Environmental Justice Hackathon Recap

Posted by PHENND on September 29, 2020
Summary of presentations (videos) from the Environmental Justice Hackathon co=sponsored by The Green Program and PHENND (more info and access to videos: https://thegreenprogram.members-only.online/tgphackathon-envjustice-recap):
Keynote Address – Jasmine Sanders – Executive Director, Our Climate
  1. Our the entire infrastructure is built on the back of enslaved and indentured BIPOC, who disproportionately withstand the worst of climate change as “frontline communities”
  2. Climate policies must respond to, invest in, and be made with frontline communities–both BIPOC and all working-class people.
  3. The New Deal was not made for everyone, by everyone…the most enduring the effect is Redlining as instituted by the Federal Housing Administration.
  4. We have been bearing witness to climate migration in our country increase since Hurricane Katrina.
  5. Young people are in a key position to use their voice to promote this intergenerational, multicultural fight. We need them to work intersectionally to respond to the needs of marginalized and BIPOC communities.
Speaker & Mentor – Edil A. Sepúlveda Carlo – Earth Scientist at NASA, Environmental Attorney, & Activist
  1. Colonialism is a major barrier to environmental justice. It is not dead. We have seen it play out in the ways the US government has handled Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico, which has yet to see the full relief dollars.
  2. Further, the US Military exercised on PR Islands leaving high levels of toxicity that show a +57% infant mortality and a higher risk of disease. The military left in 2003 but also left this contamination.
  3. Climate change is still our biggest existential threat, especially in the global south and small island nations who are experiencing droughts, sea-level rise, and increased severe hurricanes with little resources to cope.
  4. You need to fight in as many and every front, that’s what works
  5. Activism needs to be at the core of what you do. Use any platform you have, however small, even if it’s just Social Media. Create and share databases with other organizations. use what you’ve learned to create and share lesson plans. We can’t do this alone, we need collective action.
Speaker & Mentor -Ramiro Murguia – Director of Events, Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN)
  1. Living in a consumer economy, marketing has sold products as lifestyle necessities that define our personality. We need the newest thing so that our personality isn’t static. Because of this, companies plan for obsolescence so that they can keep selling and keep making money.
  2. The above is part of the traditional chain of extract -> produce -> distribute -> consume -> dispose. A better model disrupts this chain by introducing reuse, reduce, and redesign/rethink models. The goal is through these disruptions, we usher in circular economies.
  3. “The system is broken” is a fallacy, it was never set up to work for BIPOC. Only 9% of plastics have been recycled.
  4. Landfills are not the answer as they produce a high degree of methane and as materials decompose they create a toxic sludge that negatively impacts the community health.
  5. Incineration is worse. Its toxicity is higher than coal fires and its toxic ash still needs to go to a landfill.
Dr. Stephen Fong – Director at Virginia Commonwealth University
  1. There are localized variations in air quality and temperature (up to 15 degrees in Richmond) within cities.
  2. Climate change disproportionately affects 36-54-year-olds. While seniors and youth are more vulnerable to heat increase, this middle-age range faces more exposure.
  3. Lack of green space increased impervious surfaces, and entrenched poverty are all major factors in heat variability.
  4. You can collect and support this data using simple machines and crowdsourcing data using these machines.
  5. You can use this collected data to correlate with census tracts to build an index. Be careful as crowdsourcing is great, but you need full proof collection tools that collect data the same across all users in all areas.
Amina Castronovo – Field Advisor at Our Climate
  1. There’s no wrong or right way to be an activist. We can think of activists as fitting into 4 different personas: Helper (those who educate); Advocate (those who work in systems to change them); Rebel (those who grab attention and call out lack of accountability); and Organizer (those who convene an action team).
  2. Telling your story effectively has the potential to influence decision- and policy-makers through humanizing an issue. Find ways to spread your story to mobilize others through submitting Op-Eds, Letters to the Editor, speaking at rallies or protests, or letter writing to your elected officials.
  3. Bring people into activism by fining articles that they can relate to. Find ways to show how the consequences of an issue affect them.
  4. The best way to overcome fears or nerves around speaking up is to realize how high the stakes are. Battle your own misconceptions about yourself. Also, it’s okay to admit you don’t know something and you need to get back to someone with an answer.
  5. In all that you do, make sure you have a clear purpose and intent. What is the change you want to see done, and what goals need to be set to get there?
Earth Guardians Youth Panel – Moderated by Leala Pourier – Panelists: Marlow Bains, Tony Soto, Marian Meija
  1. Languaging Decolonization is not a simple thing to do. It includes talking about erasure, asking what has been written and for whom, and coming to terms with how we internalize it either as indigenous people or in our settler identity. It’s as much a process as it is a goal.
  2. Allies can start being seeing themselves in the settler identity and seeing how colonialism negatively impacts their daily lives. It’s not on BIPOC to always do the work, allies can work by supporting BIPOC voices, witnessing how they are oppressed, and using their privileged platform to speak on their behalf (keeping in mind citation politics).
  3. Decolonization is felt in conversations with our elders who have been worn down into submission over time. Decolonization is felt in confronting our elders when they perpetuate internalized colonization, by providing different lenses into experiences outside of the US/Canada. Decolonization is felt in deeply listening to indigenous peoples and validating their experience.
  4. Capitalism is a product of and perpetuator of colonization. The “if you work hard enough you get it” mantra is a fallacy because the system is not made to enter or benefit from equally. Capitalism uses its tools of individualism, extraction, and exploitation to pit people and resources against each other. If we are looking for governmental alternatives, we need to not think in terms of capitalism versus socialism versus, etc. as these are all constructs of western civilization. To indigenize government, we should talk to indigenous people about their historic governing structures without seeking to compare them to western models.
  5. Decolonizing yourself starts with recognizing colonization as a precipitate of white supremacy and so we must see how the structure was built to oppress others. Sometimes decolonizing is as simple as being an indigenous person in a white institution. We can further decolonize ourselves through attending events centered on decolonization, being in community with indigenous folx, sharing stories, etc.

Hackathon Projects
Teams in breakout sessions all met to create eco-tech projects. Here are three highlighted projects:

Food Next Door: The last to present, and, surely, they saved the best. This project comes on the heels of Cal AB 626: The Homemade Food Act. This mobile app seeks to redefine “fast food” for residents seeking ways to start-up food production in small batches. The app will identify local chefs, connect low-income folx to the permits needed to sell food, and work towards a zero-carbon footprint. They will create a system of “Neighbors” who can deliver food within a two mil location of you and they will accept EBT/Food stamps (although not explicitly how as most EBT does not allow you to purchase “prepared” foods). They will allow phone orders, recognizing not everyone has to access to a smartphone. Moreover, they will work towards reducing car trips by incentivizing deliveries by foot or bike with 10% discounts to the consumer.

BikePed: Seeks to use a crowdsourcing mobile app to capture areas of broken sidewalks, sidewalks with abrupt endings, and areas without bike lanes. Through crowdsourcing this data, communities will be able to collect and quantify areas of unsafe streetscapes to lobby elected officials to implement changes. This is based on the foundational understanding that lack of access to safe sidewalks and streetscapes affect BIPOC disproportionately. Further by collecting this data, they hope to use it to connect these usable sidewalks and streetscapes to allow more safe pedestrian and bike paths to discourage care trips and reduce emissions. The data can be collected to also plan stakeholder meetings to generate plans.

Green Match: This mobile app seeks to convene environmental organizations that need to build capacity and people seeking to volunteer for great causes. The team noted that this is the next level of stakeholder engagement. By using the basic dating app model of swipe left/right, volunteers and organizations can find the right match for them. The app will center organizations run by and for BIPOC, recognizing that these are often the most at risk with limited resources. Each organization and volunteer would have their own profile.

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