Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Learn from other advocates

I've watched a few of the videos in the EPA Office of Environmental Justice's 20th Anniversary Video Series and find them to be thoughtful, thought-provoking, inspirational, and challenging.   You don't have to be interested in or knowledgeable about the environment or environmental justice to appreciate the struggles faced by communities and the solutions crafted by interested parties.

EPA asked federal and local government officials, non-profit leaders, and students

how they approach developing solutions to environmental and health issues in communities and we asked which moments in their efforts to advance environmental justice have changed the way that they think about solutions to environmental and health problems in communities. We also asked them to share why these lessons are important for the next generation who will receive the torch and continue to move it forward to achieve the goal of environmental justice.

Teri Blanton, former Chair for the citizens' group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, for example, talks about the lessons she learned working with local residents―engaging them, encouraging them to take ownership over decision-making processes, and training leaders to advocate for healthier communities.

I was particularly taken with Vernice Miller-Travis's perspectives on working on issues in Harlem.   She explains that after two years of yelling and screaming, she "just couldn't do that anymore."   That approach to the work "wasn't productive, it wasn't moving us any further, it wasn't stemming the pollution, it wasn't addressing our issues..."   She and others changed directions, deciding to talk with the various parties, something that resulted in benefits to her neighbors.

These videos would be terrific professional development tools, a starting place for colleagues, volunteers, board members, and interns to have a discussion about integrating new and different ways of doing advocacy.

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