Falling in love with mother nature
I first became engaged as an advocate for the environment when I lived in New Mexico and worked to help protect Navajo sacred sites from uranium mining and drilling. The experience opened my eyes to the sacredness of our environment and the power of a small but focused group of people working together for a common cause.
I leveraged my AmeriCorps VISTA connections and partnered with the Sierra Club to start a group in Gallup, New Mexico. As a grass-roots group with Sierra Club backing, we were able to combine resources with already existing indigenous organizations to bring attention to the environmental justice issues in the region.
My experience as a grassroots organizer out West has served me in my current roles as both social worker and mother living in a Midwestern city. Now my passion to protect and preserve the environment are played out at home and in my neighborhood instead of on tribal lands. I live, work, and send my daughter to a community school all within about a one-mile radius of one another.
Of course, saving money on gas is a big boon financially; additionally, our family has a heightened sense of desire to maintain a healthy local environment. Our neighborhood stands within blocks of one of the most contaminated air pollution pockets in our city. I have been asked to participate in a study circle that has created an action plan to work collectively with neighborhood members, businesses, and city officials, to reduce the air pollution problem that has wreaked havoc on our mostly low-income, minority neighbors. Again, environmental justice work needs to be done.
One of my fondest neighborhood memories involves planning and coordinating a tree-planting project with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Rebuilding the Wall, Inc., in our neighborhood. We planted somewhere between 35 and 50 trees in one day and engaged scads of neighbors and volunteers in the process.
It was a beautiful picture of the community coming together to create natural spaces in our own back, and front, yards!
As a parent and community resident, I stay engaged in environmental issues just by stepping out of my house. My family is fortunate enough to live a block away from the touted Indy Monon rail trail where we bike, jog, and walk almost daily in the spring-fall months.
We reap both the negative and positive environmental impacts of urban living. We get to enjoy the urban trail system, yet we are breathing in the highly polluted air. My 7- year-old daughter comments on the “stinky” air and tries to hold her breath when we pass the factories and plants. I look forward to a day when she can breathe easy.