Online Updates: November 2010



CSSJ Curriculum Guide Supports Communities Grappling with Freight Transport Issues 


The Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice (CSSJ) Program has produced Gearing Up for Action: A Curriculum Guide for Freight Transport Justice, an important advocacy tool to build the power and capacity of communities to participate in decision making around freight transport issues. The guide contains popular-education-style activities that CSSJ developed and piloted in partnership with community groups and coalitions including the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and the “Ditching Dirty Diesel” Collaborative.

This user-friendly curriculum guide is designed to help communities grappling with freight transport issues share their experiences, explore the root causes of freight transport impacts, identify those responsible for dealing with these causes, and develop a plan for advocacy to advance their solutions. To download a free copy of the curriculum guide, visit  

Read more about the Guide.

Read more about CSSJ work on Freight Transport Justice.



Community Benefits Agreements and Redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base Explored in New Report
CBA_cover.jpgThe Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program report Advancing Community Health through Community Benefits Agreements — Four Case Studies and Lessons for the Redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base explores the potential of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the Oakland Army Base developer as a strategy for advancing community health in Oakland. The research focuses on four cases of CBAs that covered community health issues that are also of concern in Oakland.

A CBA is a legally binding contract between a developer and community groups, and sometimes local government, that specifies benefits that a development project will result in for the local community. The redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base presents an enormous opportunity for investment in strategies to improve community health. Read More.

UN Human Rights Council Acknowledges Formal Human Right to Water

On September 24, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a binding resolution that:

“Affirms that the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity.”

This resolution is a great victory on an issue the Pacific Institute has tackled for over a decade. By acknowledging a human right to water and expressing the willingness to meet this right for those currently deprived of it, the UN and the water community have finally addressed one of the most fundamental failures of 20th century development. And as Pacific Institute President, Peter Gleick, noted in his blog, this declaration was a long time coming.

The Pacific Institute has been an early and vocal proponent for the human right to water, arguing that access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right supported by international law, declarations, and state practices. The negotiations over extending human rights to water has dragged on for years, and the Institute has been an active advocate on this issue beginning in 1999 with the release of our report, “The Human Right to Water,” which was later quoted in the UN’s right to water document, General Comment 15.

Going forward, the UN will need to develop appropriate tools and mechanisms to achieve progressively the full realization of these rights, including appropriate legislation, comprehensive plans and strategies for the water sector, and financial approaches — with full transparency of the planning and implementation process and meaningful participation of the concerned local communities and relevant stakeholders.

Peter Gleick wrote, “I do not think that finally meeting basic needs for water and sanitation will occur just because there is finally a clear acceptance of a legal human right to water and rules for what governments must do to progressively realize those rights. But it is certain to help accelerate the day when safe water and sanitation are available for all.”

Pacific Institute: The Human Right to Water

Read Peter Gleick’s Huffington Post:  A Long Time Coming: The Human Right to Water


In Brief

-   Pacific Institute Co-Hosts Community Climate Adaptation Workshop in Oakland

More than 30 people attended a workshop on Community Adaptation co-led by the Pacific Institute and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project on October 10 at the Oakland Day of Action for Climate Solutions at Laney College. Participants identified factors that can make people more or less susceptible to  potential local  impacts of climate change through interactive activities. Participants also worked in small groups to brainstorm ways to  better protect and prepare their communities should these kinds of impacts get worse or more frequent. Workshop activities were based on secondary research that the Pacific Institute conducted on vulnerability factors for potential climate impacts including extreme temperatures, poor air quality, and flooding.


-  Training the Trainers on Using Popular Education to Demystify Freight Transport

On October 23, the Community Strategies Program and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project co-led a train-the-trainer workshop in Carson, Calif. on using popular education to engage community members and build their leadership skills on freight transport issues. Some 30 community leaders from around the country attended the workshop, which featured activities and materials from the Pacific Institute’s newly released guide Gearing Up for Action: A Curriculum Guide for Freight Transport Justice. The workshop was held  as part of the “Moving Forward Together” conference, a national gathering of community groups, researchers, and allied organizations working on freight transport issues. Workshop participants worked in small groups to prepare and lead demonstrations of activities ranging from unscrambling the steps involved in the flow of freight to explaining the private interests involved in moving freight through a port. To download a free copy of the curriculum guide, visit

-  Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, presented at the final Community Planning Forum on water coordinated by the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments on October 1. Dr. Christian-Smith’s presentation on the recent Pacific Institute report, California’s Next Million Acre-Feet: Saving Water, Energy, and Money, is available on the AMBAG website (beginning on slide 81).

-  Michael Cohen, senior research associate, led a tour on Oct. 19-20 of existing and planned habitat restoration projects at the north and south ends of the Salton Sea. The tour highlighted the successes and relative low cost of shallow-water habitat projects that provide additional air quality management benefits near the New and Alamo River deltas. He also presented “Mining for Data: The Search for Information on Groundwater Conditions and Use in the Colorado River Border Region” on October 21 at the Global Resources Forum: Global Water – 2010 and Beyond conference in Denver.


-  Catalina Garzón, co-director of the Community Strategies Program, presented on a panel on urban participatory research partnerships at the symposium “Empowered Partnerships: Participatory Action Research for Environmental Justice” at the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law on October 15. The panel focused on community-researcher partnerships in West Oakland and also featured Pacific Institute Board Member Margaret Gordon of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Richard Grow of US EPA Region 9, and UCB graduate student Nathan McClintock.

-  Eyal Matalon, research associate, presented on the nuts and bolts of community-based survey development and implementation to urban studies students at Stanford University on October 26. The presentation examined efforts of the Community Strategies Program to document the impacts of nitrate-contaminated groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley, focusing on concrete strategies for engaging community leaders in the process of designing and conducting a household survey.

-  Peter Schulte, research associate, participated on a panel that explored the emergence of water footprinting and its impact on corporate understanding of water-related risk at the 2010 Net Impact Conference held at the University of Michigan on October 29.


-  Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, delivered the keynote address at the annual dinner for the Pennsylvania Stroud Water Research Center on October 7 and discussed global water problems and solutions. The following week, he participated in the opening water forum at the International Women’s Forum World Leadership Conference in Montreal, Canada.


On October 26, Dr. Gleick presented the keynote lecture at the Martin-Springer Institute Human Rights and the Environment program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, addressing the human right to water, recent advances in the UN, and challenges and solutions to the world’s water problems.


Dr. Gleick participated in “The Future of Fresh Water” at the Atlantic Green Intelligence Forum in Washington DC, on October 27 along with former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt; Gretchen McClain, Senior Vice President, ITT Corporation; and Sheila Olmstead, Resources for the Future.

Upcoming Events
- Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith will be releasing a new Pacific Institute report, Overview of Greywater Reuse: The Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management, on November 18 at the Greywater Alliance’s final 2010 Roundtable discussion, 3:30 – 5:00 pm at the East Bay Municipal Utility District Headquarters in Oakland. The meeting is free and open to the public. The theme will be “What We Have Learned and Where We Are Going.” For more information, please visit

- Heather Cooley will present the Institute’s report California’s Next Million Acre-Feet: Saving Water, Energy, And Money at an event hosted by Environment Now on December 8th, 2010 at 5:30-7:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public.

RSVP by December 3rd to

Environment Now
2515 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
December 8th, 2010, 5:30-7:30 pm

In the News

- Peter Gleick spoke to Margot Roosevelt from the Los Angeles Times to discuss findings from a UC Irvine study which indicates that climate change is increasing the flow of water in the world’s rivers by 18%. Read the article here.

Dr. Gleick also spoke with Felicity Barringer from The New York Times about groundwater depletion and its contribution to rising sea levels. Read the article here.

- Heather Cooley was interviewed by Michael Krasny on NPR station KQED’s Forum program on October 25 in a discussion about the economic and environmental costs and benefits of converting sea water into drinking water.  Listen to the full interview here.