A $1.75 million reward from Meta (formerly Facebook) to the Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health (CEEJH) within the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health will considerably bolster the group’s skill to advance environmental justice throughout the United States.

The reward will assist new and ongoing actions led by CEEJH, together with a brand new paid internship program, new workers hires and the annual University of Maryland Symposium on Environmental Justice (EJ) and Health Disparities, a multiday occasion for group organizers, policymakers and environmental well being specialists utilizing revolutionary coverage, authorized and public well being instruments to deal with urgent EJ points and assist communities to advocate for themselves. 

Led by Associate Professor Sacoby Wilson, CEEJH conducts analysis and leads efforts to elevate, have interaction and advocate for communities experiencing well being inequities and poisonous exposures stemming from a historical past of environmental racism. “Our regulatory scheme has not protected every American when it comes to environmental hazards,” Wilson mentioned. “Take for example the recent coal dust explosion in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay. That explosion shook homes and blew out people’s windows. It is shocking that we have industry right beside a community!” 

Brent Harris, Meta vp of governance, mentioned the corporate is honored to accomplice with UMD in increasing assist for environmental justice communities.

“While this is early in our journey, the partnership will help us learn more about the ways technology can empower environmental justice leaders and support underserved communities facing these impacts around the world,” Harris mentioned.

Wilson and his staff of researchers, trainers and group organizer/advocates have been efficiently participating communities all through the United States who’re impacted by often-shocking exposures to poisonous waste and industrial services, rubbish dumps and different sources of air pollution that decrease high quality of life and should lead to cancers, respiratory issues and different continual well being issues. As local weather change exacerbates present threats to well being and creates new ones, many of those communities are on the “frontline”—which means that they expertise the primary and worst impacts of local weather change.

“The current [Biden] administration has elevated environmental justice, and this is an opportunity to make visible a lot of populations that we think have been ignored,” Wilson mentioned. “But we need more people at the table, we need more people in the social movement, and we need to have industry and technology companies as part of the solution. This gift from Meta is going to help us with engaging communities on the frontline and fenceline who are dealing with environmental justice and climate issues.

Interested college students can apply now for the brand new Environmental Justice Summer Scholars program, which is able to launch in June 2022 (software deadline: March 31). The first paid internship alternative out there with CEEJH, the EJ Summer Scholars program is offered to up to 20 undergraduate college students primarily based within the mid-Atlantic area who’re enthusiastic about environmental and local weather justice. 

Over 10 weeks, college students will likely be paid $5,000 and acquire abilities in analysis, science communication, group science, capability constructing and their very own profession planning. Workshops and coaching will likely be offered nearly, with some fieldwork experiences supplied in particular person. Depending on abilities and pursuits, college students might assist with deploying air high quality sensors in accomplice communities, information evaluation and visualization, improvement of instructional and outreach supplies, refinement of EJ mapping instruments and different assist for ongoing analysis. 

“We are excited to build a more robust training program and to make sure that we are doing science that serves the people,” Wilson mentioned, “and to be able to provide community groups with more technical assistance.”

Wilson may even rent an operations supervisor and group engagement specialist to be a part of the rising CEEJH staff that already consists of these with backgrounds in environmental well being, city planning, geographic info programs, group organizing, information science and public coverage.

The funds may even assist CEEJH focus extra on constructive makes use of of expertise on the annual Environmental Justice and Health Disparities Symposium. Wilson has been keen to have interaction “green tech” and “clean tech” companies to develop environmental and local weather options, in addition to making use of social, information, well being and knowledge expertise to the EJ motion’s targets.

The reward from Meta comes at a vital time for environmental justice struggles and within the CEEJH’s historical past. While the federal authorities’s assist for environmental and local weather justice has raised its visibility, many challenges stay. 

“With the threats to voting rights, civil rights and our democracy that we are witnessing, there is the potential of more pollution, more environmental injustice, more environmental health disparities,” Wilson mentioned. “We need more people to step up. What affects people who have been invisible affects us all.”