Category Archives: Environment

Martin Luther King Day 2023 reflections

Mural on the walls of Gideon Edward School, Philadelphia

Change the systems: On this day of remembering and honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many of us complete voluntary service to better our community. Yes, do the volunteering, but also change the systems that have systemically and systematically excluded Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. These two words are intentional. The exclusion is across the system (systemically). The exclusion is regular and automatic (systematically).

Here are some resources for change:

For self -reflection, education, and moving an organization away from harming BIPOC:

Fern emerging from fire damage in Wharton State Forest, NJ, summer 2022

Roots of Justice (ROJ): ROJ offers services to groups or individuals, in order us to see the hidden ways institutions have harmed Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and for us to make changes. In ROJ’s website’s own words: “We are a collective of anti-racism educators and organizers…. We are indigenous, Black, Latino/a/e, and white people from across the U.S….Our core values are: Authentic Relationships; A vision of a Just World, Systemic Approach to Undoing Oppression; Long Term, Sustainable Life-giving Strategies; Liberated Spirituality”.

Arcadia: Birthed Out of Love – Amir Campbell, 2022

How is your group doing on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion or Justice choices? Plan deliberate improvements: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Screening Tool

The Environmental field is full of well-meaning caucasian-heavy structures. If we (diverse and inclusive) are moving forward in caring for the environment and ourselves, we need each voice. You know groups of people have been and currently are systemically and systematically excluded. How does an organization evaluate and change where it stands as it improves diversity, equity, inclusion and justice?

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) has created an effective DEIJ tool (see above link, below the photo) through its core priority of DEIJ.

In 2022, CDRW continued their work on DEIJ by contracting with Tribesy to evaluate what the institution (CDRW) said about itself on the topics of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and whether it met its own goals. Out of this effort, a roadmap for moving forward was determined, and a lens tool was created.

When any decision is being made, this lens can be used to broaden the decision in order to be more diverse, equitable, inclusive and just. It’s a powerful tool.

But only if it is being used.

Take a look. Try the series of questions when you are making a decision. Planning an event? Ask the questions. Hiring a new staff member? Ask the questions as you set the system of hiring in place. Choosing where to donate money? Ask the questions.

Local networking: right here, right now.

If you are white, it’s likely that your network is white, and likely that your decisions are centered on your voice and being in control. Consider connecting to BIPOC led groups and supporting BIPOC efforts first: local businesses or established networks that are centered in the BIPOC communities and equitable in their board, their staff, and their efforts. Here are some organizations local to Cheltenham/North West Philadelphia:

“Peace” 2022

TBC: The Business Center The BizCenter annual celebration in 2022 was inspiring, full of strength, expertise, networking, and joy. Connect to and support this business that is assisting to grow the black economic community.


POWER Interfaith POWER is a multi-faith group that collectively seeks to improve our community. Currently their campaigns include Education, Economic Dignity, Climate Justice, Civic Engagement, and The Live Free Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform.

Collaborative art 2022

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., on this MLKDay of Service, aim for The Beloved Community. Look to changing the systems that harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. It is the right thing to do. Our future is dependent on all of us. What harms one, harms all.

8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum: Leading in improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

The 8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum organized and hosted by the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, September 2020 is an outstanding example of hosting a conference that is inclusive in equitable structure, messengers, and content. In the midst of a pandemic nonetheless.
Bartram’s Garden, photo story “a”

As we build a future together, we must consider ways that white centered culture in the environmental field can change and stop harming black and brown people at every level.

The 8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum stands out as a model of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice, for all of us to follow. Every one of the workshops that I viewed seemed to demonstrate a healthy serving of DEIJ. Plus the coalition for the Delaware River watershed created The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice toolkit for the rest of us to consider and use.

Access Delaware River Watershed presentations: Uniting The Delaware River Watershed

This annual forum and the toolkit provide resources for continuing the conversation on the change that is happening, that needs to happen, in the environmental field with regards to white supremacy culture.

Resource: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed

The Town Hall with U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) & DRBRP Lighting Rounds -2020 DRW Forum presentation stepped solidly and unapologetically into the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, acknowledging historical problems, and changing the narrative by example.

Recommended YouTube: Town Hall Presentation

There was no bemoaning of the lack of presence of people of color. Instead, stellar people of color were given the floor.

Mic drop.

The opening speaker, Eric Stiles, from New Jersey Audubon Society acknowledged the harm done to people of color, and to trans folx.  Then the floor and attention was centered on United State Representative from New York, Antonio Delgado. End of story. Excellent presentation by Rep Delgado.

Of note in the “lighting round” presentation following Rep Delgado’s presentation is the work done by Lamar Gore, Refuge Manager for Heinz Refuge Center, one of the 5 speakers. Follow Heinz on facebook, and look for Lamar’s comments about diversity the week or so after the “black while birding” incident of Central Park, NYC.

Resource: National Wildlife Refuge / John Heinz at Tinicum 

An Equally impressive presentation was Power and Privilege in the Workplace.

Recommended YouTube: Power and Privilege in the Workplace / 2020 Delaware River Watershed Forum

The lead expert was Todd Pride, Managing Director from The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC). The topic was changing the diversity, equity, inclusion and justice of the board members of an organization. No apology, no small potatoes, the board needs to understand and embrace DEIJ. The workshop structure was: Todd as the senior expert, and two other people and organizations who had learned from Todd.

Mic drop.

How often does an environmental conference give voice to a person of color who is the expert, demonstrating that white people can learn from a POC? This should not be momentous. But it is.

There were other presentations that were also excellent. During each presentation, the spotlight was shared amongst racially diverse presenters. One such presentation, by water utility leaders discussing COVID 19 challenges, included our own Randy Hayman, Commissioner of Philadelphia Water Department.

All in all, The 8th Annual Delaware Watershed Forum is a stellar example for all of us to follow.

Bartram Garden’s Photo story “b”

We can be anti-racist by personal internal process, by intent, and by action. White centered culture is harming all of us by excluding some of us. We need all of us in order to be successful with facing today’s challenges that include climate change.

Resource: National Geographic / Environmental movement
Resource: Dismantling Racism Works / White Supremacy Culture - White supremacy culture refers to the white centered culture that is (perhaps unconsciously) harming black and brown people.
Resource: New York Times / 1619 Podcast

Water, Water, Everywhere, What is a Watershed?

By the Wissahickon River

We are connected to our natural water, both in the house, and outside in the environment.  

As you are staying home as much as you can and physically remaining distant and socially staying connected, be glad that you have reliable, healthy, high quality drinking water!  

Our drinking water in the City of Philadelphia is pumped from the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, and cleaned to high quality in one of three Philadelphia Water Drinking Water Treatment Plants. Where does the water come from before it gets to the river? In some areas it might come from springs underground, however, in Philadelphia and most of the suburbs, the water we drink is from surface water: rivers and reservoirs. Rain runs off from the surface of the land around the rivers. This land is the watershed of the river.  A watershed is the land that “sheds the rain” to the river. You can create a paper watershed at home, and explore what happens when water rains on the land, and runs off to the river.

Carpenter’s Woods in the Wissahickon Creek Watershed

Make a Watershed

The point of this activity is:

  • To see that rain falling on high ground will run across the land to the river.
  • To see that trash and pollution on the land will be carried by the rain to the river.
Sample Materials


  • Plain paper sheet, at least letter size, but larger is better.
  • A pan to catch water (for example, a broiler oven pan).
  • A slope (for example, a cookie sheet).
  • Small jars to hold up the paper (to make hills under the paper).
  • Tape to hold paper in place.
  • Permanent marker or pen (to mark the high ridges).

A selection of Items that will be pollution:

  • Washable markers
  • Food coloring/powdered chocolate/Kool-Aid powder.
  • Spices such as herbs, pepper, colorful turmeric or paprika.
  • Spray bottle of only water or a bowl of water that you can use, dipping your fingers in the water and sprinkling (making rain).

Directions: You can do this different times, in different ways, as you see fit.

Crumple the paper, and open it up, arranging it as land on a slope, with higher ground and lower ground. Use small jars or cups to make the hills and a valley. Mark the ridges with the permanent marker or pen. 

To show pollution, make up a story of pollution, placing different colors of things on the ground as you tell the story.  Perhaps: Billy was out walking, and he noticed soda cans and plastic bottles on the ground. Shantel was at the playground and she noticed torn newspaper advertisements and cigarette butts on the ground. Kai’s uncle noticed a  pool of car oil on the street. Kim’s cousin noticed dirty diapers in the street gutter.

What else could be on the ground that is left by people and causes problems for the river? Place all the pollution that you want to demonstrate on your model.

  • dog waste
  • industrial chemical spill
  • cooking grease
  • road salt
  • fertilizer/pesticide/insecticide/herbicide

Finally, make it rain by sprinkling water on the paper model of the land.

Notice that all the pollution from the land can make its way to the river.

We each can do our part to keep the river clean by helping to keep the land clean!