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Earth Day 2022 with the SEI

The SEI hosted a very successful Earth Day event on April 22 in coordination with the Professional Development College and thanks to Lourdes Brent, who suggested the event and helped make it happen. There were as many as 85 attendees. Our three-hour morning event was opened with a strong environmental statement from Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez and was followed by two panels of experts and activists. 


The first one-hour panel discussed toxic pollution in Los Angeles neighborhoods with a focus on environmental justice. Three distinguished panelists shared the experience and activism that addresses toxicity.

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Dr. Brian Johnston is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, has been working in Boyle Heights since the mid 1970s. He has dedicated his medical career to addressing the health effects of toxic hazards to the mostly Latino community there. His work has focused on heavy metal contaminants and the hazards of the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

Robina Suwol shared her story on how she became aware of the indiscriminate use of pesticides and biocides on LAUSD campuses. She leads California Safe Schools and has mobilized support for the new regulations and laws locally and in Sacramento to limit, reduce, monitor sites and educate the public on these dangerous chemicals.

Jane Williams came to us from California Communities Against Toxics highlighted the legal cases she has litigated to address the problem of hexavalent chromium in the water supply of poor and working-class communities of color in the state. She has worked with the other panelists on specific cases and has a record of successful challenges to big polluters.

The second ninety-minute panel focused on the need to develop a more robust campaign to advance a climate curriculum in the state from K-12 and for two and four-year higher education degree programs. The panel also looked at the goals in the “design and build” and facilities management to make energy and conservation goals a tangible reality. 

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Ariel Whitson is the education director at TreePeople, on the importance of the urban forest and ecological services provided by the canopy. TreePeople has focused on planting trees in neighborhoods where heat and cement make life more difficult for children and residents in general.

Vice Chancellor Dr. Rueben Smith from the LACCD’s Facilities Dept provided a detailed progress report on sustainability goals in new and existing buildings in our nine campuses to meet the 2030 goals for greenhouse gas emissions and to bring these to “net zero”. The efforts also include water conservation, waste reduction, and biodiversity protection.

Andrew Walzer comes to us from LA City College. He updated the attendees on the progress in pressuring the two state public pension funds, CalSTRS and CalPERS to divest the portfolios of fossil fuel corporate stocks. There is a bill pending in Sacramento to direct the funds to divest. ("The views, information, or opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the individual(s) involved and do not represent those of the District Academic Senate and its members.")

Lucy Garcia is an organizer and activist from the Climate Reality Project. She has worked on the LAUSD climate curriculum committee which seeks to formalize climate education K-12. She gave a brief but passionate talk that knitted together the actions on climate education, environmental justice, and the challenges faced by youth today in the LAUSD and the world. She had us all in rapt attention.

Finally, attendees heard from the SEI co-director George Leddy on aspects of proposed legislation, some already working its way through the state Assembly, that would fund climate education in the state.  These include the very ambitious $200 million proposal for K-12 climate education to the modest bill AB1913 that would fund a Climate Center at West LA College. We ended by discussing the need for Sacramento to dedicate more budgetary resources for community colleges that are all too often left out of climate education budgets. 

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