Environmental justice panel brings local issues into focus

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By Jacque Garcia (The Times-Independent)

Canyon Country Rising Tide held an environmental justice panel April 18 highlighting issues facing the Moab community. Focused on giving a voice to those most affected by these matters, and educating people on how it can help, the panel featured key members of the community who spoke from personal experience.

Stephanie Hamborsky, a member of CCRT and the organizer of the event, said, “This is our first public event in a while. I’m trying to coordinate all of the panelists to make sure we have just conversations about these issues and center the voices that need to be centered.”

The panel featured Moab Valley Multicultural Center Director Rhiana Medina, Youth Garden Project Director Ruth Linford, Grand County Community and Economic Development Specialist Kaitlin Myers and Uranium Watch Program Director Sarah Fields.

While CCRT advocates for issues of environmental justice throughout Utah and the Four Corners area, the panel highlighted some matters closer to home.

“We were talking about the Moab Uranium tailings project, and how that’s affecting people who have been living in Moab, how close it is to where we’re living, how it’s affecting our water source and whose water is being contaminated,” Hamborsky said. “Sarah Fields, as the director of Uranium Watch, is actively involved in those efforts.”

“Kaitlin and Rhiana are both knowledgeable on the issues that are relevant to Grand County,” Hamborsky explained. “Intergenerational poverty and housing in Moab is a component of environmental justice—providing adequate food and housing to the people in our community in a fair and equitable way.”

Medina commented on her involvement in the panel, saying, “One of the questions is what conditions in Moab are creating stress for people in Moab, specifically minority communities.”

At MVMC, Medina has first-hand experience serving marginalized populations in the community.

“I think there’s a lot of conversation about water, and I think it’s important to make sure that knowledge about water conservation is being distributed to people who have a second language,” Medina said. “The center is in a great position to help share that information and incorporate it into our own programming. The best thing we can do is be a good example ourselves, and make sure we are using our resources in a way that is responsible”

The panel also represented a resurgence of activity for CCRT. “There’s been somewhat of a lull,” Hamborsky explained. “We finally started having meetings again, so hopefully this will be the start of a more regular occurrence. Having the community out, talking about these issues that are more difficult to discuss, and helping people understand how they can support people who are struggling with environmental justice.”

CCRT will be tackling issues not only within Moab’s borders but also matters that spread throughout the region.

“We have a hyper-local focus on problems like the uranium project and how it’s being shipped out to Crescent Junction, and who is affected by this, and who the workers are there,” Hamborsky continued. “Matters with broader implications, such as Bears Ears, also need attention, she said. The organization also plans to send support to indigenous lands throughout Utah that are being threatened by environmental degradation.”

“Right now, we are working to build relationships with indigenous communities at White Mesa and Black Mesa, basically on indigenous land,” Hamborsky said. “Places where they are facing things like tar sands extraction and oil shale extraction and fracking and uranium mining and other exploitive practices.”

Hamborsky hopes that by facilitating more events in Moab, CCRT will gain members and make a larger impact. “We really need more people engaged and involved that bring different perspectives to our organization.”

Read more:Moab Times-Independent – Environmental justice panel brings local issues into focus

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