As the impacts of rising climate change and the ghosts of industrialization continue to affect the health and wellbeing of Providence’s most marginalized residents, environmental efforts are ramping up, with community members at the forefront. Community-based organizations, long-time residents, educators, and other involved members of the Providence community are leading the charge in building neighborhood resiliency, education, and advocacy around environmental justice.

What was once a long-abandoned cotton and textile mill that later became a brownfield site and dumping ground, has been transformed into what is now Riverside Park, a large field with a playground, fish ladder, stage, and plenty of green space for families to picnic or relax. The park is a direct product of community input–when the WRWC, previously known as the Woonasquatucket Greenway Project, asked Olneyville residents what they wanted to see in their own community, the answer was what is now a well-maintained community green space for residents to gather, play, and explore the natural world.

In public schools around the state, students of all ages are engaging with nature and their communities through programs tailored to their interests. Internships, interactive learning, outdoor activities, and programming centered around environmental education and justice are drawing students and helping them learn about the importance of being stewards of the environment.

The Port of Providence, which serves as a hub of industrialization yet lies in the most diverse county of the state and is home to residents with some of the lowest income per capita, also poses a variety of environmental hazards to the families living in this part of the city. Out of frustration with the negative health impacts and fear of environmental health risks, grassroots efforts have grown, started and led by Providence residents. One such example is the “No LNG in PVD” campaign, which was started by residents and included old-fashioned door-knocking to inform neighbors about what was happening in their community and giving them a space to voice their concerns and tell their stories.

Another community in Providence taking the lead on climate justice and resiliency is the Olneyville neighborhood. Created by the WRWC, “New Voices at the Water Table,” or “Nuevas Voces,” is based on growing community-led environmental activism. Now in its second year, Nuevas Voces seeks to build community among the residents of Olneyville, a predominantly Latino community on the Woonasquatucket River with an extensive history of flooding and sea level rise. It provides a space for community members to come together, learn about climate issues in their own community, and enables community members to help direct and guide what environmental efforts happen in their neighborhood.

While there is much work to be done, and there are considerations for how climate change is disproportionately impacting marginalized and underserved populations, there is hope with the rise of environmentalist efforts, and it starts right in our own communities.

You can read the full story from 41ºN Magazine here.