Link roundup: Resources for teaching environmental justice

I’ve come across a variety of intriguing online resources in past months that I keep meaning to write-up into a variety of teaching tools. But time is short so instead I’m posting them all here, with a few short ideas on how they might be used in the classroom. Happy teaching!

Race and the outdoors

  • Stuff white people like: camping A tongue-in-cheek send-up of camping, camping culture, and the disproportionate participation of white people in camping. Could be a great way to stimulate classroom conversation about outdoor activities and race. I could see reading the post aloud and asking the following kinds of questions to get the conversation rolling: How many of you like camping?  How many of you don’t? Does this post ring true to your experience of camping or not camping? Does this post seem like an accurate representation of camping? Does this post seem like an accurate representation of who camps? Why do you think white people are the dominant participants in so many recreational activities in the outdoors?
  • Diversity and the outdoors - google hangout with Allison Chin (Sierra Club), Audrey Peterman (Legacy On the Land), Javier Sierra (Sierra Club en Español), Juan Martinez (Children and Nature Network), Rue Mapp (Outdoor Afro) and Rusty White (surfer). People of color outdoor-leaders discuss how they got interested in the outdoors and how to get more people to join them. This video would be a good follow-up to the “Stuff white people like” blog post described above because it contradicts it in some ways. You could ask students to consider how the leaders featured in the google hangout might respond to the “stuff white people like” blog post.  Would they agree or disagree with its content?
  • America’s forgotten black cowboys This article could help students question racialized narratives of the American West, as well as to consider the historical experiences of people of color in the American outdoors.

Race, Nation, and Agriculture: The “God Made a Farmer” Videos 

I could imagine showing the first video without any introduction and asking the following questions at the end of it:  Did you notice anything odd about this video?  Was anything missing? If the students can’t think of anything, show the second video and ask them the question again. The point would be to launch into a discussion of the video’s startling use of white people to represent farming in America, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of people working in this industry are Latino. This could be a fruitful jumping off point for discussion about framing, narrative, representation, race, the history of farming in America, or any number of other juicy topics. Be sure to discuss what the difference between a “farmer” and a “farmworker” is. Child labor could make for an interesting and relevant topic for a follow-up conversation too.

Data

Other data sources. See this activity for ideas on how they could be used.

Multimedia 

I’m not sure how I would use these in the college classroom, but wanted to post them here for future reference.

Visions of the San Joaquin Valley

I spent time yesterday looking at Barron Bixler’s photographs of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley.  He’s arranged his photos into a beautiful slideshow set to music called A New Pastoral: Views of the San Joaquin Valley.  I’ve formed my own vision of the San Joaquin Valley over the last few years, and it’s fascinating to see how someone else views and presents the region.  Some of Bixler’s photos depict scences familiar to me – stark  landscapes of row-crops, orchards with factories in the background, agricultural machinery, railroads and storage facilities.  I loved seeing these familiar places through his eye. Others show places I’ve never been, like the inside of an industrial milking facility.

Bixler’s photos are entirely devoid of people – they depict industrial agriculture through the landscape and built environment it creates.  Matt Black’s photos, on the other hand, center on the immigrants and farmworkers living and working in the San Joaquin Valley.  They are entirely human. I enjoyed checking his captions to see if the small towns he has depicted were places I’ve spent time in too (mostly not).  He has also created a powerful digital project about the birth defects in Kettleman City.

David Bacon’s work doesn’t focus on the San Joaquin Valley per se, but he has a number of photo collections of farmworkers, immigrants, and UFW advocacy set there.  See his work here and here.

Finally, Ken Light’s new photographic book, Valley of Shadows and Dreams, will be published soon by Heyday Press.  I saw some of his work on this project when I took his documentary photography class several years ago at UC Berkeley, and can’t wait to see the finished product.  Check out the photo on the book’s cover, it’s gorgeous.

And, here’s a link to my own humble efforts to photograph the San Joaquin Valley.  I try to show the grave environmental health problems facing this region, but also the hard work being done by its residents to change things. I also try to convey my sense of this under-appreciated part of our state as beautiful in its own right. An updated version of this collection will be online soon, as well as a nifty new collage that combines new photos with oral history.