Model (COMR) built from several EPA grants, including an Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving grant to support citizen science and protect the interests of the community. Train people from the community and ensure they are co‐authors and co‐owners of the research. Science for compliance. Data must be used to seek attainment and compliance in communities. Hold the local governments accountable.
Dr. McClain spoke of a neighborhood of 1000 in Savannah Georgia that is surrounded by 17 industries. The community is accommodating these industries despite health concerns. Dr. Hollis collected citizen observations and shared the observation with the students to teach the young people. Validate resident science. No longer can we afford for the people to be ignored, we have to be training. Create the capacity. Respect their expertise.
Moderator: Matt Campbell (Federal Emergency Management System, FEMA) Speakers: Dr. Beverly Wright (Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Dillard University), Monique Harden, Esq. (Advocates for Environmental Human Rights)
Speakers discussed the consequences of natural disasters for vulnerable communities, showcasing the need for community engagement in emergency evacuation planning and equity in the planning for, emergency services during, and recovery from natural disasters. This panel highlighted efforts by communities to prepare for and strengthen their ability to respond to and recover from future disaster impacts with minimum damage to social well‐being, the economy, and the environment. Their presentations were followed by an interactive discussion with the audience to explore opportunities and resources for communities to prepare and respond to disasters.
Matt Campbell (FEMA) emphasized the need to shift from post disaster management to prepare before a disaster to address hazard and equity issues. A resilient community is prepared on many levels: social, organizational, political, physical, economic, environmental. Need to consider, how can we support the whole community?
Dr. Wright spoke about the consequences for vulnerable communities during and after Katrina. Turning communities into green space is "disaster capitalism" reinvesting recovery dollars in mostly white areas and not investing in communities of color who were most affected. Her community (New Orleans East) had to fight to return home to New Orleans and rebuild, and to regain public water and sewerage services. Now the White population has increased 8% and the African American population has declined by 14%. The Road Home Program, assists people in getting back into their homes, homeowners in particular, but discriminatory in that mostly black people received the face value of their houses, while white folks received face value and rebuilding monies since their houses were more expensive. Flawed housing policy creates a new form of segregation with all poor people now being re‐housed in New Orleans East a formerly prominent Black middle class community.
The New Orleans Public School District was abolished post Katrina and now the entire school system is privatized Charter Schools where teachers are from Teach for America. This has opened the door for educational entrepreneurs and charter schools are treated like businesses where teachers are all white though students are all African American. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Hurricane Katrina, and they caught us when we were down. The Plasma Arc disposal project and the Dwyer Road Drainage Project are post disaster policies that favor development, not equity. This is not just New Orleans, there are disasters every year and we need to get ahead of the curve and identify what makes our communities vulnerable.
Monique Harden, Esq. with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights emphasized that these issues are not limited to just New Orleans. No one was prepared. Between 2005 ‐2010, there was a disaster every year. What makes communities vulnerable? Diminishes the value of your community. Clean Power Plan. The Clean Air Act codifies existing industrial practice, not regarding people and location. We’re operating within our permits, but the permits have nothing to do with health, children, or equity. Article 6 of the Constitution speaks to how permits can sometimes violate human rights; we need to understand that environmental rights are human rights. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ recent report entitled Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Rising Seas: Building Resilience in Communities on the Front Lines of Climate Change, captures the multiple threats and vulnerabilities that New Orleans and other coastal communities face. . We’re out of time. We need standardizations. We need funding for training.
Moderator: Jay Benforado, US EPA, Speakers: Ramon Palencia‐Calvo (Chispa Maryland), Maria Payans
(SRAP), Walkiria Pool (Centro de Apoyo Familiar, CAF)
Speakers shared the ways that their organizations seek to increase environmental health literacy within vulnerable communities. This session discussed engaging community members where they work, play, pray and learn to increase understanding of environmental issues. Environmental Health Literacy (EHL) is an emerging and evolving concept that shares theories, methods, and practices from a variety of fields including public health, health literacy, and risk communication. EHL is an important way to ‘inpower’ residents that live in communities impacted by environmental injustices. Panelists discussed different approaches that they have used to improve environmental health literacy in the communities they work in, how these efforts have ‘inpowered’ these stakeholders, impacts, lessons learned, and best practices.
Maria Payan spoke about how the non‐profit, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, conducted a Health Impact Assessment which resulted in EPA taking action to deny a facility permit. Also collecting medical information and data is important to laying the foundation for creating change.
Ramon Palencia‐Calvo emphasized the importance of voter engagement to hold elected officials accountable. Bridge the language gap, let the youth translate for their parents. Frame the message in terms of what is the benefit for them in terms of culture, health and the role of the family. Important to work with trusted influences and the faith community.
Walkiria Pool spoke about enlisting Promotoras to educate people about health in their homes. The CAF Work Model engages someone from the community to teach the community. Make the data tangible to them with pictures, and get the youth involved. Childcare providers learn and then provide the information to the parents of children enrolled in childcare.
Moderator: Jacob Burney (EPA/Office of Environmental Justice, OEJ) Speakers: Patricia Glass (HHS), Deborah Bae (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), Hannah Kett (Duwamish Clean UP), and Rae Tamblyn (National Association for State Community Service Associations)
Speakers discussed the role of grants in environmental justice work for communities, and provided resources for participants to consider. This session provided an overview of financial resources available to vulnerable communities and their partners. Audience learned about federal and technical resources, loan opportunities, contracts, foundational grants, and fellowships from the government, philanthropic, and the private sector. It was followed by an engaging question and answer dialogue with the audience.
Deborah Bae, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation spoke about their mission to build a Culture of Health in America. Think about health as where you live, play, and pray. Identify County health rankings and create health maps. They are investing in leadership for better health outcomes, healthy communities, healthy children, healthy weight. Pioneering ideas include: Maker Nurse, Virtual Reality, Air Louisville (GPS tracked inhalers).
Patricia Glass, spoke about Grants.gov and Workspace which lets you now know immediately if there are errors or issues with your application. Workspace information is saved for three years.
Hannah Kett spoke of the need to look for a diversity of funding sources. For example, the Duwamish River Clean Up obtained an Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Grant and an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant. Start with one grant and build success. Know your goals and mission. Build a relationship with your project and/or grant officer. Collaboration is key, enlisting a sub grantee, or giving money to partners. Celebrate and strategize!
Rae Tamblyn, spoke of the Vision of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and shared a range of grant resources including the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP); The National Community Action Network Theory of Change ($13.8 billion, less competitive, and more collaborative); Weatherization Plus Heath.org We have a list of our partners. DOE Better Buildings Initiative. HUD Healthy Homes and Lead Initiative; Brownfields Clean‐up Grant (nonprofits) 200k out now; Environmental Justice Small Grants
($30K) – underfunded states. Out in two weeks; EWDJT Brownfields Grants (200K) Fulltime sustainable jobs; Environmental Education Local Grants ($90K); Urban Water’s Small Grants ($60); EJ Collaborative Grants; Source Reduction Assistance ($260K)