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Revitalizing the Lower L.A. River: Voices from Maywood – Environmental Education means Environmental Justice

Environmental education means environmental justice to Maywood residents.

I asked residents what River revitalization plans should include in environmental education programs.

Young adults stressed the community needs to learn about disproportionate pollution burdens they experience daily, and how they can change these conditions. Maywood is disproportionately burdened by pollution and health vulnerabilities, and populated by low-income people and people of color.

One long-time community member and graduate student explains environmental education programs need to describe the reality of life in Maywood:

Talking about the environmental realities that we live in. In terms of being so close to factories. Many people work in those factories, they’ve worked there their whole lives. Thinking about how that impacts your health, because it does.

Another long-time community member and PhD student agrees:

More environmental education of chemicals, pollutants, and people’s rights! So people can know how to organize, and what their rights are, and that they have rights. They have the power to change it. Otherwise people are just gonna go on with it …

Education about environmental injustice in Maywood and Southeast L.A. can mobilize organizing efforts in the community to alleviate the environmental and health disparities they face every day.

An active community member proposes a place for sustained conversations and public art about environmental justice:

I’m thinking that something like a community arts center, that’s able to sustain the conversation. I would like to ask possibilities of even a pop-up. Doing a little information station where we’re collecting stories, and at the same time raising issues.

Maywood community members have been disproportionately exposed to pollution from the local industrial sector and demand justice. Education programs about the environmental and health impacts from pollution can mobilize residents, lead to policy change, and improve people’s lives.

This series on Revitalizing the Lower L.A. River: Voices from Maywood is based on my Master’s Thesis, An Alternative Paradigm to Revitalization of the Lower Los Angeles River: A Maywood Story (Master’s Thesis, M.S. Regenerative Studies, Cal Poly Pomona, College of Environmental Design 2017).

Please email me at tmok [ @ ] if you have any comments or questions.

See Whitewashing the L.A. River? Displacement and Equitable Greening.

Photo: The Lower L.A. River in Maywood