The environmental sector is commonly dominated by white and affluent demographics. Yet, multiple studies have illustrated the disparity in environmental impacts on underserved and vulnerable communities. There are many barriers to closing this disparity, including lack of resources, lack of knowledge, cultural differences and more. ECOSS and several partner organizations are coming together to design a process to address one of these barriers — the gap in green career pathways centered on low-income and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

On a cloudy morning in January, ECOSS joined the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC) and DIRT Corps for a day of habitat restoration along the Duwamish River. At a property just south of Port of Seattle’s Terminal 117 site, a future restoration site in the South Park neighborhood, youth learned about what used to be marshland along the river and how their work that day would help return the habitat to a former healthier state.

A dozen youth planted native grasses that will help prevent erosion of the bank as the river’s tides rise and fall.

Guided by George Blomberg, one of the Port’s senior environmental program managers and native plant experts, youths and adults worked together to plant native bear grass and tufted hairgrass along the Duwamish River. A couple of hours and a hundred plants later, the shore was lined with new greenery. The native grasses will help prevent erosion of the bank as the river’s current and saltwater tides rise and fall.

This work is an early phase of a series of projects with the Green Jobs Coalition, an emerging partnership that ECOSS joined with Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, Duwamish Tribal Services and DIRT Corps. Working with the Port of Seattle, the coalition envisions a Duwamish Valley with no systemic bias, where lower-income residents and BIPOC:

  1. Face no barriers to sustainable, fulfilling, inspiring, living wage careers
  2. Contribute to, and benefit from healthy, whole, self-sufficient communities restoring the health of the Duwamish River.

For many of the youth who came to plant native grasses, similar opportunities are not commonly available for them. South Park is one of Seattle’s most vulnerable neighborhoods when it comes to environmental impacts, both in terms of population demographics and environmental exposures. The coalition’s work will address these kinds of inequities while uplifting underserved communities. Stay tuned for more stories from the Green Jobs Coalition!

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