Catherine Flowers

Catherine Flowers

Yesterdays discussion inspired me to go back and read what everyone’s initial responses were about our talk with Ms. Flowers and I realize mine didn’t post (I was on the road when I submitted it and I guess I didn’t have as good of reception as I thought I did). I was about to repost it but after yesterday I wanted to add in a few more things.

Listening to Catherine Flowers reconnected me with a realization I had my senior year of high school when I interned for the University of Hawaiʻis Environmental Engineering Lab testing a new septic tank technology pitched to be adopted in Hawaiʻi. On the very first day of my internship I was quickly greeted with the smell of wastewater (which if you’ve had the fortune of experiencing isn’t very pleasant). I was immediately taken back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. However, I quickly realized how important wastewater treatment is and how much focus it has in environmental engineering. With that being said people don’t know about it. When you think of environmental problems, wastewater would be the last thing you think of however, it is an environmental justice issue, and a BIG one which Ms. Flowers reopened my eyes too. People automatically resort to out of sight out of mind when it comes to waste unless they begin smelling it, living in it, or seeing it affect their daily lives. I was honored to hear about the work Ms. Flowers is doing to help her community. Like Ms. Flowers, it is my upbringing and witnessing events as such that has inspired me to take action in my own community to solve environmental problems and ultimately led me to pursue a degree in environmental science and policy, to bridge this gap. Most areas in Hawaiʻi are rural and also require personal systems as in Lowndes County but until hearing Ms. Flowers, I never thought about how this could be affected by climate change. I think the most powerful piece of information I took away from her as well as our conversations in class is the mechanisms through which people have to go through to spark action. It was both troubling yet understandable. Tackling the issue of our environment is more than meets the eye and she is on the frontline of some of the dirtiest jobs that come out of it. Sewage is a problem few people will touch, but she did and the only way she could get people to care was by going big and partnering with the people “who matter.”

I was most concerned however when she answered Joe’s question. I first hand know the channels you have to go through especially when you’re talking about controversial terms such as climate change to communities as I have gone through this process myself with initiatives and research I do back home. However, I believe there should be a balance. It did in fact stand out to me that Ms. Flowers did not once spew facts at us, but rather told us a story. I think this is the most powerful tool in sparking conversation. It helped her to relate to people and allow them to hear and listen to her without scaring them away with language. This is very much the way people in my own community think, you start by pointing out common observations and build conversation off of that. Her moves were strategic. With that being said, I think story telling is even more powerful when used as an educational tool and aided with scientific fact. I do not think we should hold ourselves back from educating people. This includes explaining processes, defining terms and naming things when necessarily and applicable.

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