Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Environmental Justice and Anthropology Classes at Rollins College go on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour

Environmental Justice and Anthropology Classes at
Rollins College go on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour

For more than 10 years, the Farmworker Association of Florida has had a relationship with students and professors at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, about 14 miles away from our Apopka office, and the relationship just continues to grow each year.

On Sunday, February 5th, students from Professor Leslie Poole’s Environmental Justice class spent a morning and early afternoon learning about the environmental and health issues affecting the former farmworkers and current community members around Florida’s most contaminated large lake – Lake Apopka. They also learned about the systemic problems of our current agricultural system and policies, and how that has impacted the lives of real people and families for decades and even generations. Stopping at Magnolia Park for lunch gave the students an opportunity to see just how little progress has been made in cleaning up Lake Apopka, in spite of the farms having been closed for more than 18 years. The experience helped students put names, faces and places on what they were learning in their text books about environmental racism.

Then, on February 18, students from the anthropology classes of Professors Rachel Newcomb and Nolan Kline participated in a one day “immersion” project, in which they spent the morning working in a local flower and foliage nursery, working alongside the largely Hispanic workers, for a small taste of what it is like to be an agricultural worker in Central Florida. After a lunch break back at the FWAF office, they embarked on the Lake Apopka Toxic Tour, accompanied by former Lake Apopka farmworker and community activist, Linda Lee. While the information was a lot to absorb in one day, the experience was important for giving context and depth to their classroom and reading studies.

Our appreciation to such visionary and engaged professors at Rollins in offering to ‘get their students out of the classroom’ and to have these powerful and meaningful experiences that enhance their learning and provide insights into how to apply what they are learning. The future is in their hands.

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