Over the course of the past two summers, Cole Merrick ’11 (Visual Arts and Environmental Studies) worked on environmental justice issues in small, rural communities in New Mexico with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit environmental justice law firm that has been serving local communities for over twenty years. He spent the summer of 2009 doing photographic work in and around those communities, capturing the essence and spirit of the people and activist work. As a fellow this year, he was able to expand his efforts beyond photography, and work on many of the issues that face those communities today. While the New Mexico Environmental Law Center helped navigate the legal system and protect the health of its clients, he worked to tell the personal stories of its clients with written articles and imagery. Cole also helped with the development side of the nonprofit in drafting grant proposals, brainstorming fundraising ideas, and doing public education and media work.
"As I a member of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, I developed a broadened perspective of environmental injustice in New Mexico. Connecting to the people of under-represented and economically disadvantaged communities, mostly Native American and Hispanic, opened my eyes to the suffering they have been forced to endure and the great concern for the future. I am very pleased that I was able to aid in their efforts, and those of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s, to achieve the justice they deserve."
Andrew Cushing received a Psi Upsilon Sustainability fellowship during the summer of 2010 that provided him with an opportunity to learn about the broader notion of sustainability. As an intern at New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), Andrew Cushing ’12 (Environmental Studies and History) worked on land conservation and historic preservation projects. This included performing site visits to a 1913 movie theatre, a repurposed grange hall, paper company barns, 10,000 acre wildlife corridors, and key watershed protection lands to name a few. He helped in developing baseline documentation, stewardship agreements, and conservation deeds; met with state organizations that aim to protect New Hampshire’s historic and natural assets; and assisted his hometown’s historical society to list four buildings to the state (and potentially national) register of historic places. One of the major lessons that he took away from the experience was about the relationship between land conservation and historic preservation. ”These are both movements with support from the people, yet protecting the New Hampshire landscape requires increased funding, more consensus, and healthier appreciations for our past.
“Sustainability can apply to many situations. In addition to the obvious built and natural environment, a human element is critical to the sustainability of a community. Without involved and caring citizens, engaged youth, and concerned government officials, it becomes too easy to lose that sense of place.”
Alejandro Artiga Purcel
As one of three recipients of a new summer fellowship, the Psi Upsilon Environmental Justice Fellowship, Alejandro Artiga-Purcell ’11 (Environmental Studies and Psychology) spent his summer in El Salvador, worked with the Centro de Investigación sobre Inversion y Comercio – CEICOM. CEICOM is a nonprofit organization, located in San Salvador and a leading environmental justice consortium in El Salvador. As part of his research fellowship, Alejandro worked to advance their mission of researching and disseminating information regarding water rights and the affects of metallic mining in Central America. He conducted research on the transnational Cerro Blanco gold-mining project, located in Guatemala, close to the Salvadoran border, focusing on the current and future social impacts of the mine in Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities. The study focused on identifying the potential negative impacts of the mining project (such as polluting the Ostua and Lempa rivers and Guija lake), and the social impacts they will have and have had in local communities near the mine. Alejandro visited the rural communities threatened by the mine in both countries, conducting interviews with the locals and visiting the mine itself. His research consisted of making multiple visits to the local communities in both Guatemala and El Salvador where he interviewed local community members, mine workers, community leaders, and organizers of the resistance against the mine. He also reviewed secondary sources and collaborated with my co-workers at CEICOM, using their previous work and expertise on the subject to help with his research.
“Working with CEICOM, I learned that informed and unified communities—reinforced by strong institutions and grass roots organizing—have the power to defy corporate giants and make a difference. I discovered that there are groups of courageous people willing to challenge the status quo at great personal risk to protect their homes, their livelihoods and their culture, and that when we organize, there is hope.”
He continued his research fall 2010 as part of an independent study project.
Melissa Anson ’11 (Environmental Studies & Government and Legal Studies) interned with the Topsham Department of Planning and Development to address issues regarding community development and natural resource planning. Throughout the summer, she researched and created an inventory of Topsham’s open spaces to inform long-term town planning. Melissa helped with trail mapping and planning, surveying trails and using GIS software and GPS to develop maps. In cooperation with town of Brunswick and Brunswick Topsham Land Trust interns, she created a regional GIS map and connected it to Google Earth for public use. Melissa also organized municipal data for a state project that aims to protect significant vernal pool habitats and influence planning.
“Through my work with the Town of Topsham, I have gained a greater understanding and an enormous appreciation for how municipal governments function and serve the needs of a community. Working jointly with town staff, volunteers, land trusts, fellow interns, and various boards and committees has shown me the collaborative nature of natural resource planning. This fellowship was a rewarding way to dovetail my academic interests with practical projects to make a valuable difference in a community setting. ”
The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) works to preserve areas of ecological and agricultural value in the towns of Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin. As an intern for the BTLT, Katie Blizzard (Biology & Environmental Studies) helped build capacity for the non-profit organization by assisting with their preparations for accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance and setting up an in-house GIS system. She gained an appreciation for all aspects of the BTLT by working with the organization’s Stewardship Committee, helping plan special events, and sitting in on board and committee meetings. Her efforts towards creating the BTLT’s in-house GIS systems will enable the organization to better access, analyze, and present spatial data in the future.
"My fellowship with the BTLT allowed me to apply and build upon the skills and lessons I’ve learned in the classroom, such as my knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). At the same time, my fellowship taught me skills and lessons that can’t be learned in a classroom. I gained a much better understanding for how non-profits work and a deep appreciation for how volunteers can come together to create real change."
Russell Halliday ’11 (Government and Legal Studies and Environmental Studies) worked with the Maine League of Conservation Voters in continuing their mission to make the protection of Maine’s environment a political priority. He helped the MLCV with the production of their 2010 scorecard used to evaluate and endorse Maine’s legislators. Additionally, Russ helped the MLCV’s sister organization called the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund release a publication by the Environmental Priorities Coalition entitled Investing in Maine’s Environment: A Trail Map to Prosperity 2010-2015. He created youtube videos featuring several speakers involved with the Trail Map.
“This fellowship has taught me a great deal about how significant non-profit organizations are for state policy. The role that organizations like the MLCV play in educating voters and influencing legislators is vital. It is a very exciting time to be working in the line of environmental policy and it is really encouraging to meet so many people who are deeply devoted to protecting Maine’s natural resources.”
Elena Keamy '12 (Environmental Studies & English) spent the summer working with Cultivating Community to help teach youth sustainable farming techniques, assist refugee farmers with the growth and sale of their produce, and to help grow, harvest, package, and deliver produce to low-income elders through a weekly ElderShare program. Working with the Youth Growers was one of the most valuable parts of her internship, where she helped them connect with their peers, community, and food system, as well as to evaluate their own relationship with food.
“The directness with which I interacted with the community through my work with Cultivating Community has been my favorite part of this job. I am in awe of the deep connections this organization has with a broad spectrum of community members from different age groups, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Facilitating the relationship these people have with their food system and watching them fully circulate within the community has been truly inspiring.”
Duncan Masland ’11 (Economics and Environmental Studies) focused on the Natural Resource Council of Maine’s goal of promoting clean energy. His work ranged from summiting Little Bigelow to analyze the visual impact of a potential wind power project to visiting an energy efficient boat building facility in Camden. In addition to developing GIS resources detailing potential wind power sites and conflicting scenic resources, Duncan created a series of case studies of energy efficient homes and businesses throughout the state. Working at NRCM provided Duncan with first hand experience of the inner workings of a dynamic non profit with local and nationwide goals.
“Contributing to NRCM’s effort to balance environmental causes with social and economic needs has allowed me to better understand both the importance of and the tradeoffs of concepts studied in the classroom. My experience at NRCM has prepared me to approach issues with a broader perspective and to fully appreciate the importance of details. I am eager to return to Bowdoin with experience gained while immersed in the inner workings of an environmental non profit.”
Leah Wang ’12 (Environmental Studies and Economics) split her summer between The City of Bath Planning Department and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust. With the City of Bath and consultant Katrina Van Dusen she helped create a comprehensive inventory of all sidewalks in the city, their condition, material, and width. This data, along with focus interviews with walkers, runners and cyclists and a city-wide paper and online survey, will be used to inform a bicycle and pedestrian plan for the city. With the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, dedicated to conserving all aspects of the Kennebec River Estuary, Leah’s projects included serving as the final editor of The Kennebec Estuary: Restoration Challenges and Opportunities, by Moore and Reblin and using her background in GIS to organize the current system of map files in an effort to standardize future mapmaking and GIS projects.
“Through my work with these two organizations – the City of Bath and KELT - I gained a true appreciation for importance of effective urban planning and the work of small nonprofits as they immerse themselves in their missions through stewardship, outreach and administration. “
Scott Weber '11 (Environmental Studies & History) worked with the Brunswick Department of Planning and Development to promote sustainable growth. He completed the 2008-2010 Vernal Pool Survey project by entering in records into the town's new property management software and submitting data to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He worked collaboratively with the Town of Topsham and the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust in transferring valuable GIS data to Google Earth so as to be publicly viewable. Scott served as a liaison between the town staff and the Brunswick Conservation Commission in surveying and mapping the town's open space properties. With a professed interest in transportation planning, Scott took the initiative in drafting and presenting a scenario analysis for the Brunswick Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
"Interning for the Town of Brunswick has allowed me to envision what a community should be while taking citizen demands into account. The hard part is planning how to get to where we want to go, and I am fortunate to have a Bowdoin education as my compass. The resounding voices of the community through meetings, board minutes, and visits to the office feed my enthusiasm in shaping a community that will be better off than when I arrived 4 years ago."
Interning for the Nature Conservancy in Maine (TNC) Teona Williams ’12(Environmental Studies & History Minor in Africana Studies) split her time between preserve stewardship and environmental policy. She worked on TNC preserves around Maine - completing ecological monitoring surveys, using GIS to map wildlife and important habitats for species, putting up trail markers, and completing other trail related projects. In the office, Teona worked on updating the NAWCA grant, researching information for the Forest Legacy Grant, creating talking points for an acceptance speech given Washington DC for the Recreational Trails Program, and researching and surveying non traditional allies who support conservation work indirectly.
"I have worked for other non-profits before but it wasn’t the same as working for the Nature Conservancy. At the Nature Conservancy I actually learned what it means to work at non-profit. Not only was given challenging projects but I also was taught why these projects were important and how policy workers think about solutions to projects. I had the opportunity to design my own research project on diversity issues in conservation. It was truly phenomenal."