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Creating Sustainable Solutions: Students Learn from Environmental Activists Fighting for Justice in Newark’s Ironbound

Field trip provides hands-on experience in developing strategies for New Jersey communities confronting climate change

Posted in: Affiliated Research, In the Community

tour guide speaks to a group of people at a community garden
JV Valladolid, center, leads the tour for the Ironbound Community Corporation. The tour was an opportunity for the Montclair students to learn about the environmental challenges facing the Ironbound and the movement over five decades for environmental justice.

Krishna Polius, a PhD student in Environmental Science and Management, knows what it means to fight for a cleaner community. A geochemist by training, her experiences include testing drinking water during the crisis in Flint, Michigan, and serving in the AmeriCorps to raise awareness about water quality issues in New Jersey.

Still, she was surprised by what she saw in Newark’s Ironbound and the proximity of polluters to children playing in the streets. “It was startling to me because of the health risks,” she says.

The industrial neighborhood – a concentration of factories and warehouses, a power plant, chemical refineries, the state’s largest garbage incinerator and a Superfund site – has long been the focus of protests and activists dedicated to uplifting this overburdened community of color, continuing a fight for clean air and land.

“The stories we heard of the activism – what’s been, what’s in the works, what’s going on – that aspect gave us hope,” adds Leanna Sanchez ’22, who joined Polius and other students in a Montclair State University Anthropology class for a tour around the Ironbound.

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