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Creating Personal Connections through Environmental Justice--Summer 2020

Certificate and participants on Zoom screen from Youth Leadership Training conducted by Lucy Dybner,  LASP Intern

Lucy Dybner ’22, a College Scholar: Political Cultures of Latin America, spent most of her summer on Zoom, not attending lectures or classes but instead collaborating with professionals and teaching students that were thousands of miles away.When Lucy decided to intern with La GAD Municipal de La Joya de los Sachas through Cornell’s Latin American Studies Program (LASP), she expected to travel to Ecuador to run a development program for young environmental leaders.

The onset of the pandemic put her travel plans on hold, but with the help of LASP, she was still able to have an invaluable summer experience through a digital internship.Through collaboration with locals and residents in La Joya de los Sachas, Ecuador, Dybner hosted local workshops and built an environmental curriculum that educated residents about environmental issues, shared strategies for combatting climate change, and engaged the community in leadership training. The dynamic back-and-forth between Dybner and her students gave her a space to learn, as well.During one of her workshops, a student brought up the detrimental effect of gas companies extracting oil and gas from the local community. This led her to discover that approximately 40 percent of families in the area have members with cancer, which is linked to Texaco’s extraction in the Amazon. In this way, Dybner realized how important and personal these environmental issues are to local residents.

Many of the people in La Joya de los Sachas clearly wanted to help better the environment, and Dybner was able to provide resources and an education to these residents that wouldn’t have been easily accessible otherwise. Through these hands-on workshops, she was also able to create a forum that encouraged individuals to share and discuss their own perspectives on the issue—an act that felt like putting her political science education into practice.

She personally witnessed local participation in political and social issues, engaged with local partners, and worked directly on the creation of environmental curricula. environmental degradation, and the negative impact of commodity extraction on local health.

In the future, Dybner hopes to continue the work she started during the summer. “I have become aware of the dangerous effect that natural gas extraction has on the region, both upon the environment and the health of these citizens,” Dybner said. “My goal has now become to mobilize the group I formed to try to put an end to these extractive policies.”

Every year, LASP offers funding grants to students looking to pursue field work in Latin America or the Caribbean. To learn more about the funding options and the application, visit the LASP website.

Additional Information

Academic Type

  • Internship

Program