Environmental Justice in California
Exhibition project: the drought in California from an environmental justice point of view
By Mirja Schoderer, 2016-05-16
California is in its fifth consecutive year of drought. A wet winter has given people hope that the drought might be over but that remains to be seen. In any case, its ecologic consequences are severe: land has subsided, salt water has intruded into coastal aquifers, entire ecosystems have dried out. Californians had to make do with mandatory water cuts that have now been lifted. However, as soon as water managers decide that water levels might get too low, they will be put in place again. Those cuts are calculated along previous water use to ensure that those who use the most have to save the most. In spite of that, the drought has very different consequences for different population groups.

That is mainly due to California's specific water management system - which consists of major pipelines running from the water-rich North of the State to the cities in the South - and to the two different kinds of water rights that coexist in California and that privilege some users. These two aspects, along with other factors like immigration laws, lead to a specific set of winners and losers in the drought mitigation and adaptation process that cuts right across the categories of ethnicity, race, locality and class.

In their exhibition project "Thirsty Justice - Social Realities of the Drought in California", the students Laura Fischer and Mirja Schoderer examine the social consequences of the drought from the point of view of environmental justice and present their findings in video narratives, case studies and pictures. The project was the result of a joint seminar executed by SUSTAIN IT and the Environmental Justice Institute. Under the title of Environmental Justice in Theorie und Praxis, the students developed and presented the Thirsty Justice, first unveiled at Freie Universität Berlin from April 25-29, 2016 (see the German invitation here).

The website of the exhibition can be found here, dates and locations for further showcases are announced there as well.
Image: © Mirja Schoderer