I’ve always been interested in the ongoing struggle between nature and an advancing society. I grew up in a small, gentrified suburb of California, but I was lucky enough to hike and camp with my family every summer in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. There, I cultivated my love for natural landscapes and my interest in what I could do to help preserve them. However, it wasn’t until high school that I started diving into environmental issues while learning how to live more sustainably.
My first sustainable act was helping out with my high school’s organic farm, where I learned about composting, running an edible garden, and, most of all, farming in urban settings, specifically, food deserts. A major food desert is located in South Central Los Angeles, a mere 30 minutes away from my home in Orange County, where Trader Joe’s can be found on most street corners. In South Central Los Angeles, there has been a recent movement by the affected community to create edible community gardens using vacant lots and street medians.
The idea of “guerrilla gardening” inspired me. It demonstrated how communities can work together to create lasting change through sustainable actions, despite environmental racism. Guerrilla gardening sparked my passion for issues surrounding food and environmental justice and made me decide to pursue a major in environmental studies, focusing primarily on sustainable development in urban areas.
Today, I am exploring issues of sustainability in the built environment at Scripps College. I chose to attend Scripps College for their environmental analysis program, which focuses on sustainability as an intersectional issue. Before college, I separated my two environments between the city where I grew up and the natural environment where I spent my summers. Many people believe in a dualism that divides nature and human communities, where nature is the place you visit while on vacation or study via field research. However, we need to understand environmental issues and human rights as they relate to both nature and human communities. It is important to understand that the health of our planet is directly related to the health and well-being of its inhabitants. My definition of sustainability includes an intersection of environmental, economic, and social issues.
When considering sustainability, we must understand this intersection as well as the needs of a community. For example, the fight for sustainability in my hometown was different from South Central’s struggle. Bringing about sustainable development in cities requires key ideological cultural changes in addition to intentional design and steady funding. As we move more toward sustainable development, we need to revisit issues related to race, class, and gender and see how they relate to environmental issues.
We cannot be silent against injustice. The road to sustainable development and the road to community liberation are two trails of the same path. If humankind is to rescue itself and the earth upon which it depends, we need to see sustainability as a complex system that relies on our understanding of intersectionality. I hope to use this understanding of sustainability and intersectionality after I graduate by pursuing a career in sustainable urban development.
Copyediting by Scott Lindquist