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Sustainability Film Series: City of Trees

The Spring Sustainability Film Series kicked off on Thursday, February 9th at the former Bell Museum of Natural History with the screening of City of Trees. With the spring theme of environmental justice, this film portrayed the intersection of social justice, urban development and the environment in a grounded way. Guests were able to get their snack fix with the drool-worthy butternut squash dip, pita chips, veggies and roasted nuts supplied by University Dining Services.

The film brought out aspects of race, equity, and environmental justice through an inside look at Parks and People, an organization wanting to reduce poverty and violence in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods by improving parks. With a seemingly straightforward goal of improving the community through improving the parks, the program hits turbulence when the pressure of an ending grant and community tension regarding race, class, and gender comes into play.

Libby McGraw, an undergraduate senior, reflected on the film stating:

“This film showed me that when trying to help a community, it’s critical to establish and foster respectful and collaborative relationships, communicate the goals to stakeholders, and work with the community – not for or above them – to make this happen.”

Libby McGraw grabbing some delicious snacks before the film.

After the film, Jose Luis Villasenor, executive director of Tamales Y Bicicletas, an organization “dedicated to strengthening our Latino and immigrant communities through bike projects, green farming, cultural empowerment, and environmental justice”, held an open discussion forum with the help from Siddharth Iyengar. Topics ranging from police relations to youth development shaped the discussion and offered the audiance intriguing, yet complex insights.

Jose explained his thoughts on troubled communities in this way:

“There are historical systemic impacts that drive members of our community to be hurtful to themselves and hurtful to others. We are engaging our community to redefine the idea of safety. What does it look like? Who is talking about it? This is the space we are creating with urban farming and cultural empowerment.”

Jose and Siddharth hosting conversation

On behalf of IonE, we would like to send our gratitude to Jose for his willingness, passion and inspiration, the Office of Sustainability for their part in making this event a success, as well as Voices for Environmental Justice for tabling at this event. We look forward to the upcoming March film, Overburden, a film about the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 men and the impact this tragedy had on the lives of two women, taking place March 7th at the former Bell Museum Auditorium. See you there!


Banner picture courtesy of City of Trees Film and in-post pictures courtesy of Lauren Schultz

Communications Assistant


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