Catherine Enos-Opinions Editor
During the spring semester, The Anchor chronicled the beginning of a new organization on campus: the Environmental Justice Alliance. The idea for an organization like this emerged from Dr. Peter Little of the Anthropology department, who sat down with The Anchor again to explore just what exactly the EJA’s mission is at Rhode Island College.
The Environmental Justice Alliance isn’t a typical environmental club. “Environmental Justice” is exactly what it sounds like: a movement for equal protections from environmental hazards. Some concerns falling under the umbrella of environmental justice include problems such as air pollution, less access to healthy food, exposure to high levels of lead poisoning, waste dumping, et cetera. “Justice” is the goal in mind here, as these environmental issues often disproportionately affects communities of lower incomes and those of color.
The Environmental Justice Alliance’s main goal is to form a partnership with the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI). The EJ League is based in Providence and works with the community on several projects. “Getting students directly connected to projects the EJ league already has”, says Dr. Little, is essential, as “they’ve [already] got the community relations built”.
The executive director of the EJ League, Cristina Cabrera, sat in on the first meeting to discuss the types of things RIC students in the EJA could assist with. Out of all the programs the EJ League currently has running, the one that stuck out most to Dr. Little was Environmental Community Organizers Youth (ECO Youth). It’s an after school program for teenagers which promotes leadership in the areas of social justice and environmental justice.
A program like ECO Youth would suit RIC’s various majors, Little says. “Finding ways to get our students involved in this program would be great… I’m trying to make this as student focused and student driven as possible.” Since ECO Youth is an afterschool program, education majors can be involved as well. And since it involves social and environmental issues, environmental studies majors, as well as various other social science majors can be involved.
In addition to being involved with the EJ League’s existing programs, EJA will have its own endeavors on campus. Though the Alliance is only in developmental stages with most of its initiatives, Dr. Little says that guest lecturers could be a possibility, as well as the possible development of an internship with EJLRI. Though this is not set in stone, internships are always heavily sought out on campus, so this is something for interested students to look out for.
In an effort to be “as student driven as possible,” the alliance is trying to get more people involved in the organization, increasing the overall output of the EJA. The initial meeting in the Spring was attended by 12 students, and they are hoping to continue to cultivate a large and diverse group of people. The first meeting of this semester will be September 26 from 12-1:30 in Gaige Hall room 146, within the Anthropology department offices.