Sustainability issues are so prominent that we cannot help but worry about them, but they are also so prominent that it feels like there’s no feasible way to worry about them. According to an article in the journal, “Environmental Health,” environmental inequality “results from the unequal distribution of the risks and benefits that stem from interactions with our environment.” As a result, the 2022 Women Designing the Future Conference focuses on issues of environmental justice and change.
The event – which is free – will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, March 25 in the Campus Center ballrooms and will shed light on some incredible ordinary people who have faced environmental inequality within their communities and in turn made extraordinary changes. It kicks off with a showing of “The Sacrifice Zone,” a documentary detailing the work of environmental activists in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood.
Moderating the event in-person will be Lucia Rodriguez-Freire. She is an assistant professor within the NJIT Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and holds the title of director of the Laboratory of Applied Biogeochemistry for Environmental Sustainability. Rodriguez-Freire has worked extensively aiding victims of pollution including indigenous tribes and the community of Newark.
The conference’s first speaker, Libby Washburn, the Special Assistant to President Joe Biden for Native Affairs, will present virtually, starting at noon. A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Washburn focuses on utilizing Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge or instrumental federal environmental policymaking.
The other speakers will showcase environmental issues here in Newark. They are:
- Julie Winokur, director/cinematographer of the documentary, “The Sacrifice Zone.”
- Ana Baptista, a long-time member of the Ironbound Corporation Board of Trustees and an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Environmental Policy & Sustainability Management. Baptista is the co-director of the Tishman Environment & Design Center at The New School.
- Christian Rodriguez, another veteran Ironbound Community Corporation organizer who serves as the urban agriculture manager of the Ironbound Community Corporation’s Down Bottom Farms.
- Erin Foody, an NJIT Honors College senior and president of NJIT Green.
- Kim Gaddy, a Newark resident of the National Environmental Justice Director of Clean Water Action. Gaddy is responsible for the development and implementation of the grassroots environmental justice campaigns, both nationally and in New Jersey.
As the conference is action-orientated, participants are encouraged to bring items of clothing for a sustainable clothing swap. Participants will also learn to mend their worn-out clothing through a visible mending workshop.
Participants will also have the opportunity to participate in virtual reality and artificial intelligence activities that allow them to better understand the effects of climate change.
Nancy Steffen-Fluhr, the director of the Murray Center of Women in Technology and one of the organizers of the event, said the hope is that each attendee will leave the event inspired to better their communities and fight for environmental justice and change.
Attendees can attend in-person or watch via Webex; in-person attendees will receive a free lunch and will have the opportunity to enter raffles.
To register for the conference, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-change-women-designing-an-environmentally-just-future-tickets-296106371127. Those who register for an online ticket will receive a Webex link prior to the event.