23 February 2012

Environmental Justice Workshop

On Saturday, January 28, 2012 BES hosted a daylong workshop on Environmental Justice at the Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore.  The workshop is part of the NSF-funded Pathways to Environmental Science Literacy project for middle and high school science teachers from Baltimore City and County.

Dr. Ali Whitmer, Associate Dean at Georgetown University, taught teachers about Baltimore's distribution of environmental advantages (like access to parks) and disadvantages (like proximity to a toxic release inventory site).  Nationwide it has been found that environmental disadvantages are typically located in poor and minority areas.  However, BES researcher Chris Boone found that in Baltimore this is not the case.  In the past it was considered advantageous to live close to where you worked (the industrial areas) so in Baltimore there are more Toxic Release Inventory sites in white neighborhoods than black.  Dr. Whitmer also engaged teachers with a game called "Whose Resource Is It Anyway?"  The goal of the activity was to help increase participants understanding of environmental justice, what constitutes equitable distribution of environmental resources and services, and the factors involved in the decision making process. 

Part of the workshop included a tour led by renowned environmental justice activist Glenn Ross.  Ross’ Baltimore Toxics Bus Tour around East Baltimore gave teachers the opportunity to learn about local environmental justice issues. 

To achieve sustainable development, problems regarding the fair distribution of resources among today’s population and for future generations must be confronted.  Teachers left the workshop with new ideas and heightened motivation for exploring these issues with their students.

By: Tammy Newcomer