In my sophomore year, I took a course entitled "Social Justice & Sustainability". This special topics course had a strong focus on environmentalism and the implications posed by concerns over social justice. The course emphasized reducing racial prejudices through active dialog and honest reflections of our personal racial identities, and how to be an "ally" to minorities in battling racial prejudices in our society.
The larger focus was how this dialog, reflection, and role as an ally plays out in environmental realms. The unfortunate case for minorities is that racism travels even deeper than outward protest against people of color. More often than not, decisions made by the people who have attained power (typically, wealthy caucasians) put minorities at a disadvantage in our society. For example, it is highly uncommon to find chemical manufacturing factories in predominantly white, upper-middle class neighborhoods; while inner-city neighborhoods often host polluting industries like coal-fired power plants. This is certainly not a coincidence, and neither are the epidemically high rates of asthma, diabetes, and other crippling diseases among inner city youth that some say are linked to the presences of these industries in low-income neighborhoods.
The Energy Corps at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) was one of several projects students had the opportunity to work on within our own community. Domenic Frongillo, head coordinator for the Energy Corps at CCE signed on a few students from our class to work on projects related to the goals of the corps, its main function being to reduce county-wide energy consumption and improve efficiency simultaneously, working toward a cleaner and greener Tompkins county. The project I worked on was the "Deck Of Cards". This documentation was a means to provide information to home-owners, property managers, and tenants, about the available government grants, funding, and subsidies available to help people reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. Each "card" within the deck highlighted a different type of person in a home (listed previously) and provided several opportunites based upon income levels and type of home dweller you are. The deck provided a way to circumvent tricky personal questions about earned incomes, so as not to step on anyones toes in the case they weren't willing to share that information with CCE. The deck of cards was still a work in progress after I finished working with CCE, but my hopes are that the work I did will provide some influence on the goal to reduce consumption and improve energy efficiency in Tompkins county.