University of Windsor and Community

UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR

Education is a crucial tool for addressing social, environmental issues. At its best, it fosters and sustains empowerment, and excites passion about the issues in people’s lives. Thus, the University of Windsor, which is Windsor’s largest educational institution, is a key location to look for the presence of social education, action and dialogue.

University of Windsor Campus

The University has a prevalent ‘Centre for Studies in Social Justice‘ which “serves as a forum to provide information and research exchanges related to a wide range of social justice issues – health, sexuality, racism, literacy, poverty, and gender inequalities, as well as the legal, environmental, and cultural challenges of restructuring, the global economy, and international development.” (1) Along the same lines is their Labour Studies Department, which is very active in community education with their “Presentations of Workers Rights” in local high schools. They also have a detailed environmental program, which includes:

 Although these academic departments are crucial in shaping the students thinking, a critical place to look for their culmination and presence in day-to-day dialogue is the student publication, The Lance.

A search in April 2012 of the Lance‘s collection of articles on their website turned up only a handful of “environmental justice” and “environmental health” related articles. Even so, the presence of these articles is crucial to recognize, as they serve to educate students and community members of the issues that pertain to environmental and social justice and health. Below is a list of recent articles retrieved using the search terms “environmental justice,” and “environmental health,”as well as a brief summary, quotation, critique and points of relevance to the environmental and social justice situations in Windsor. (Note: The critique is not of The Lance’s authors, but of how the issues fit into the larger Windsor picture, based on an interpretation of various sources encountered during the research for this website.)

Food, ecology and social justice (Oct 5, 2011)

“U Windsor’s Centre for Studies in Social Justice brings global food system issues to students.” ^    This article explains the discussion about local food security at University of Windsor, which was stimulated by a seminar titled ‘Food, Ecology and Social Justice.’ This is a very valuable environmental justice related presence as it deals with the social and environmental implications of our current food complex, including the aspect of worker exploitation.

Digging In, Community Gardening (April 17, 2012)

This article is another example of the presence of the “food security” topic in local environmental discussions. As explained in the article, “The Campus Community Garden Project has a three part mandate: to create a more sustainable campus, build a healthy community, and empower and educate people on food production in urban areas.” ^ The establishment of this garden project and an article promoting its existence are important. But taking into  consideration the broader context of environmental justice in Windsor, one might reasonably ask: Is there any way the presence of the garden can serve as an action against the pollution that radiates from the dominant industrial economy that Windsor is home to?

How do we fix our city? (April 17, 2012)

“Windsor isn’t short on ideas. It’s short on action.” This is how Tom Lucier, author of the article, expresses his perspective on Windsor’s need for growth. His main concern is the city’s lack of livability, which is a result of health issues: “Children born into this city have higher chances of countless sicknesses, asthma and cancer.” (2) This article is a personal account of the environmental and social issues of Windsor, and thus, a crucial form of community education and empowerment. It speaks to the lack of action in Windsor, which is important to weigh against what various organizations and industries claim to be doing.

W.E. Cycle (April 17, 2012)

“‘When we walk and bike more, so many things will improve,’ said Kari Gignac, a member of Windsor Bicycling Committee, which advises Windsor’s city council on bike issues.” This article stresses the social and environmental benefits of bicycles as a form of transportation. This is relevant to environmental justice because it is a form of independence from heavy automobile pollution. On the other hand, how effective is it if the air is already polluted and remains so? It is crucial to educate the community about these benefits, but the action against the polluters must go further.

ECOCITY (April 12, 2012)

This article explains “a project entitled ‘Reducing Chemical Exposures’,” which was able to address issues of environmental and social injustice through action and communication. This article is very important to note, as it explains the importance of the ‘Reducing Chemical Exposures’  project, as well as its outcomes: “A significant outcome of this project was the formation of a local group who call themselves Windsor on Watch (WOW).” ^ WOW is explained in more detail below.

For an interested individual looking into the Windsor community from the outside, these articles provide a glimpse into the kinds of conversations about environment and social issues that are occurring there. For students and community members, The Lance is an educative resource that can foster empowerment in those who suffer most directly (though all are affected), and advocacy in those who recognize that Windsor must address social and environmental injustices. For these reasons, The Lance serves as an important educational resource for those both inside and outside of Windsor.

COMMUNITY

“Our goal is to educate the community around us and create awareness of environmental problems and solutions through on-going acts of creative contention and community events.” -WOW

WOW members in action

Windsor on Watch (WOW), mentioned above, is “a community environmental group made up of concerned citizens”  that focuses on environmental justice activism and education.

This community, non-profit organization is crucial to acknowledge and examine, because of their focus on dealing with the issues through education and action. It is an inspiring  example of addressing the difficulties that Windsor faces, especially as Tom Lucier describes them. A lot of their legitimacy seems to come from the fact that they are a grassroots, non-profit organization, that is working hard at making the social and environmental realities reflect the wishes of the people. In 2010, they facilitated a discussion at the Canadian Social Forum “about the exploitative nature of our current corporatist economic system and possible strategies to attain fair and just transition to sustainable economies.” Even the description of this discussion speaks a lot to why WOW is  a pivotal education resource and key social change maker: they are an invaluable and critical response to the issues that are present in Windsor. But, as seen through internet research for this webpage, WOW does not have adequate participation. Ideally, what would follow the establishment of such an organization is support, growth, and perpetual education.

More information about their actions and events can be found on their Facebook by clicking this link: Windsor on Watch

Windsor Essex County Environment Committee (WECEC)

The WECEC is a committee that serves “to protect and enhance the quality of the environment for residents in Windsor and Essex County by providing advice, guidance, and counsel to City and County Councils on policies and procedures and providing and supporting advocacy, community education and outreach programs.”

The Windsor Star

The Windsor Star is the city’s main news outlet. Similar to The Lance, The Star includes a number of valuable articles pertaining to environmental justice issues. Below is a list of links to recent articles that focus onthese issues.

These articles range from a local focus to the national political happenings pertaining to environmental and social issues. What is positive is that the community has these articles as a resource. What is negative is that the publication does not specifically report on very many pertinent local issues– for example, the WOW group. A search of The Windsor Star‘s website conducted in April 2012 turned up only eight results for “environmental justice.” There is no mention of local environmental and social justice movements, even though it is a local publication. Newspapers are crucial forms of news, and news is a crucial educational resource. For such a prominent local news source to be lacking the recognition of social justice organizations is unfortunate. Local, community collaboration and support are needed if social and political action are to succeed, which in turn leads to positive change for the community.

Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Inc. (OHCOW)

is an example of the culmination of environmental and social justice issues in labor rights. OHCOW has been an educational and support resource for workers in Ontario since 1989. It serves to inform workers and their families of their rights, as well as to help them evaluate their working and living conditions, and is a successful and critical response to many aspects of environmental and social injustice that occur in the workplace. It must be noted that some workers and activists have raised concerns about OHCOW’s seeming lack of ability and/or unwillingness to address certain types of occupational illnesses, such as cancers that most likely originated from exposure to toxic substances in the workplace, which have long latency periods (i.e., they don’t manifest until many years after the initial exposure). Still, overall OHCOW has been a positive force on the side of Ontario workers for nearly 30 years, with countless workers and their families having benefited, and continuing to benefit, from the clinics and their programs.

Here is an informative slideshow presentation produced by OHCOW that explains occupational and location health details and evaluations.

(1)     Quoted from the included link to the Centre’s website.

(2)    Quoted from Tom Lucier’s article, which is also linked above the quotation.

(3)    Quoted from the ECOCITY Article

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