Hello all! My name is Kelly, and I’m the newest addition to the team at Nine Mile Run Watershed Association! Some of you might have already seen my face at recent community events, but I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself, tell you a little bit about why I’m here and what I’ll be working on. I’m a first year Master of Social Work candidate at University of Pittsburgh, where I am specializing in community outreach and social action. I am honored to do my field practicum placement at NMRWA, where I hope to use my ethics, values, inherent passion for social issues, education, and desire to serve my community to form a holistic social work practice.

Hiking to the top of Flatirons National Monument in Boulder, CO. This particular rock looks more precipitous than it was.

You might be thinking, “What does social work have to do with the environment?” The answer to that question is best framed by the following quote from the Council on Social Work Education:

“Many environmental justice issues are intrinsically and increasingly connected with social and economic justice issues, which the social work profession has championed since its inception. These issues are global, national, and local in nature. Environmental social work is global in nature and therefore tied to global social work.”

Additionally, the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics says that the primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. 

Illustration: Erin Dunn via https://ensia.com/voices/environmental-justice/

It is the intersection of these two ideas that forms the framework of the concept of environmental justice.

Environmental justice is not new concept by any means, but it’s starting to gain more traction due to the pressing effects of pollution and climate change that manifest disproportionately in underserved communities. Environmental justice as a movement was started by Dr. Robert Bullard (who is known as the father of environmental justice), and has been an issue at the forefront of black activism for years.

 Dr. Robert D Bullard, the father of environmental justice. Illustration: Richard A Chance via The Guardian

Keeping these things in mind, I hope to spend my time here at NMRWA doing case studies on other urban watersheds and working with other leaders in our communities to achieve environmental justice through the promotion of social justice values and by using an inclusive approach to outreach.

In addition, I look forward to incorporating ideas from my interests in geology, botany, sustainability, and other natural sciences into my methods of outreach and am excited to reflect on the ways that the natural sciences interact with social systems.

If you see me around, feel free ask me any questions you might have or just say hi!

P.S. on a personal note, if anyone is ever interested in geeking out about plants, plant medicine, geology, alluvial fans, or even anything related to Star Wars, feel free to approach me! As a gift from me, please enjoy this photo of Baby Yoda as a succulent that I took from an article that discusses why succulents are the Baby Yodas of houseplants.

This, indeed, is the way. Image courtesy of https://www.sunset.com/home-garden/plants/baby-yoda-succulents

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