Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives at LABash

Environmental Justice PPN Student Representative Kari Spiegelhalter speaks with a landscape architecture student at LABash / image: Kari Spiegelhalter and Patricia Noto

ASLA’s Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN) has taken on board two student representatives to help them reach out to students of landscape architecture about design for environmental justice. The PPN seeks to provide a forum to help landscape architects pursue the goal of designing spaces that promote the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens regardless of race, income, or other marginal status.

After establishing the PPN in 2015, founding co-chairs Kathleen King, Associate ASLA, and Julie Stevens, ASLA, wanted to educate current students of landscape architecture about environmental justice so they enter the profession with an understanding of how their designs increase or diminish environmental justices. They hope to empower future generations of landscape architects with the understanding to design safe, accessible, and healthy places for all. To do so, they established an Environmental Justice PPN Student Representative position to reach out to students of landscape architecture.

According to PPN Co-Chair Kathleen King, “There has been a great deal of interest in the student community for the EJ PPN and Julie and I wanted to find a way to connect with students. Students today will be in practice tomorrow—we think it’s important that they are engaged with these issues and understand the potential impact landscape architects can have on creating equitable communities. Kari and Patricia have demonstrated a passion for this topic and we’re thrilled that they will be spreading the word about the new PPN.”

At the Environmental Justice PPN meeting during the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Julie met Kari Spiegelhalter, a Masters of Landscape Architecture student at Cornell University. Kari was interested in the work of the PPN, and recruited Patricia Noto, a Masters of Landscape Architecture student at the Rhode Island School of Design to share the student representative position with her. Kari’s background includes working with local communities on land restoration projects in the Chicagoland area. Patricia worked for several years in urban agriculture and education, coordinating youth programs that integrated hands on, outdoor learning into high school curricula.

Environmental Justice Student Representatives Patricia Noto (second from left) and Kari (far right) at LABash. / image: Kari Spiegelhalter and Patricia Noto
Environmental Justice Student Representatives Patricia Noto (second from left) and Kari (far right) at LABash. / image: Kari Spiegelhalter and Patricia Noto

Kari and Patricia’s tenure as student representatives kicked off at LABash 2017 at the University of Maryland. At the conference, Kari and Patricia surveyed students about how they consider environmental justice as a topic pertinent to the field of landscape architecture. Questions included:

  • “What does environmental justice mean to you?”
  • “How are landscape architects successful in working for environmental justice?” and
  • “What environmental justice issues do you think are the most pressing?”

Students identified their top three pressing issues as gentrification and displacement of communities, health hazards from brownfields and landfills, and safe shared streets as the three most pressing environmental justice issues. Many students understood “environmental justice” as a service towards the environment, rather than a definition more centered around social justice. The conversations with students highlighted a need for a greater discussion about this issue within our field and among students. Kari and Patricia intend to use the results of this survey to create educational resources, such as online forums or design guidelines specifically geared towards students, so they can understand environmental justice, learn how landscape architects can design for environmental justice and equality, and integrate design for environmental justice into their studio projects.

by Kari Spiegelhalter and Patricia Noto, Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives

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