Environmentalism Isn’t What You Think

I believe people think of environmentalism as something like tree-hugging, veganism, or even being extremely frugal. Yet, many of us forget to look at our individual contributions that don’t fit into our perception of an environmentalist.

This last year as a master’s degree candidate at Loyola Marymount University has helped me connect the dots between our actions, community engagement, and environmental contributions. Our community has made conscious decisions in ways to improve the worlds in which we live.

Through a project called Stew-MAP (Stewardship Mapping)(see below for broader Stew-MAP explanation), organizations across Los Angeles have been surveyed about their service area and roles in the environment conservation arena. By mapping the data from each responding organization, I have been able to analyze data from over a thousand organizations, where there are both competing service providers and areas with service gaps. These organizations’ actions may be through financial contribution or partnership, collaboration or sharing of ideas to increase the knowledge base about environmental issues and concerns, providing assistance to the most vulnerable within the communities and the county, and even providing a safe place to gather for conversation.

Mapping authentic interactions between organizations helps show policy and decision-makers what their constituents find important, where the efforts in revitalizing their communities should be focused, and where the public may lack knowledge that they think is important. Environmental stewardship organizations cover a large variety of genres, beyond those you typically think of until you take a step back and understand the role the organization plays within the environment.

As I put together findings from this research for my master’s thesis defense, powerful messages are coming forth from the analysis of data. While each organization has made a conciliatory effort to contribute to making Los Angeles County a better place for today and the future, conversations with these organizations uncovered animosity between groups of organizations over policies and decisions implemented with a top-down approach and lack of transparency.

In order for an organization’s efforts to increase environmental awareness and to be a successful organization, it is apparent that everyone should be involved, not just one or a few of the organizations involved. The relationships may not be perfect, but they are a vital start to building the foundation needed to combat the environmental concerns that threaten the future of our precious region in Southern California.


Some added information – by Stacy Sinclair

STEW-map as a tool to build resiliency

STEW-map is based on survey responses, but the interactive map cannot be comprehensive since responses are optional. What if it were? It is hoped that once the power of the tool is unleashed, every organization will want to be represented – to put itself on the map of sustainability.

As you can see, Survey responses from everyone are important to complete the picture. Be part of the conversation. USGBC is currently asking to hear your voice to ensure that the Chapter reflects your needs. What better time to be heard survey link.

A little background on STEW-map

Stewardship mapping (STEW-map) is a national USDA Forest Service research program designed to answer the questions, Which environmental stewardship groups are working across an urban landscape? Where, why, how, and to what effect?

Maps of social infrastructure can facilitate resilience efforts and facilitate greening efforts.  Projects currently exist in New York City, Baltimore, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The LA study contacted nearly 1,000 organizations.

The questions are answered based on survey responses.  These identify characteristics of each organization, its geographic area of influence, and relationships with other organizations (collaboration, competition, etc.). Resulting maps can be used to visualize organizations that act as nodes of wide or targeted influence, where and how these groups are working within a city or region and where there may be a gap in service.  This data becomes available through a website. For example, the project in NYC is hosted by the City’s sustainability office and the public is encouraged to use it for strategic planning and decision making.

The data that can be used to examine and build long-term community-based resource stewardship to support and maintain investment in green infrastructure and urban restoration projects. These data sets can be combined with other spatial data (e.g., locations of schools, income and age of populations, proximity to fresh produce or pet services, surface temperature, crime, health) can be used to identify priorities at multiple scales. By comparing data from LA with those completed in other regions, opportunities to strengthen connections between local organizations and to leverage existing resources can be uncovered.

(sources: https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/urban/monitoring/stew-map/, TreePeople, USFS, and Michele Romolini, PhD from LMU-CURes)

Stacy Sinclair is an accomplished educator and author. She is partnering with USGBC-LA to explore perspectives that drive decision-making on issues related to sustainability and resilience


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