Hi, my name is Dawn Valentine, and I am the founder of the Variable Scoop, based in Washington DC. Our work is centered on building capacity to create better programs that end human suffering and support social change. As a person who loves the outdoors, I have always been aware of environmental initiatives; I just always thought it was someone else’s job and those problems were in someone else’s backyard.
Blinders and Missed Opportunities
In the social sciences, we tend to get engaged in silos – for example, there is public health and asthma, asthma management guidelines, and environmental justice and asthma. When I conducted primary research on asthma management guidelines, we thought a lot about independent variables like race & ethnicity, income, education, and household characteristics. We tended to miss the variables that could directly impact health outcomes, like the presence of hazards, proximity to pollution sources, or segregation measures. For example, would you consider the proximity of the bus depot to the home of a research participant with chronic asthma? Would notice white clothing having a yellowish or gray tinge on the clothesline and think air pollution?
My blinders were removed on a random Tuesday in a hot conference room at UDC when a local advocate from the Anacostia Riverkeepers told me about an environmental justice data collection effort in the Anacostia River. Turns out the river is contaminated with PCBs, metals, pesticides, PAHs, sediment, and fecal microbes due to stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows. This impact the fish, nearly half of the fish in the river had tumors from exposure to toxic chemicals, connected water ways and the impact on the health of our community.
Why be an advocate?
If we are to take collective action on climate change by limiting global warming in the next twenty years, we all must find a role to play before we reach the point of no return. My goal was to get involved, and I found a place to support environmental justice through advocacy and community linkages. As evaluators, we have a unique opportunity to raise questions, create connections, support data-driven policy. In short, there are so many ways we can use our voice to help advocate for change that will bring about solutions to save the planet and support a better quality of life.
- Stay local; grassroots nonprofits in the community are often the best people to help you understand the problems as well as the solutions.
- Search your county department of energy and environment and take a moment to notice how to file a complaint, what are the current restoration projects and other activities. Then share it with everyone!
- Use tools like Facebook or Google to locate local environmental justice organizations or the EPA website https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-your-community
- Support serious climate change candidates in the political process.
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