July 2013 Online Update 
Popular Education: Elevating the Voice and Power of Low-Income Communities


For decades, the Institute’s popular education and leadership development work has focused on elevating in environmental and economic decision-making the voice and power of low-income communities and communities of color, where environmental pollution and poverty are concentrated. We have partnered with community-based organizations and coalitions to develop and co-facilitate popular education leadership development trainings and curricula on issues ranging from alternatives to incarceration to community resilience to climate change. 


In 2013, we continue to work with local partners to reduce negative impacts of freight transportation on community health (see story below). Key efforts in the environmental health and justice sector, acknowledged last month by the White House, aim to push community health forward so that the share of community benefits are enjoyed by all.


Pacific Institute Hosts Training-of-Trainers on Popular Education Tools for Community Health

On Friday, June 21, the Pacific Institute and the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative hosted a Training-of-Trainers on Popular Education Tools for Community Health for community organizers, outreach workers, and health educators at the Institute’s offices in downtown Oakland, California. Over 20 participants from community-based organizations, nonprofits, and public health departments in the San Francisco Bay Area attended the training, which provided an opportunity for peer learning and exchange of strategies to educate and engage community residents in freight transport issues. Training activities included demonstrations of interactive modules and materials from our Gearing Up for Action curriculum guide on freight transport and community health.  

Participants from Bayview/Hunters Point
map the treasures in their community
and the places that are most impacted
by trucks and trains.

Diesel truck and train traffic impacts the daily lives of residents of communities near ports, rail yards, freeways, and other freight-related land uses in the form of noise, traffic congestion, and pedestrian safety hazards, as well as serious health problems like asthma, cancer, and heart disease. The Pacific Institute works with local partners to reduce the adverse impacts of freight transportation on community health and quality of life in low-income neighborhoods of color closest to freight transport hubs and corridors and to increase the share of the benefits that are enjoyed by residents of these communities.

The Pacific Institute will conduct training-of-trainers in other California regions in partnership with community-based organizations or coalitions working on freight transport and community health issues. If you are interested in bringing a training like this to your area, or would like more information, please contact Program Director Catalina Garzón at or at (510) 251-1600 x108

View photos and read the highlights from the training on the blog Pacific Institute Insights.

Read more about Freight Transport Justice here.


Listen to Peter Gleick on the Minnesota Public Radio news program “Global Clean Drinking Water Crisis: Problems and Solutions.”  


Board Member Margaret Gordon Honored by White House

Margaret Gordon speaks on the panel of the Citizen Science Award in Washington, DC in June.


Pacific Institute board member Margaret Gordon has received the prestigious White House Citizen Science Champions of Change Award. Each year the White House honors leaders and innovators for their dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy – part of the Champions of Change program highlighting the work of individuals, businesses, and organizations whose accomplishments have positively impacted our communities.


Ms. Gordon is the co-founder and co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (EIP), a nonprofit that works with neighborhood organizations, physicians, researchers, and public officials to ensure West Oakland residents have a clean environment, safe neighborhoods, and access to economic opportunity. In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized EIP for its “work to improve local air quality.” 


Margaret Gordon spoke on a panel of the Citizen Science Award in Washington, DC on June 25, explaining how science and research became her calling:


“I got involved in environmental justice as a second career in dealing with issues from my community because of the Port of Oakland. We have trucks, trains, ships, cargo-handling equipment in this neighborhood 24/7. When I moved into the neighborhood 21 years ago, I was brought to my son’s elementary school and I saw a basket of inhalers in the nurse’s office, and I wanted to know why there were so many inhalers, and she said, “Because all these kids have asthma” – and nobody was really talking about the problems of health issues in the neighborhood.

So the Pacific Institute, a think tank in Oakland, came to the neighborhood and started doing a series of neighborhood meetings called “Indicators,” about measuring stuff. And I never thought that understanding how to measure stuff, measuring quality of life issues, such as air quality, truck traffic, understanding where trucks were going and coming from, having parking, all these different things, was about how our community was being impacted and overburdened with this industry. So as I learned all these things, I also learned how to help the community…

A group of us came together and developed our own organization called the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project… We were able to work to show the impacts of this business on our community.”

Congratulations – and thanks for all you do – to Margaret Gordon!


Watch Margaret Gordon speak at the Citizens Science Award panel in this video. (Ms. Gordon comes in at 41:28.)


Learn more about freight transport justice:

- Neighborhood Knowledge for change: The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project

- Measuring What Matters: Neighborhood Research for Economic and Environmental Health and Justice in Richmond, North Richmond, and San Pablo

- Gearing Up for Action: A Curriculum Guide for Freight Transport Justice


Learn more about the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

Dr. Newsha Ajami Appointed to SF Bay Regional Water Board


Dr. Newsha Ajami was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Dr. Newsha Ajami, senior research affiliate at the Pacific Institute, has been appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the body that regulates water quality in the San Francisco Bay area.

Dr. Ajami is a hydrologist whose areas of specialization include sustainable water resource management. Prior to joining the Institute, she served as a Science and Technology fellow at the California State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water where she provided scientific insight on resource-related issues, analyzed many bills, and also chaperoned three bills through the legislative process. Dr. Ajami has also collaborated as a consultant with Berkeley Economic Consulting to evaluate the impacts of biological and ecological restrictions on California’s water resources, in particular the Delta, and also determine how we can mitigate these impacts by improving California’s water efficiency through water conservation, groundwater banking, recycling, and desalination.


The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board is responsible for protecting surface, ground, and coastal waters. The state’s Regional Water Boards develop basin plans for their natural geographic characteristics that affect the overland flow of water in their area, govern requirements for and issue waste discharge permits, take enforcement action against dischargers who violate permits or otherwise harm water quality in surface waters, and monitor water quality. Board members serve four-year terms once they are confirmed by the State Senate, serving part-time and conducting their business at regular meetings where public participation is encouraged.


“Addressing the health of the water bodies throughout the San Francisco Bay region is the key to enhancing regional water supply reliability and a thriving economy. I look forward to working collaboratively with my colleagues at the Board and members of the public to address some of the pressing water issues throughout the region,” said Dr. Ajami.

Ceremony Honors Photo-Voice Participants of Native Boys and Men Institute

The photo-voice project participants held an opening night gallery exhibit featuring photos taken by Native youth on June 25, 2013.

On June 25, participants from the Pacific Institute’s photo-voice project with the Native Boys and Men Leadership Institute were honored in a graduation ceremony at the Intertribal Friendship House (IFH) in Oakland, California. Youth participants prepared a traditional meal for guests under the guidance of Native American chef Ron Spencer using ingredients harvested from IFH’s indigenous permaculture garden. They then presented the results of their photo-voice project to friends and family members before receiving their graduation certificates. The event also marked the opening of a gallery exhibit at IFH featuring with the youth’s photos and captions documenting their experiences as Native young men maintaining ties to their traditions and culture. The photo-voice project is part of IFH’s intergenerational community history project to document the lives of members of the urban Native American community in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information, please contact Program Director Catalina Garzón at cgarzon (at) or at (510) 251-1600 x108.

Read Catalina Garzón’s blog post about the photo-voice project and graduation ceremony

California Governor Vetoes $3M for Salton Sea Projects

On Thursday June 27, Governor Jerry Brown used a line-item veto to cut $3 million that would have gone toward projects at the shrinking Salton Sea.


As the Salton Sea continues to shrink, exposed stretches of shoreline are expected to release increasing amounts of dust into the wind. The dust could pose health hazards similar to those that have plagued communities near the remnants of the Owens Lake since its waters were diverted to Los Angeles.


“The state will be stuck with a huge bill for dust mitigation unless something is done in the very near future, and really it’s not clear to me we have enough time anymore,” said Pacific Institute Salton Sea expert Michael Cohen in a Desert Sun article.


“The state has been sitting on this money for many years, and they spend a lot of money on consultants, and they spend a lot of money on staff salaries, and we’re still waiting for the state to actually do something,” Cohen said. “I would argue that we’ve studied this for a long time and time is running out.”

Read Michael Cohen’s blog post “Another Grim Day for the Salton Sea.”

Read the Desert Sun story.

Pacific Institute Welcomes 2013 Diversity for Sustainability Interns   

On June 17, the 
Pacific Institute held a welcome reception for our incoming Diversity for Sustainability Interns, Mar Velez and Christina McGhee. Raised in South Central Los Angeles, Mar is a first year Masters student in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley who is working on our photo-voice projects with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice and the Intertribal Friendship House. Oakland native Christina McGhee is a recent graduate of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of California – Santa Cruz who is working on a project to engage communities directly impacted by climate change in developing neighborhood-level indicators to measure community resilience. Now in its third year, the Diversity for Sustainability Internship Program provides opportunities for individuals from communities that are under-represented in the environmental sustainability field to build skills, experience, and professional networks to enrich the field through their unique perspectives and lived experiences. Welcome Mar and Christina!

Report from Circle of Blue   

circle of blue Circle of Blue, an affiliate of the Pacific Institute, is the international network of journalists, scholars, and citizens that connects humanity to the global freshwater crisis.

Circle of Blue continues coverage of India’s water, food, and energy challenges by reporting from the front lines of the country’s coal conundrum where new trends are testing the limits of India’s water supply and electrical generating capacity. In central and eastern India, as utilities are building coal-fired generation, communities become more restive about the quantities of water needed to operate the plants – and there are legitimate reasons for them to be worried.

Next in the series: Solutions.

More stories and photo galleries about India’s water-food-energy choke points are here:


Choke Point: India – The Leopard in the Well


Scarcity in a Time of Surplus: Free Water and Energy Cause Food Waste and Power Shortage in India


Mismanagement of Abundance: Constellation of Coal Mines Across India Not Enough to Prevent Blackouts


Choke Point: India is produced in collaboration with the Wilson Center and its China Environment Forum and Asia programs, and with support from Skoll Global Threats Fund.

In Brief   


New American Rivers Report Contributes to Defining the “New Normal” for Water Rates

American Rivers released the guide Drinking Water Infrastructure: Who Pays and How (And For What), intended to acquaint advocates with the financing practices and imperatives that define drinking water management today. It can be used to prepare for engagement with drinking water utilities, the city councils that set water rates, and the State Revolving Fund administrators that help to finance water infrastructure. The guide, which references the Institute’s work on defining the new normal for water rates, can be used by advocates of all different stripes – environmental, affordability, and taxpayer advocates – to strategize collaboration.

This guide should help advocates understand not only how to be more effective opponents of destructive and bloated infrastructure projects, but also how to be more effective proponents of sustainable drinking water systems.

Download the American Rivers guide (PDF).

Learn more about the Pacific Institute’s work on water rates.


Pacific Institute staff members gave talks and lectures, conducted workshops, and participated on panels far and wide this month. Here are some of the places we’ve been:   


Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Director:

– gave an opening keynote address with Margaret Gordon from the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project at the Community-Based Participatory Research Institute at San Francisco State University.

Peter Gleick, President: 

- gave a presentation on water and conflict at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly at Holy Names University in Oakland, California.
-spoke on global water challenges at Singularity University at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.   


Jason Morrison, Corporate Sustainability Program Director:

- moderated a session entitled Water Risk and Corporate Disclosure: Taking Account of Possible Scarcity at the American Bar Association’s 31st Annual Water Law Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The session addressed the increasing commitments that businesses and others are making to better manage water-related risk, as well as how businesses need to consider evolving legal requirements and best practices for collecting, assessing, and communicating this information to regulators and other interested parties.

- participated in an informal development workshop organized by Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and focusing on CDP’s 2014 water questionnaire. Held in New York City, the aim of the stakeholder consultation was to inform and guide the development of version 2.0 of CDP’s water questionnaire and associated scoring methodology.


Upcoming Events      

Peter Gleick at the Commonwealth Club’s Middle East Forum
– August 12 at noon

Water and Conflict: Is Water More Important than Oil?” is the topic for Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick’s discussion of how conflicts can be influenced by intelligent water policies, especially in the Middle East.

Monday, August 12, 12:00 p.m., (11:30 a.m. check-in), Commonwealth Club, 595 Market Street, San Francisco. Tickets $20; Commonwealth Club and students with valid ID free. For tickets and details, call 415-597-7605 or click here.

In the News

The Grapevine Magazine’s Robert Gluck interviewed Water Program Co-Director Heather Cooley to discuss the impacts of hydraulic fracking on vineyards (see story on page 33).

Joaquin Palomino from the East Bay Express spoke with Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick on Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant underground tunnels that would divert huge amounts of freshwater from the Sacramento River north of the Delta to the south. Read more about the Delta, California’s all-important water supply.

Michael Cohen, senior research associate, spoke with Ian James from The Desert Sun on Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to allocate 30 million dollars for a study and a line-item veto to cut $3 million that would have gone toward pressing projects at the shrinking Salton Sea.

The Saturday Evening Post’s Barry Yeoman tackles “The Looming Water Crisis,” and Peter Gleick weighs in on water in the West.

Mal Warwick reviews Peter Gleick’s Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water in this Berkeleyside article. (And find out more about the book here.)

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