Written by Elizabeth Pepper, ESLLC 2017-2018
For a research project, I had the opportunity to study an important figure who has contributed to sustainability. In a Freshman Seminar class I was introduced to Antwi Akom’s video called, “Greening the Educational Industrial Complex”, and I wanted to learn more. Through this research project I was able to explore and answer the question; How does sustainability and educational systems connect?
In order to understand the type of work that Dr.Akom does, one must understand the problems that Dr.Akom is addressing. Within Dr.Akom’s talks called, “Greening the Educational Industrial Complex”, he states that, “The problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of climate justice. In particular, how the climate justice movement addresses issues of racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequality” (Akom). Beyond just addressing this first crisis, he dives deeper to the crisis of our educational system. The way that Dr.Akom explores the interconnection between the environment and the education system is a topic that not very many researchers are exploring. Dr.Akoms said, “We have the collapse of our ecological systems And we have the collapse of our educational systems and yet there are not enough people talking or thinking about the relationship between the two […] How does the environment impact our schools and our school children?” (Akom, 6:15) Dr.Akom uses the term “eco-apartheid”, coined by Van Jones in 2007, which was further explained as, “a system theory that examines the ecological impacts of structural racialization. In this analysis outcomes matter more than intent” (Akom). Some examples of what Dr. Akom talked about was, urban communities where the nearest grocery store is more than two miles away. In schools, students are fed meals with high fats, salts, and sugars. Students cannot sustain themselves off of poor nutritional diet. Many health risk come from poor diet, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Poor income areas were built on sites with toxic waste.
Dr. Akom worked to combine STEM and Youth Cultural Art Movements to go out into their own communities and test particulate matter from diesel fuel emissions. A digital media campaign was created to bring to light the issues that are facing those communities to change social conditions. Dr.Akom is also working to help create an International Climate Justice Youth Bill of Rights. He stated that, “Our goal is to create a youth-driven national agreement that will compliment the Copenhagen Manifesto, meet greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to those outlined in the Kyoto Protocol, and apply to the post-2012 period” (Akom). Dr.Akom also has a vision for what schools can be, where schools are the center of communities. In his talk he had a slide asking “Why Can’t We Have Schools” that have: he then lists “living walls”, vertical walls of plants to reduce the carbon footprint, solar panels on schools, creating greenhouses and edible gardens where student can grow their own nutrient rich food, build social capital and support services, and college and career pathways.
A little more about Antwi Akom’s work: Antwi Akom, PhD, is the Director of the Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab. His research combines disciplines of science, technology, spatial epidemiology, community development, health communications, medical sociology, ethnic studies, African American studies, culturally responsive human centered design, Big Data, and public health. Dr. Akom co-founded and launched a series of technology startups in the San Francisco Bay area, including, Streetwyze, which has been recognized by the White House, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Knight News Challenge, and Echoing Green, amongst others. Dr. Akom is also Co-Founder of the Institute for Sustainable Economic Educational and Environmental Design, an award-winning, community-based center for research, teaching and action (Nora Knox). Antwi Akom has given numerous talks so spread awareness of the sustainability issues facing lower income communities and communities of color.
Here is a link to Antwi Akoms Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpBndINTCG4
“Dr. Antwi Akom.” Dr. Antwi Akom | Green Schools Conference & Expo, Green Schools Conference and Exposition , greenschoolsconference.org/dr-antwi-akom.
“Greening the Educational Industrial Complex .” Performance by Antwi Akom, YouTube, Connecting for Change; Bioneers , 13 Oct. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdpDdyJI3_s.
Knox, Nora. “Hear from Dynamic Speakers at the 2017 Green Schools Conference and Expo.” Center for Green Schools, 1 July 2017, www.centerforgreenschools.org/hear-dynamic-speakers-2017-green-schools-conference-and-expo.
“WE BELIEVE IN STRONGER COMMUNITY.” I-SEEED, iseeed.org/.