Category Archives: Roots of Success

Roots of Success Gains Momentum at Airway Heights

Note: Roots of Success is an environmental program led by incarcerated instructors in 10 of 12 prisons in the state, and in many other corrections institutions statewide. In Washington, more than 1000 incarcerated students have graduated from the 50 hour course since 2013. More about the program here.

By Roots of Success Instructors at Airway Heights Corrections Center

Originally published by WA Corrections, Tuesday, July 11, 2017; re-printed here with permission

Roots of Success graduation photo from Airway Heights Corrections Center.

Roots of Success was created by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, a Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the San Francisco State University, as the signature curriculum of the Environmental Literacy Curriculum Project (ELCP).

Originally, this curriculum was designed to increase environmental literacy, academic literacy, and job readiness skills. ​However, at Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) this curriculum has taught inmates a fourth and much needed skill, “caring.”

In an inmate’s day-to-day journey through the Washington correctional system, and especially at AHCC, an inmate can often become disconnected from society. This has historically made the process of returning to their communities difficult. Dr. Pinderhughes’ program seeks to lessen that burden by closing inmate’s educational gap, and inspiring them to “consider the environment in their work and daily lives, develop leadership, and move people toward a place of action in order to support green pathways out of poverty, equitable green development, environmental and social justice, and community participation in decision making.” (Roots of Success, Instructor’s Manual, 2015)

After taking the course, many inmate have exhibited a profound change in their attitudes and social interactions with other inmates. In fact, AHCC administration has included this program in their “good time” restoration pathway as a means for inmates to earn back lost good time resulting from various rule violations. At the date of this article, several of the AHCC Roots of Success facilitators are successful graduates of the good time restoration pathway program. This is one of the many examples of this program’s positive impact on inmates residing at AHCC.

To find how Roots of Success has led to graduates caring more for their communities, one need to look no further than the City of Spokane, Washington, where they will find blankets made out of reclaimed used clothing (made by graduate volunteers), and fresh vegetables (grown by graduates). These resources are generated at AHCC by volunteer inmates, at no cost to tax payers, and donated to Spokane charities to help combat the cold and hunger felt by local children, individuals, and families in the Spokane area.

Already AHCC has had more than a hundred graduates of the Roots of Success program, and from those graduates, AHCC has been able to reach out into the Spokane community to begin a long needed healing process, which ever graduate now knows begins with them. What will the State of Washington and its citizens gain from this program? Mothers/daughters, and father/sons returning back to the state’s communities with an obtainable goal of helping build sustainable lifestyles. Why is this so important?​ We only have one state, and only a limited amount of resources – what better place to begin demonstrating how much we care?

Roots of Success covers 10 modules, each focused on a topic. The curriculum is solutions-based, designed to meet the needs of students not well served by mainstream education, and builds both workplace and community-based skills.

Building the pool of environmental instructors for the women’s prisons

Text by Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Coordinator, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager
Photos by Ricky Osborne

On April 28th, Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes trained and certified 22 women at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) as Roots of Success Instructors. The training was a great success, and we are pleased to have reinforced the pool of women who can teach the curriculum—that’s the only way to meet the demand! We hear from both WA Corrections staff and Roots of Success graduates that this program is highly regarded: it creates respectful relationships within the prison community, and it’s an effective tool for building skills for life and work. Those testimonials line up with results from program surveys that show increased knowledge and skills in multiple ways.

Congratulations to the instructors and a special thanks to Raquel and Chad Flores from Roots of Success, Vicki York and Paula Andrew from WCCW, Dagoberto Cabrera from MCCCW, and all DOC staff who helped make this training possible! We can’t wait to see what the newly certified instructors accomplish! Please enjoy our  photo gallery of the training.

Roots instructors are asked to think about difficult questions and find solutions together. They received guidance on how to instruct when the content is difficult and complex issues, and how to encourage full engagement and critical thinking from every student and themselves. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The instructor candidates were encouraged to ask lots of questions. Dr. Pinderhughes found this group to be impressively engaged and thoughtful. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

One instructor candidate shares her thoughts and experiences as Raquel Pinderhughes listens. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The instructor candidates were selected by WCCW and MCCCW staff members. They were picked because of their dedication to environmental issues and their desire to learn and do more. Congrats to the new instructors for their hard work and dedication! Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Vicki York, a WCCW staff superstar, originally attended the class just to observe. However, she found herself so engaged that she herself earned a instructor certificate too! Go Vicki! Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Raquel Pinderhughes came from San Francisco to train the new WCCW and MCCCW instructors. Her tireless effort and enthusiasm is an inspiration. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

We are so lucky to have an engaged and thoughtful group of new Roots instructors. Both Roots of Success and SPP can’t wait to hear about the ideas and discussions that come from the classes these women will teach. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental Ed for Juveniles in Detention

By Sadie Gilliom, SPP Turtle Rehabilitation Program Coordinator

When Rachel Stendahl started work with the Sustainability in Prisons Project in 2013, her dream was to become a marine ecology professor. However, something about her experience as an SPP Roots of Success Coordinator must have stuck: in the years since she left SPP, she figured out how to bring environmental education to juvenile detention centers!

Rachel Stendahl talks with a Roots of Success instructor during a graduation celebration for students of the environmental curriculum. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

After researching the relationship between paths of whale migration and shipping, Rachel graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies. Rachel was hired by Educational Service District 113 to be their Regional Science Coordinator. She took over the job of running a watershed education program called the Chehalis Basin Education Consortium. This program supports stewardship of the Chehalis Basin watershed by providing environmental education resources to educators. Through this program, hundreds of youth throughout the Chehalis Basin watershed learn how their watershed works, how to test the water quality of their streams, rivers, and lakes, and how to present their water quality data.

After getting into the swing of things, Rachel realized that not all of the students in the Chehalis Basin were being provided these same hands-on learning opportunities. In particular, she was concerned with the students inside of juvenile detention centers. With the help of another previous SPP employee, Bri Morningred, Rachel successfully completed, submitted, and was awarded the No Child Left Inside grant. Rachel began to implement a new environmental education program at the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center.

SPP shared Rachel’s internship opportunity on their listserv and I applied for the job. We worked together to coordinate the first-ever environmental education program provided to the youth at the detention center. It has been a great success! Rachel plans to continue the program and hopes to expand to Green Hill Juvenile Detention Center. Go Rachel!

Erica Turnbull, an SPP intern from Western Washington University, and Rachel studied reentry together during the summer of 2013. Photo by SPP staff.

Lecture Series Coordinators 1, 2, 3

By Paula Andrew, Roots of Success Liaison, Training Coordinator, and “Chicken Lady” at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” ~ Mandy Hale

When I first came to work at the Washington Corrections Center for Women nearly 5 years ago, I came from a background of work in men’s prisons, large and small. Looking back, nothing could have prepared me for the impact I would feel working with female offenders.

My heart went out to the women I encountered on a daily basis. The more I got out of my office and observed, the hungrier I became to try and bring some kind of normalcy to the women that were longing to make the best of their shattered world.

I was delighted when I found out I would be working with an organization called the Sustainability in Prisons Project – bonus for me! A group of caring Evergreen students and staff who want what I want for these women: a little dose of culture from the outside they can embrace and expand their world with…their little tiny corner of their now restricted world needs expanding.

Brittany Gallagher and guest lecturer Anna Thurston walk together to the prison classroom. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Enter Brittany Gallagher, Lecture Coordinator for the Sustainability in Prisons Project. Her job was to plan, organize, and recruit speakers for our monthly Sustainability lecture series. My job was to work with her to put things together on the prison end to make it happen. What a treat it was to work with her! She immediately had the respect of the women in the audience for the lectures. You could tell the women were excited when she talked about things they could do in their own community upon release, and it gave them hope for a sustainable future. Brittany’s quiet smile spread warmth throughout the classroom that was contagious! When Brittany graduated from Evergreen College, like all good graduate students do, I felt like I had lost a good buddy. She was off to the world of exploring her universe, and I was sad to see her go, but excited for her at the same time.

Tiffany Webb talks with lecture series students following a presentation. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

.  .  .  And then along came Tiffany Webb, pretty much the exact opposite of Brittany, with her wide grin, her dancing eyes, and her thirst for sharing her passion for all things sustainable with the world. Tiffany was quick to share her enthusiasm with the students and show them glimpses of life beyond the metal bars. Her stories were laced with leadership, compassion, and strength. Tiffany had a way of involving the students to the point there were actual tears among the lecture-goers when she left. It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to Tiffany, but waiting in the wings was  .  .  .

Liliana describes her definition of sustainability to lecture series students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

.  .  .  Liliana Caughman! Dear Liliana quickly became a reliable source of information to the women, one with good listening skills and a patient manner. She continues the Brittany/Tiffany legacy with passion and conviction, all the while spreading the word that these gals can make a difference in the world.

Brittany, Tiffany, Liliana are definitely “someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others”!

A Master of Training

by Eugene Youngblood, Roots of Success Master Trainer at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
& Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager
Photos provided by DOC staff

Timing + Action = Success

I once read:

The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster.

The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.

The wrong action at the right time is a mistake.

The right action at the right time results in success.

The Roots of Success program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) is more than just environmental literacy; more than facts, figures, data, and information. Roots of Success is the first definitive action step for those who are caring, thinking, men on the cusp of change. If indeed the right action at the right time results in success, the men here at CRCC who have taken the Roots of Success course have taken the first step in the direction of positive change.

We are in the midst of a revision (addition) to our Roots of Success program where we are going to provide students with “hands on training,” resume writing, cover letter production, and other essential requirements for green employment. And with the full support of the administration we are finally able to not only fulfill our commitment as instructors but provide essential tools needed for effective reentry. Hopefully, this will culminate in a “green” mock interview fair.

When all is said and done; we want to make sure that more is done than said… because we know actions speak louder than words.

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New Roots of Success instructors and staff sponsors at Airway Heights Corrections Center pose with Master Trainer Eugene Youngblood, far left.

Instructor Training at Airway Heights Corrections Center

Eugene Youngblood has taught the environmental literacy curriculum, Roots of Success, for more than two years now. Since September, 2014, he has led students through the 50 hour curriculum ten times, and also taught Correctional Industries’ condensed version of the course. His writing about the Roots of Success curriculum (above) shows his enthusiasm for the program and investment in its students.

Mr. Youngblood also is a Master Trainer for the curriculum. Last month, he left his “home” facility, Coyote Ridge, and visited Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) to certify 18 new instructors for the facility. He spent two days with the class of instructor candidates, well-supported by Roots’ training script and multi-media presentations. Consultation with Dr. Pinderhughes, the curriculum’s creator, proceeded and followed the session.

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Future Roots of Success Instructors listen intently to a presentation during the 2-day training.

By all accounts, the instructor training was a success. From Dawnel Southwick, one of the program’s staff sponsors at AHCC, in a message to program partners:

Mr. Youngblood was consistently professional as the facilitator, and set a high standard for participants in the Roots Instructor class.
Each student participated and was given practical and effective feedback about their strengths and weaknesses in the process.  The feedback was applicable and easy to understand.  No one was left out or neglected. Each student was treated with the highest respect, and responded positively to the facilitator, curriculum and presentation. I noticed all the students were engaged, interested, and eager to hear and learn from Mr. Youngblood.

Thank you for allowing and making this amazing opportunity happen here at AHCC.

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An instructor candidate takes his turn practicing leading the class.

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Productive small-group work punctuates presentations during the instructor training.

Adding Salt to Popcorn: Gaining a taste for sustainability

by Grady Mitchell, Roots of Success Instructor and Master Trainer, Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

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Grady Mitchell speaks to a graduating class. He has taught the Roots of Success curriculum twelve times, and was certified as a Master Instructor in 2015.

A few years ago, prior to Roots of Success (ROS) someone could have held a conversation on sustainability and I’m sure it would have been as interesting to me as popcorn without the salt. Today I am not only able to present the curriculum to students, but also have a variety of discussions with them on the subject. In a sense my own experience has given me even more material to share with students (myself and my colleagues like to refer to our classes as peer to peer education) because most of them had no idea the impact of their habits and choices have on the environment, any more than I.

Sustainability in simple terms means being able to meet our needs now without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. However, this term has been taken hostage so to speak because manufacturers use it for their own selfish gain. We as consumers have to take sustainability back and know that sustainability is survivability. By adding the word ‘Just’ before Sustainability, makes it fair and equal.

This is significant to me because in order for the future generations to be sustained, an interest on the matter needs to prevail now. Failure can’t be an option because to do so could literally mean the extinction of those we love dearly and plan on leaving our legacy to. Sustainability is a built in feature of all natural environmental systems provided that human interference is absent or minimized.

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Grady Mitchell sits with his fellow instructors a graduating class of Roots of Success. Photo by DOC staff.

To get to a more sustainable lifestyle is going to require, inevitably, some radical changes in attitudes, values and behavior. The answer to creating global values and actions is blurred for now. How we get to less pollutants and more sustainable reliances and reuse may depend on generations yet to come (if we make it that far), because as it stands, we haven’t been doing too good of a job. Changing our personal habits; reducing the carbon footprint; our practices being altered for the benefit of sustainability is ‘just.’ In the book “Last Child in the Woods,” a phrase was coined called Nature Deficit Disorder. All it takes to cure this disorder is to get outside and enjoy nature. With seven billion people in the world, imagine the impact from just being sustainable or creating nature. Imagine a society where our lives are as immersed in nature as they are technology.

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Turtle technicians x and x hold healthy western pond turtles prior to releasing them. The turtle program staff sponsor, Shaun Piliponis, stands with them. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

In order to make sustainability more inclusive takes education and a willingness to embrace lifestyle changes. The guerrilla gardener of South Central Los Angeles, Ron Finley stated, “If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.” If the inspiration was focused on making sustainability hip, cool, the thing to do, then we have a cure for Nature Deficit Disorder. Allowing our generation to see with their own eyes and then pass it on to the next is “just.” César Chavez stated:

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”

One of the videos available to our students in our Roots of Success class tells us, in 1915 a Canadian commission on conservation made an interesting proclamation, they said “each generation is entitled to the Interest on the Natural Capital, but the Principal should be handed on unimpaired.” We enjoy the fruit (the interest) from the tree (the principal), but if we cut the trees down both the principal and the interest will be gone forever. So in the end, Just Sustainability could really mean we all take responsibility not only for ourselves, but for community, the planet and most important, the ones who come after us.

Just Sustainability and Restorative Justice

By David Duhaime, Roots of Success Master Instructor, Stafford Creek Corrections Center

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David Duhaime teaches the first module of Roots of Success at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

When I consider what’s sustainable I realize that I don’t believe anything is. I am new to environmental issues; teaching Roots of Success is what sparked my interest. Over the past three years my thought has developed into a belief that all systems will continue to evolve, sustaining only the dynamic process. Society continues to change as does the justice system. All things change, people, the planet, all systems considered by environmentalists. If change ends, wouldn’t that mean the end of existence?

There can be no Just Sustainability without a complete education, meaning that everyone has to understand all issues. This would be more than a political education. We would have to revamp how we raise our children to include cultivating their understanding of how they interact with the whole, what impacts they will have and what right to equal access we all have to everything, plus stewardship and responsibility for the inheritance we will pass to future generations. Most people in prison often miss any part of that. We generally don’t know about stewardship and responsibility and those charged with keeping us don’t set that type of example. Perhaps we were all brought up with similar ideals.

Before Roots I worked as a literacy tutor and within self-development groups. In both I came to the idea of interest. If one has no interest, fairness is forfeit. My literacy students could not make significant progress until their interest peaked. They had to want to learn. Only then had the learning become interesting. Getting someone else interested seems to me analogous to Stephen Covey’s “Circle of Influence”: How do I get another interested in learning about what to them is peripheral or non-existent? I need to find the way to expand my influence. One of the first techniques I learned was the “Life Experience” method where the tutor listens to the student’s personal story, writing it down verbatim, and then has the student read their own words back.

Environmental Justice, I believe, requires active involvement, which is predicated on interest. Roots, environmental issues, and one’s stock in the world around them are often outside students’ experience or interest. “Scotoma” is a word I once learned that refers to a blind spot in our psyche or attention, something we ignore unconsciously. If we want to have genuine environmental justice, we must find a way to get all parties interested, which means getting past our automatic process of ignoring, which has developed through nature, a process which may eventually lead to our extinction.

Everyone has scotoma. Leaders in politics, leaders in industry, educators, and prisoners all have interests and areas of personal blindness. If we can find a way to get a student involved in their own education, perhaps we can find the way to make sustaining the environment a way of life for people. We can find a way to believe in their ability to make a difference and have a fair share of bounty and security without taking from others. To help people make the leap to a sustaining life style we have to ask what they need and how their interest can be developed.

How do we get people in prison involved? Here, the facility has started some agricultural and recycling practices, as a result of the SPP lecture series and a realization that it can reduce expenses. Prisoners who could see a value to themselves have embraced similar practices and looked for ways to learn more. I am interested in those that still do not have the ability to see the value of learning how they are affected and in turn are part of the cause leading to the affect. Some believe that they should do anything to cost DOC more money, that imprisoning humans should not be cheap, not making the connection to their taxpaying families. Others have no idea about how they affect the world by their actions. There are as many variations as people, staff and prisoners. Lectures and Roots are steps to include more people, but have also, for me, highlighted the blind spot. We need to find something to make it personal, not about saving DOC money or getting a certificate to get some good-time back. How is taking care of the environment related to me and my life, the lives of my loved ones and the world I will live in when I leave this place? Though we focus on personal benefits in Roots, students often have already put on the blinders putting in only the minimum effort and thought. Part of that is due to personal habit and discipline. We may know something is right to do, but have been doing it this way for so long that we don’t have the motivation or discipline to change. Bad examples are drug, alcohol and tobacco use. We know what is harmful about them but we keep using them anyway. Can we learn methods to cure these issues while making it a broad enough cure to use in all aspects of our lives and behavior?

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David Duhaime sits with his teaching team and graduating students at a graduation ceremony. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

We talk about grassroots methods of making something happen. However, in prison, I see that prisoners emulate authority. Prisons behave so similar to prison staff that I often tell people that if you switched clothes, and roles, nothing would change. But take that thought further. Think of clothes as the Habit or uniform we wear to fit in. How we behave is also the habit we wear to fit in to our lives. If the people in authority were also encouraged and educated and involved in EJ issues and how to model (mentor) the behavior we are looking for, learning stewardship and treating everyone fairly, could we then make progress in developing habits that may lead us closer to the fantasy of Just Sustainability, and a realistic Justice System.

At SCCC I ran into groups with staff as sponsors and had to work with them, a new experience for me; making me uncomfortable, threatening my comfort zone. I worked through it and found value and personal growth in the experience. People everywhere experience something similar with anything that challenges us to think and act in ways not habitual to or supportive of our lifestyle. An idea that may terrify proponents of the status quo and us against them is to include DOC staff, prisoners, law makers, law enforcers, citizens, students, and educators in a popular education dialog about moving forward with environmental justice and how to evolve our communities so we are the dynamic force for change and sustainability. Some might call that a Restorative Justice approach.

Can we perceive our own blind spots and see beyond them?!

Accountability: Brainstorming article

By Julian Reyes, Roots of Success Instructor, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

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Julian Reyes speaks at a Roots of Success graduation event. Photo by DOC staff.

The planet is what provides us with food, cycles our water, filters our air, and shields us from harmful atmospheric gases. The planet is where we thrive. How can something so intricate to the survival of human life becomes the bearer of such disregard and disdain.

People must learn the practice of sustainability. The ability to keep up a practice or habit that is beneficial for many is something important for everyone. Being in prison allows people the opportunity to take a moment to examine the world and its practices. Prison is a closed environment where one small thing can affect everyone, and only a handful of corporate entities provide the prison system with the necessities for survival.

Corporate sponsorship has slowly taken over the global market place. No longer can society rely on the family run organizations or businesses. Once ownership becomes nameless and faceless, ownership becomes emotionless. The motivation for profit becomes absolute.

Corporations employ practices that cause harm to what they come into contact with because of cost cutting measures that cut too many corners which are environmentally friendly. All of the damage causes harm to the earth, deterioration to the ozone, while also polluting the water table.

Heavily toxic chemicals are in use in a variety of occupations, and many of these chemicals are rarely disposed of properly. The places corporations establish, like mines and factories, soon become danger zones and areas of contamination. People must quickly realize that they only are harming themselves.

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At a graduation ceremony, Roots of Success students pose with their certificates and instructors. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Creating a sustainable lifestyle culture is paramount, and Roots of Success is teaching people a new way to think. Being aware of the environmental injustice is the first step to finding a solution. The second step is continuing to hold people accountable for their actions.

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Roots of Success Instructor Julian Reyes and Master Instructor Eugene Youngblood. Photo by DOC staff.

Allowing corporate interest to shape societies attitude of more, more, more must stop. Consumerism, instant gratification, and newer is better are the ideals being professed by these corporate entities.

Bigger is not always better. New is not always the answer. American society has become a throw away and waste it culture, and Roots of Success must continue to try to open the eyes of the people.  

Reaching the Unreachable

by Cyril Delanto Walrond, Roots of Success Master Trainer/Instructor, Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

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Cyril Waldron teaches a class of soon-to-be Instructors how to teach the Roots of Success curriculum. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Just Sustainability must be about all of us and not just some of us. It must be less about policies and procedures and more about the people. It must be less about corporations and capital and more about the community. To have true just sustainability we must be willing to reach those deemed unreachable, those who have been marginalized and incapacitated by institutions that have been capitalizing on their ignorance and celebrating profit margins.

True just sustainability is sustainability that is no respecter of persons’ status; it is equal opportunity. A sustainability that is non-discriminatory and is accessible to all regardless of one’s race, ethnicity, social class, political affiliation, or even geographical location. However, we face a problem to this end that is much greater than the corporation or the market. In fact, I don’t believe the corporation and market are the problem at all as they both can be tremendous levers for great change. The problem lies in the institutionalized racism, sexism, and even classism that is embedded with bigotry running through its veins.

We can point to cases of environmental racism as a perfect example, where groups of people are targeted because of their race, ethnicity, lack of political power and representation, and capital. Or, what about where zoning laws perpetuate an environmental gerrymandering by drawing lines in the proverbial sands to protect the rich while victimizing the poor and disenfranchised.

This does not have to be the case, should we as a collective decide to stop lying down and allowing decisions to be made about us without us. Then we can change the narrative of how we see sustainability by changing the way that we see people.

Ironically, it is the people who are typically left out of the equation of sustainability. Trees are seen as sustainable while human life is not and has become more and more obsolete. We have gotten to the point where we have cut the thread that interconnects our natural environment to our humanity, forgetting the fact that human life is also a part of the natural environment. It is sad when we value the life of plants and animals more than that of humans.

If we see people as having value, we will value them. If we see people as valued resources, we will begin the work to protect them. Many don’t value life because many feel their lives have no value. One gorilla gets killed in a zoo and immediately policies are being changed. How many unarmed people were killed by law enforcement this year? …and counting! Cecil the lion gets killed and there is a public outcry. How many people have died this year alone as a result of gun violence in Chicago? How many people have lost their lives due to opioid overdoses? Or, how many lives have been aborted since Roe v. Wade? This is unsustainable! All Life matters! Black lives, white lives, blue lives, brown lives, plant lives!

To sociologists, economists, ecologists, and conservationists coming up with a uniform definition of sustainability seems elusive, like chasing the wind. All of these groups see the issue of sustainability uniquely from the perspective of their discipline, which is myopic while in fact addressing that sustainability is much bigger than one discipline. For us to have just sustainability these groups of esteemed intellectuals cannot work individually but rather collaboratively with each other, with the people and the environment.

We are caught in a conundrum of sustainability as we face the same hard questions we have been asking for decades. One such question being, “What is just sustainability?” While we seek ways to be more just in our sustainability practices, we must ask ourselves: What does it mean for something to be just? And, what do we mean by sustainability?

These terms are relatively subjective. Depending on how many people you ask, “What is just sustainability?” will be the determining factor how many answers you will get. Why is this? Because just for you may not be just for another. Sustainability for you may not be sustainability for anyone else.

The word ‘just’ denotes fairness and equality. It suggest that something is to be righteous or morally right. However, what qualifies one to be the author of morality or righteousness, equality or fairness? As a human race, we are fallible and tend to see life through our lenses and from our vantage points, which produce our perceptions of life.

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Roots of Success students work in small groups to discuss strategies and solutions to an environmental problem. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

For many, when the term just is being used, it warrants a response of “I just don’t care!” ‘Just’ was often indicative of one’s social class or economic status. ‘Just’ice could be bought for ‘just’ the right price—a concept that has never truly sounded ‘just’.

How can we as a nation justify injustice when we have a moral obligation to the next generation? We speak about ‘just sustainability’ but no sustainability can be just or sustainable if it is inherently unjust and unsustainable. Encrypted in much of the corporate greenwashed rhetoric and falsified promises of justice are capitalistic practices of injustice, where the power to decide and the power to define fall into the hands of a few, versus being of the people, for the people and by the people. Yet we have the audacity to preach sustainability to the world but practice instability and unsustainability at home.

On the other hand, sustainability is a concept that we loosely throw around by the masses. A term typically associated with economic and community development as well as how this development seeks to meet the needs of the immediate or present generation without compromise the ability for needs being met for generations to come.

It is time we guard the treasures that have been entrusted to us. For far too long we have lived comfortably in the confines of our unsustainable lifestyles, selfishly retreating to our plethora of possessions while ignoring the plight of those suffering in silence.

As my colleagues and I prepare to teach another Roots of Success class, we are not only bringing a new world to our students but are introducing them to the world, a world they never knew existed, by exposing them to concepts that were previously foreign to the vast majority of them. It is not that they do not have the aptitude or attitude to learn, but have been denied the opportunities.

These previously unreachable students can no longer use that as an excuse because they have been touched by the gospel of sustainability. So one thing that we can say with all the work we have been doing and the success that our program has had, is that this is no longer about just sustainability but rather ‘just sustainability’.

Introducing Just Sustainability

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager, and Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

This issue is dedicated to Just Sustainability—sustainability redefined to include the needs and inputs of all populations and demographics.

Historically, the environmental movement has focused on the needs and views of a relatively small segment of Americans. This approach has often overlooked the sustainability needs and interests of people beyond the environmental mainstream. People of color, people without college degrees, people from the working class or living in poverty are rarely afforded the benefits of the environmental movement, such as sustainability education and easy access to nature. These populations also bear the brunt of most environmental hazards in the country. Just Sustainability sees cultural diversity as essential to the environmental movement, and resolving long-ignored environmental injustices as the primary focus.

x technician talks about his work growing starts for the prison gardens and houseplants for the indoor spaces; his program area is one of many in Washington State Penitentiary's Sustainable Practice Lab. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Dwayne Sanders talks about growing starts for the prison gardens and houseplants. His program is in Washington State Penitentiary’s Sustainable Practice Lab, which hosted nearly 300 program tours in a year; tour guide and program clerk Ray Chargualaf stands in the background. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Even less attention has been paid to how cultural diversity would benefit the environmental movement itself. To take on the scale and complexity of environmental challenges, the environmental movement needs more diverse buy-in and input. Extending ownership opens up myriad new ways for taking on environmental problems and creating solutions. Affluent, highly educated people cannot achieve national or global sustainability without help. “Sustainability will be achieved, if at all, not by engineers, agronomists, economists and biotechnicians but by citizens.” (Prugh, Costanza and Daly 2000)

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Butterfly technicians pose in front of educational poster set up for visiting Girl Scouts Behind Bars. Photo by Seth Dorman.

What does inclusiveness look like? It means inviting input and investment from all citizens and promoting sustainability programs in all communities and institutions. It requires us to learn across differences. Inclusive sustainability, Just Sustainability, is a path of mutual transformation.

Lecture-students

Lecture series students take in a presentation on raptor biology and conservation from West Sound Wildlife. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

In Washington State prisons, we have found willing, inventive champions of sustainability. They have transformed prison culture and operations. Because of their work, we are better prepared to transform the world at large. SPP staff asked a few incarcerated SPP partners—most of them Roots of Success instructors—if they would write what Just Sustainability means to them. This newsletter shares five responses, and we will publish several more on our blog in the coming months.

Paula Andrew, a member of DOC staff who has been a champion of SPP programs, and Green Track program coordinator Emily Passarelli enjoy the chickens at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Paula Andrew, a member of DOC staff and a champion of SPP programs, and Green Track program coordinator Emily Passarelli enjoy the chickens at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Ricky Osborne.