Environment Challenge Day
April 11, 2019
To keep you connected to LT and current issues and topics discussed in the curriculum, LT shares highlights and resources from the recent Challenge Day. We hope you enjoy these monthly updates!
The Environment Challenge Day is a difficult day to plan. The issues seem so big (e.g. climate change), and the results of efforts are often not seen for many, many years. We’ve learned that focusing on place can be a great strategy for talking about big issues in a way that localizes them. This year, we focused on the Duwamish River, and held the day at a Boeing Site on the river.
The Duwamish River Valley is home to a U.S. Superfund site—a site of contamination from PCBs and other chemicals. This neighborhood is also home to the Duwamish Tribe’s Longhouse and Cultural Center, as well as to higher populations of Latinx, communities of color, and immigrant communities. The average life expectancy for those living in this neighborhood is eight years shorter than the Seattle average, and 13 years shorter than the average life expectancy of residents in Magnolia and Laurelhurst. Thus, the Duwamish Valley is a prime example of environmental injustice, as well as a case study to understand how the communities, businesses, and government agencies are working together toward environmental justice.
Many environmental issues occur on a global scale and broad timeline, and the UN sustainability goals are the global framework countries are organizing around. Become familiar with the most recent global climate outlook through the UN sustainability goals. Click goal 13 to learn more about climate action here.
This news story highlights concerns over the impacts of climate change near our Challenge Day location and introduces city actions. Read the article here.
Environmental Health is a justice issue and this Washington State Department of Health Tracking Network map shows us why. Compare Environmental Health Disparities of your zip code to the zip code of our Challenge Day area 98108 here.
Setting The Environmental Context
We heard from tribal, private, public, and nonprofit sector leaders, and considered how the environment intersects with other elements of a healthy community, in particular the economy and basic needs. The class heard from several environmental justice speakers, who spoke of the importance of engaging the people most affected by decisions in the solutions and gave specific examples for effective ways to do this. Ken Workman, a Duwamish Tribal Member and retired Boeing employee, talked about the history of the Duwamish People in the region from time immemorial.
Human impact on shorelines and waterways has significantly altered our region’s environment and disrupted the natural resources that indigenous populations have relied upon. Review the Waterlines Project to understand historical changes to our region’s lakes, rivers, shorelines, and water resources and to learn some place names in the Lushootseed language of the Coast Salish People here.
Read the Duwamish Valley Action plan to learn about the City-community shared vision that will guide the Cidy’s work and investments in the Duwamish Valley for years to come. Focus on pgs. 2-16, the introductions for each of the seven priority areas (in different pages throughout the document), and pgs. 81-83 here.
Connecting Issues Locally
Curriculum Committee member, Susan Sanchez, LT’01 led a discussion with Alberto J. Rodríguez, Duwamish Valley Advisor, City of Seattle, and Paulina López, Executive Director, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (TAG), about environmental and social justice history and current issues in South Seattle, as well as how to effectively engage and empower the community to participate in decision making. They also shared some of the strategies they use to engage non-English speakers to understand and make decisions about the Duwamish River clean-up.
We also heard from Tiffany Mendoza, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Front and Centered, a coalition of environmental justice groups working to pass environmental justice legislation. The class then applied what they had learned that day to creating an advocacy campaign to address an issue they cared about.
City of Seattle Resources