Our Environment, Our Story.
Keep it Clean photo by Jennifer Weeks
The Environmental Justice Journalism Initiative seeks to create a more engaged and informed community around environmental inequities and to address them to build a more equitable future. We are working with students to help them produce high-quality investigative work and connect them with resources for careers in a variety of fields that touch on environmental justice.
Our Environment, Our Story.
Mission: Black communities and low-income areas have absorbed a disproportionate amount of the refuse and detritus associated with our industrialization and productivity, with few of the benefits. They have become repositories for sewage spills, toxic dumps, incinerators and power plants that emit dangerous chemicals into the air. As a result, Black communities in have among the highest asthma rates in the country, and a shorter life span than their fellow residents in more affluent ZIP codes. They receive fewer of the benefits – few cohesive bike lanes, waterfront parks, green spaces and green infrastructure to control stormwater. They have also lost their historic lands in many different ways – through erosion and climate change, eminent domain, ownership disputes, pollution, and questionable title takings.
Harbor photo Rona Kobell
These stories – and the corresponding pleas for a more equitable future – are often untold. The local media in many cities is a shadow of what it once was, and the reporters who remain are often focused on big environmental policy decisions.
Over the years, we have heard the trope that Black people do not care about the environment and do not appreciate the outdoors. We know nothing could be further from the truth. In the history of the Chesapeake Bay, where we are based, Black Americans were among the most prolific fishermen, oystermen, farmers, and hunters. The pandemic has brought great diversity to our outdoor spaces, and has shown the value those close-to-home parks and preserves have for all of us. We believe communities have stories to tell about these spaces, and the threats to them.
Rowhouses near Druid Hill. Many homes in Baltimore have lead paint, which causes public health problems that disproportionately impact Black families. Photo: Rona Kobell
The Environmental Journalism Justice Initiative aims to teach high school students the skills that journalists need but that they could apply to a multitude of careers, including public-interest law, marine science, city planning, environmental activism, and of course also reporting and editing. The world needs more journalists, but it also needs professionals across disciplines with investigative stills and an ability to connect current problems in science and policy to past decisions. We seek to teach students we will work with on how to obtain information and construct a narrative, be it for video, audio, or a printed piece, We also seek to connect students with various opportunities for mentoring and career development so they can chart their own course.