By Guest Blogger Jessica Kochick
My students are aware that in our highly urban environment, these are the types of species that manage to thrive. We don’t just study the neighborhood–we look at the whole watershed and the connectivity of the landscape. When I take them to the natural-bottom portion of the L.A. River, they see a much wider variety of wildlife: great blue herons, snowy egrets, mallards, coots, and black phoebes. For some students, this is their first encounter with these animals, and their first visit to a portion of the river that doesn’t look like a concrete ditch.
Exciting changes are underway, as the city begins to implement the LA River Revitalization Master Plan along portions of its 51-mile stretch. It will bring Angelenos access to revamped natural beauty, while improving wildlife habitat that was destroyed when the river was channelized for flood control. In the process, communities are fighting to ensure that the improvements won’t price them out of their own neighborhoods along the river. Many of these families had been displaced from Chavez Ravine in the 1950’s, when after being promised better housing, the site was sold to the LA Dodgers for a stadium.
As we strive for a more sustainable future, we do so with a vision of social and racial equity. The public health benefits, and the opportunity to connect with the natural world, belong to everyone. The LA teachers’ union, UTLA, recently went on strike. Among other social justice demands, we reached an agreement to remove asphalt and provide more green space on our campuses. I look forward to seeing my students encounter more wildlife and natural beauty in their daily lives.
Jessica Kochick teaches urban ecology at a high school in Los Angeles, and she studies anthrozoology as a part-time graduate student. Last summer, she was an intern at SFBBO where she supported the development of science education materials.
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