Environmental Justice Week at GDS
Environmental Justice Week at GDS is hosted this year by the 2020 fellows of the Environmental Justice (EJ) Track of the Policy Institute. As members of the host group said, this week includes a variety of activities and events “meant to further educate the GDS community on environmental justice and its intersections.” Each day focuses on a unifying theme.
UPDATED: This story was updated on Monday, April 19 to include notes from Thursday and Friday programming during Environmental Justice Week at GDS.
On Monday, activities and information sharing focused around food. Students shared plant-based recipes as part of the group’s effort to promote Meatless Monday as well as information about the connections between food and climate change, poverty, food waste, and food deserts. Annabel Williams ’22 wrote, “The meat industry contributes greatly to climate and humanitarian issues—an estimated 14.5% of all carbon emissions are due to the animal agriculture industry, not to mention the excessive land and water it requires…”
On Tuesday, programming was centered around Indigenous rights. Seniors Harrison Lundy and Nadine Ameer led a virtual documentary screening and discussion during which they screened news clips, mini-documentaries, and lectures featuring activists and experts on Indigenous rights and environmental justice.
Amelie Beck ’21, Annabel, and Waleed Saleh ’23 offered a land acknowledgement for land upon which the GDS unified campus sits and described ongoing environmental justice issues currently impacting Indigenous communities. They wrote, “Some more specific examples of how Indigenous people are being affected by environmental issues include rising temperatures, deforestation, increased wind speeds, and loss of vegetation. These are negatively impacting traditional cattle and goat farming practices of Indigenous peoples who must now live in and around government land in order to access water and depend on government support for their survival.”
The group also provided some updated details about the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On Wednesday from 3:15–4:00 p.m., students from both the Lower/Middle School and the High School were invited to create upcycled art and learn about waste management as it relates to environmental justice. The Zoom session was split into two parts:
- A presentation from a group of Middle Schoolers from the Social Impact Club on discarded waste items, ways to upcycle them, and where they would otherwise end up.
- Building creations! Examples: flower pots, pencil holders, signs, collages, and more.
Additionally, seniors Caleigh Vergeer and Harrison Lundy presented an in-depth look at environmental racism in the DMV, with an emphasis on waste and recycling. Students learned ways to get involved through self-reflection and action.
Thursday will feature a consideration of environmental justice implications for women and a Q&A with former U.S. ambassador at-large for global women’s issues (and GDS grandparent) Melanne Verveer (Evan Bianchi ’21). Friday will focus on a letter-writing campaign and feature an environmental justice teach-in with High School science teacher Chris Oster.
On Thursday, the focus shifted to environmental justice implications for women. Nadine wrote, “Climate change is a challenge that burdens us all, but not equally. Women and girls are among those affected disproportionately, especially those belonging to marginalized and oppressed communities. And yet, their voices are rarely heard in decision-making forums.”
Friday’s Culminating Day of Action kicked off with a lunch break EJ letter writing campaign hosted by Emma Nelson ’22 and Caleigh. The session included an introduction to writing persuasive letters advocating for the Environmental Justice for All Act. In the afternoon, High School science teacher Chris Oster walked students and staff through an informal audit of GDS’s environmental justice work with a focus on opportunities to deepen the school’s commitment.
The Policy Institute EJ Track group closed the week with a note of gratitude to those who attended or engaged in learning through the week. They wrote, “EJ week is over, but environmental injustices persist. We have so much work to do. But we can create justice through education, science, advocacy, and compassion.” They also included an invitation to students to expand their level of participation by joining the Environmental Task Force, Enviro Club, 1.5 Degrees Newsletter, and EJ Track of the Policy Institute.
Special thanks to students Caleigh Vergeer, Harrison Lundy, Evan Bianchi, Nadine Ameer, Emma Nelson, Annabel Williams, Amelie Beck, Deepa Bhargava, and Waleed Saleh as well as MS learning specialist Cristina Watson (faculty sponsor of the MS Social Impact Club), interim director of community engagement and experiential learning Leigh Tait, the High School grade level deans, High School assistant principal for school life Quinn Killy, and “our fearless leader” High School science teacher Chris Oster.
The following resources were shared with students and faculty/staff:
Intersections of Environmental Justice and Indigenous Peoples by Nonprofit Quarterly
Environmental Justice for Indigenous Americans by the EPA
Current State of the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests by EcoWatch