Organizer of environmental justice program seeks to expand to more cities

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Our Legacy Nebraska focuses on localizing environmental issues to ones Nebraskans face. Sessions are planned in multiple Nebraska communities. (Photo by Karsten Würth/Unsplash)
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By Kassidy Arena, Nebraska Public Media News

An education and advocacy program focused on environmental justice is looking to expand into more cities in the coming months.

Our Legacy Nebraska, a program funded by Conservation Nebraska, teaches residents how the environment shapes everyday lives, and how to advocate for change.

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The program had a successful round in Omaha focused on lead and how to stay informed about potential lead dangers. Now, program director Favian Mendez Rodriguez said he plans to expand the program into new cities. Mendez Rodriguez added he didn’t know of any organized efforts similar to his program.

“It wasn’t necessarily like, oh, this city has environmental justice, this one doesn’t,” he explained. “We just looked at, okay, how can we utilize the program the best, and which areas have the least resources for them?”

The resources the sessions focus on are Nebraska-specific. Mendez Rodriguez listed as an example that Nebraskans aren’t directly impacted by polar bear populations nor by oil spills, but they are affected by rural agriculture and native species.

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The next round of Our Legacy Nebraska will be in South Sioux City, followed by Grand Island. Mendez Rodriguez said he wants to have at least five participants in each session. He added the program could help people feel less “doom” about the environment.

“I’m hoping they walk out feeling, like, not so hopeless on issues,” Mendez Rodriguez said. “You know, the environmental justice issues can be big and daunting, but the whole idea of the program is, OK, you’re not gonna be alone.”

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Mendez Rodriguez said he pieced together this program’s curriculum by utilizing multiple resources.

Our Legacy Nebraska is in its second year. Mendez Rodriguez said he hopes the lessons participants learn in the program will be passed down to the next generation. Participants are paid for their time to attend 10 sessions.

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