Sierra Club– Changing a Culture of Hopelessness – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Sierra Club– Changing a Culture of Hopelessness

This week, while still making strides to collect current, intelligent data about environmental neurotoxins and criminality, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a strong correlation and still being stuck feeling hopeless for the cause. For many people in the affected areas, particularly in 48217, it’s already evident that air/ water pollution and hazardous soil are linked to decreased cognitive function and health concerns (e.g. low matriculation to college/ high drop-out rates; high incarceration rates, increased risk of cancers, personality disorders, pulmonary disease, autism spectrum disorders, asthma, etc.). I can imagine that many are crippled by this reality and the inevitable effect it will have for many generations on. This thought led me to start thinking about ways to not only prove these issues in the community but to reverse them–restorative justice. Overall, it is even more important to promote a culture of progress, agency and revolutionary change than it is to simply acknowledge bad situations.

I talked with my boss, Rhonda, about the brain’s plasticity and epigenetics. Both of these areas of study affirm the idea that to a certain extent, we have control over our health and can take action (right now) to improve it. What students in Flint, Michigan, Dearborn, and Southwest Detroit would benefit from in particular are people and programs dedicating to fill the education and health resources- gap. This might be given by specialized classes or extra programs for students; it could also be more physicians in the area that are also from those communities so that they understand the problem and needs of the people better and feel personally invested.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to a lot of important people about these issues, like Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and representatives of other large environmental organizations. They do not hesitate to admit to the problem, but there’s rarely action taken to fix it. That to me is truly sad, but motivating.

Yousif asked us what we plan to do with our lives and, for me, its pretty clear: I want to get to a position where I can personally invest in my community, whether I am a financial resource or investing my time, I know it will take power, influence, and genuine concern to do right by these affected groups, and change this widespread culture of hopelessness.

1 thought on “Sierra Club– Changing a Culture of Hopelessness”

  1. Peggy,
    Thanks so much for your post. I enjoy that you ended on a note of needed happiness, and that you see the difference that you’re making just by trying! I look forward to learning more about what you do in your project.


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