17 Nov Public Engagement and Education As Tools For Equitable Climate Resilience
For over 30 years, FoLAR has been a leader in educating youth, guiding policy, and connecting LA communities to the LA River. Throughout these three decades, our greatest strength has been, and continues to be, our connection to the thousands of Angelenos who join us in learning about and engaging with the LA River and the communities that the River flows through. As a small, local non-profit, this is our super power. And nowhere else are these tools of public engagement and education more powerful than in advocating for equitable climate resilience.
So far this year, FoLAR has directly engaged with over 8,500 Angelenos through our K-12 environmental education programs and our free community events. From field trips to the River and workforce development for over 5,000 LA students, to the 50,000 pounds of trash removed from the River during our 2022 CleanUp – we know that local engagement can make a big difference.
Here’s how – and why – FoLAR uses public engagement and education as tools for working toward equitable climate resilience on the LA River:
Rivers and Climate Change The effects of climate change both impact Rivers, and can also be mitigated by and adapted to with healthy Rivers. A 2021 study published in Science found that, in addition to affecting temperatures, precipitation, and other physical processes, climate change is also impacting global River flows, with some regions becoming drier and others experiencing increased flows. The increased number and increased power of storms resulting from climate change can also increase the amount of pollutants that make their way from urban and agricultural areas into Rivers, leading to reduced water quality. But healthy Rivers can also help mitigate the effects of climate change, and help communities adapt. An LA River with sustainable flows, for example, can reduce flood risk, clean the air, cool temperatures, support biodiversity, and provide open, natural recreational spaces for millions of Angelenos. Healthy Rivers support healthy, climate-resilient communities.
Climate Equity The communities who stand to be most severely impacted by climate change, often have the least access to information about it. They often also have limited access to the natural resources in their community. In an effort to chip away at this gap in access to resources and information, FoLAR’s K-12 environmental education programs and field trips offer students the opportunity to learn about the LA River hands-on. Our programs primarily serve students who meet the California Department of Education’s LCAP metrics to identify schools of high need and over 90% of FoLAR’s student base has access to free or reduced lunch – an indicator for students living below the poverty line.
Connection and Identity If communities don’t feel connected to the natural spaces around them, it becomes impossible for them to imagine and build a climate-resilient future that meets their needs. FoLAR’s free community events like our monthly Habitat Restoration Days, Bats and Brews events, and annual CleanUps offer Angelenos different types of opportunities to not only learn about, but also enjoy, the River that runs through their city. This year, we kicked off our first-ever River Fest – a community film festival celebrating the LA River. This unique event was attended by over 550 Angelenos, and brought together the LA River’s many advocates along with their diverse perspectives on the importance of restoration and equitable access to the LA River. Featured films showcased the nexus of nature, health, climate change, art, and the LA River.
Paving the Way for Action From personal day-to-day decisions like recycling, to engaging with local officials on environmental issues, public engagement and education empowers communities to take action. By sharing key information about the LA River and its role in climate mitigation at all of our free community events and sharing calls to action related to River policy, we pave the way for grassroots climate action that is based in science and equitable practices.
We hope you’ll join us in advocating for our vision of a verdant LA River that supports vulnerable communities in climate adaptation. Donate to FoLAR this giving season and help us prepare for an even more impactful 2023. See you on the River!
Friends of the Los Angeles River is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to build capacity for communities, students, and future leaders to advocate for nature, climate, and equity on the Los Angeles River. FoLAR is a leading force in educating youth, guiding policy, and connecting communities to the River.