Last week, six SHATIL-Porter Environmental Fellows presented the results of year-long projects conducted during their internships with major environmental organizations. The event illustrated the societal impact that is made possible when civil society and academia join hands to promote social and environmental change.
Among the projects: an agricultural community garden for Ethiopian immigrants; an incentive to industry to lessen its pollution of the Mediterranean Sea; critical scientific research, on which the government can base its environmental demands of industrial polluters; and a mechanism for ensuring that Israeli cities appoint environmental committees.
The Porter Environmental Internship program was established to train the next generation of young leaders, who will advocate for the environment, public health, sustainable development policies, and environmental and social justice. The program’s seven participants – graduate students at the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University -- are given the opportunity to gain an insider’s perspective on the operation of environmental organizations, obtain professional experience, implement their expertise in the field, and contribute to the efforts to change environmental attitudes and policies. Throughout the academic year, the students dedicated 10 hours a week to their respective NGO, and participated in four enrichment meetings – two of them with SHATIL Everett Social Justice Fellows.
The community garden in Bat Yam
We bring here but one example of the difference the Porter Fellows make: Tamar Neugarten, whose graduate thesis is on the “Spatial, Social and Perceptual Status of Community Gardens in Israel,” worked on an agricultural community garden for Ethiopian immigrants in Bat Yam during her internship at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The project is an initiative of the municipality in collaboration with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Ministry of the Environment, the Toronto Federation and the local Ethiopian community. The community garden enables 24 Ethiopian immigrant men from rural backgrounds to use their rich experience and expertise to benefit themselves and their community by growing vegetables used in traditional Ethiopian dishes. The garden participants will hold workshops for children and students, adding to a view of Ethiopian immigrants as capable citizens with knowledge to impart to Israeli society. Neugarten's role was to add environmental principles such as composting and water conservation to the project as well as to help with community outreach.
The moving closing session, attended by Dame Shirley Porter, capped a day that was described by many of the participants as inspirational as it demonstrated the impact of the fellows and the fellowship on the respective communities as well as on the environmental organizations. It was followed by a meeting of the project's steering committee, which plans to expand the number of interns next year due to the first year's resounding success. The Porter Environmental Fellowships are a project of the Porter School of Environmental Studies, SHATIL, NIF UK and the Porter Foundation.