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Highlighting Environmental Justice for Sustainability Month

Social justice lies at the heart of all our projects, dedicating about one third of our projects on environmental justice. We view environmental education as environmental justice, a positive right for students in our service area to have access and exposure to great learning opportunities and get inspired to be a part of the new green economy. Since summer of 2019, CommUniverCity has been working with colleagues at 10 Northern California universities to discuss and share best practices on environmental justice teaching and research. 

In the winter of 2019, CommUniverCity hosted a meeting of the core planning committee with over 25 students, staff, and faculty representatives. As lockdowns started to be implemented, we shifted gears to go remote. In April 2020, SJSU Environmental Studies Assistant Professor Carolina Prado led an online session attended by more than 50 members that highlighted what network partners could do to support the work of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Bands’ efforts to prevent proposed mining activities in Juristac, local land considered sacred by the tribe. With the support of tribal leader Valentin Lopez, several participating faculty members incorporated petition signing and letter writing into their spring classes and connected interested students to internship opportunities as a result of our initial collaboration. 

On October 9, 2020, executive director Katherine Cushing, community director Imelda Rodriguez, and Michael Gonzales from the City of San José let a virtual workshop that went over our network’s multi-sector funding models. The Northern California Environmental Justice Network wouldn’t be possible without financial support from the City of San José, SJSU, PG&E, Wells Fargo, Cathay Bank, Susan Meyers, and Davide Viera. The current challenges we face are adequately integrating community members into budgets, year-to-year fluctuations in funding, and juggling a variety of funding sources. We look forward to continuing our research for a green future together. Happy Sustainability Month!

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