Monday, December 10, 2007

Downstream impacts

One of the great joys of teaching is to stimulate a student's interest in a topic and then hear, years later, how that might have contributed to career choices and positive impact on the world. Here's one such story. I am not sure there is a direct connection, but I like to think that I planted a seed.

Several years ago, I was asked to teach a group of seventh grade girls about sewage. Yes, I know what you are going to say, but I had just been running the local water and sewer agency, and their teacher wanted to cover an environmental topic, and so there I was. After making sewage in the classroom (details another time if you want them!), we took a tour of a local headworks. This is a facility in which lots of sewer pipes converge into long, open, deep, fast-flowing channels of wastewater en route to the local sewage treatment plant. While viewing this flow, one girl noticed some life preservers hanging nearby, and asked what they were for. I gave the obvious answer.

The next day, I received a note from her father, saying how much the girls learned on the field trip and relating an age-appropriate comment from his daughter, Amy: "Life preservers, Dad! I'd rather die!"

Well, that same Amy has just finished three years working for Environmental Justice for California Water Rights, where she lobbied all over the state for better drinking water for underserved communities. She helped get new water systems for some small Salinas valley communities, and she was instrumental in preserving water rights for the Winnemum Indian tribe in Shasta County. Here is an article describing some of her activities.

Thanks to Peter for the update, and best wishes to Amy and her colleagues in their pursuits.


Anonymous said...

She became a lobbyist? Too bad you couldn't have planted a seed that grew into an engineer that could design an improvement or an entrepenuer who could bring it to the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Water is a public need. The unimpowered actually need lobbyists to even begin to get their needs heard. Markets fail in this. Engineers wouldn't even enter in to it. Entrepreneurs would only find a way to make it more costly and pocket the difference.

I think this is a noble endeavor for the common good. Good for her.

Mark Turuk said...

A wonderful story.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:32;

Oh, now, don't be Scroogified by our screwed up political system. It sounds like she was lobbying for a good thing rather than some self-promoting company ( I admit I did not read the link.)
The sad truth is, lobbyists have more influence in our society today than scientists - and my feelings about most entrepreneurs are identical to yours about lobbyists.

Anonymous said...

In response to the first comment above:

I couldn't tell if you were joking or not, but not all lobbyists are bad... I think it's great that she's lobbying for underserved communities. Even if engineers do design improvements, and there are entrepreneurs who could bring these improvements to the 'marketplace'--what makes you so sure that these improvements would end up benefiting all communities?