Last week I was formally voted onto the board of directors at Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. I’ve been interested in board-memebership ever since I first started working in the non-profit sector, so I’m looking forward to this new role. Greenaction is an environmental justice organization that works with poor communities and communities of color threatened by high pollution levels. I see them as a sort of “green” version of the Red Cross that works with communities in distress to help them get relief.
I first began working with Greenaction when I was conducting my master’s research at UC Davis. I approached Greenaction’s executive director, Bradley Angel, as well as leaders at a number of other organizations active in the Central Valley, to pitch them my research project and ask for help finding people to interview. Bradley became a member of the advisory committee that later helped me develop the 25 Stories from the Central Valley project, and we’ve stayed in touch since.
My new role on the Greenaction board will provide interesting new opportunities and challenges. The risk for scholars who are actively involved with the populations that they research is that they might find it difficult to step outside the group’s dominant views on their research topic to pursue their own analysis. On the other hand, more intimate involvement often provides researchers access and insight into their research topic at a level that far exceeds what is available to more distant observers. So far I’ve felt that the benefits outweigh the risks in my own work. I’ve been explicit with my new colleagues that the opinions I express in my writing may not always agree with their own. Certainly activists groups are very familiar with internal disagreement, so in a way this is nothing new. Still, UCSC Prof. Flora Lu and I are the first scholars to ever sit on Greenaction’s board, so we’ll be taking things one step at a time.
Greenaction just celebrated their 15 year anniversary, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the rich history of West Coast environmental justice activism of which they’ve been an integral part. I’m also excited about this opportunity to give back to the community that has shared their lives and stories so generously with me.
Greenaction board members, staff and friends. Dec. 9, 2011.