Sowing Seeds of Environmental Advocacy
Although the photo shows seedlings growing in our urban farm’s greenhouse CFET began the year sowing a different kind of seeds: plans to connect with our community over concerns about environmental injustices in our neighborhood. Kate, our new Environmental Justice Coordinator has been attending monthly Camden Collaborative Initiative (CCI) meetings on air quality, where city wide organizations, local industries, and residents meet to discuss efforts to improve emission levels. She has also reached out to several leaders in the field of environmental justice and other like minded organizations in the region. We had planned to have an open house at our center in the middle of March, where we going to serve refreshments, hand out informational material, and listen to resident stories and concerns – especially around air quality. This was to be the first in a series of efforts to reach out for community input and involvement as we strive to become an organization that advocates as well as educates.
Like many organizations, since the onset of Covid-19 all of our normal operations and plans have been upended. Our open house has been cancelled, our field trips to visit other organizations in Newark and Chester have been suspended, and all of our in person meetings have been cancelled and moved online. Our staff is now working from home to the extent that they are able.
While we may not be able to physically meet with the community during this time, this does not mean that our work has come to a standstill. The environmental justice issues like poor air quality exist even now, and will continue to exist long after the pandemic is over. In light of this new reality, we have shifted to work more extensively on research efforts so that once we are able to open our doors to the community we will have solid information to share with them. We are trying to answer questions like: What are the substances in the air that we should be concerned about? Where are they coming from? How are they monitored? What are the health impacts? What are the laws surrounding air emissions and how are they enforced? Should we conduct testing of our own? …. And many more.
On the other side of this, we plan to be ready to burst out of the gates with high quality data that will help inform and empower our community so that we can help advocate for the clean environment that they deserve.
About the Grantee
The Center for Environmental Transformation (CFET) manages three gardens in Camden. CFET has an innovative youth program that uses urban agriculture to develop young minds and teaches healthy eating. We host service learning retreats focused on the environment and food justice and have recently began focusing on community organizing around environmental justice issues in our neighborhood.