Environmental justice is a right, not a choice!

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Written by Katherine Dennis, a Nashville native and the Little Rock SoS Garden Manager!

This past week has been our orientation & training week for the Little Rock Summer of Solutions team. We have gone through a myriad of trainings including community organizing, conflict resolution, and social entrepreneurship.

One of the most meaningful trainings in which we participated was focused around environmental justice. I have studied this topic academically, and I understand what it generally means: how the environmental and people interact, and is it just. That is a really naive definition, and so I googled it to find out a little more about what it means. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Okay, this is another academic definition, and I’m going to try and break it down a bit. Are people being treated fairly, regardless of their income, race, etc., in terms of the development and policies that are affecting them? I can think of national examples: The Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, AR on March 29, 2013 that killed flora and fauna. Another example are the oil operations in Niger that have spilled oil slowly over the past twenty years, thus, destroying their precious ecosystems. I understand environmental justice on the global scale, but how does it affect singular neighborhoods in the US?

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Corvallis SoS Launch Week

The NICE Summer of Solutions launch week imploded my brain and lassoed my soul, forcing me to reflect on my life in ways I never have, but have always wanted to. The deep and penetrating introspection divulged thoughts I’d never thought, connections I’d never seen, and worldviews I’d never considered. These views exploded outward from within making me feel and see the world in entirely and fundamentally different ways. These trainings lassoed my soul, asking not only what do I want to do, but what I need to do it, and how I am going to. The most powerful realization for me was that I can dream big, big, big, but I never seem to plan how to reach those dreams. This was a pretty amazing realization for me because I’ve always known this, but haven’t felt so determined to overcome it before. But more than introspection, this week was about imagining ourselves in our highest vision and visioning a world beyond the horizon. Loosening the lasso, my soul soared. It’s not so much that I haven’t had visioning sessions before, but that I realized by thinking and stating out loud the world we wished to see, by living it in our thoughts, words, and actions, we created it right where we were. Our training week was spectacular.

You know, clicking on the Summer of Solutions tab on the Grand Aspirations site, I saw our lonesome green balloon in Oregon, signifying our program in Corvallis. Despite being the only SoS program west of the Mississippi, I couldn’t be prouder and happier to be here.