How to add environmental justice into your groundwater classes

How to add environmental justice into your groundwater classes

By Tom Gleeson, Chinchu Mohan, Summer Okibe, Noella Horoscoe, Xander Huggins, Crystal Ng and Ally Jacoby

Along with the Water Underground Talks (webpage, youtube, blog post) that bring passionate and diverse voices and perspectives into groundwater classrooms, we have also been developing new materials to add environmental justice into your groundwater classes. The US EPA defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

        A diverse and committed constellation of people (who are co-authors on this post) have contributed to this work which has been shaped by expert advisors. Here we describe the process and materials, and share reflections from some of the contributors. These materials and more are free to download on Hydroshare.


        With funding from the Anti-racism Initiative at University of Victoria, we hired two research assistants as preferential hires for BIPOC students and assembled our team from University of Victoria and University of Minnesota that would meet weekly. We first started with a multi-week co-learning exercise where we discussed groundwater hydrology, Indigenous theory, environmental justice etc. to create a common language and understanding. Then we conducted a multi-week horizon scan of case studies and previous teaching materials on groundwater-related environmental racism and injustice. We summarized information from ten case studies on a common template. Then we were ready to design the teaching materials described below which was then reviewed and improved by a series of expert advisors Ryan Emanuel, Ingrid Waldron, Deb Perrone, Pamela Wolf and Gilles Wendling as well as collaborators Heather Buckley, Kristian Dubrawski and Crystal Tremblay.

  • A slide deck on ‘Environmental Justice Fundamentals’ for groundwater hydrologists that is meant to be one module (~3 hours of class time) near the beginning of the term to be a foundation for future modules and assignments. It is freely available and will help you:
    • Start with acknowledging team that developed and advised on slides, and your positionality and approach from your social location
    • Introduce environmental racism and injustice as a hook; and clarify argument why this is important for engineers (or geoscientists or whomever you teach)
    • Define and discuss environmental racism manifestations and causes
    • Describe Indigenous aspects of environmental racism (for context and background for methodologies described below)
    • Discuss data of groundwater-related environmental injustice around the world (to put issues in broad context) and few examples from around the world (you could substitute others from end of slide deck)
    • Define and discuss environmental justice and toolbox
    • Describe different tools in toolbox (emphasizing what is important for your students)
    • Additional slides with other case studies and than additional resources for students to continue their learning
  • Additional slide decks that mention or integrate environmental justice into modules on aquifers, groundwater modeling, groundwater flow to wells, groundwater-surface water interactions and groundwater resources and global change. Each of these modules have class activities as breakout sessions that can be modified for online or in person teaching.
  • Series of assignments that are place-based in British Columbia or Minnesota as is appropriate for the topic but these can be exemplars for other instructors.

These materials and more can openly downloaded by anyone from Hydroshare:
Gleeson, T. (2022). Groundwater Hydrology/Hydrogeology Teaching Materials (full course), HydroShare, http://www.hydroshare.org/resource/327fae4ec11e4232b93a3c737bc05f7c

Groundwater—the world’s largest freshwater store— is a life-sustaining resource that supplies water to billions of people, plays a central part in irrigated agriculture and influences the health of many ecosystems. Water Underground is a groundwater nerd blog written by a global collective of hydrogeologic researchers for water resource professionals, academics and anyone interested in groundwater, research, teaching and supervision. The blog, started by Tom Gleeson and managed by Xander Huggins, is the first blog hosted on both the EGU blogs and the AGU blogosphere.

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