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Fair Haven residents address climate issues through photography

NEW HAVEN — Residents of Fair Haven are pursuing a creative path to address climate injustices in their neighborhood. They take pictures.

From pollution to walking and burning issues, community leaders along with the city’s environmental nonprofit Save the Sound presented the environmental reality facing the region through a photography program, Photovoice.

This is part of the Mill River Urban Waters: Community Outreach, Engagement, and Leadership Program initiative, which was funded by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, aimed at improving water quality in the river and to improve the sewage system.

But for them, “it’s more about taking care of people before taking care of the environment,” said Melissa Pappas, an eco-communications specialist.

Xóchitl García, a native of the city who lives in Fair Haven, runs the 5-week Photovoice program which teaches 13 people bilingual, photography and storytelling skills. She said it’s a more powerful medium than just words.

“If I said there’s a lot of litter in Fair Haven, you’d be like, ‘OK, that’s normal,’ like everywhere there is litter,” García said. “But no, we really have a litter problem and we’re using some of the photos to really highlight where certain hotspots are.”

The group took over 100 photos highlighting five different themes: green and blue spaces, the litter problem, pedestrian safety and walking, abandoned buildings with potential, and homelessness.

García said her favorite subject is safety and walking, as she enjoys cycling, walking and taking public transport. But Fair Haven still lacks infrastructure that would make people feel safe.

“Even where you can really walk and feel safe without worrying if something will run, you’re going to trip over something because the sidewalk is cracked,” García said, noting that it’s not an accident because than what in other neighborhoods are generally better and more walkable.

So she used her photography to highlight the contrast of people in wheelchairs having to travel an extra mile to get to the same place if someone were just to be driving or cycling where a safer road was. she declared.

These photos were meant to raise awareness of the real conditions of the neighborhood – being between two rivers with lots of scenery and varied food – she said.

“Even if it’s not environmental, the environment itself proves that (Fair Haven) has a lot to offer, but people often overlook or ignore it because we’re not like other neighborhoods. “, Garcia said.

A New Haven resident writes an idea to fight climate change at Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven on September 29, 2022.


Chatwan Mongkol/Hearst Connecticut Media
A New Haven resident writes an idea to fight climate change at Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven on September 29, 2022.

A New Haven resident writes an idea to fight climate change at Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven on September 29, 2022.


Chatwan Mongkol/Hearst Connecticut Media


New Haven residents write ideas to fight climate change at Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven on September 29, 2022./Chatwan Mongkol

But the group didn’t just take photos to raise awareness, community members were invited to participate in charettes where they could come up with solutions after seeing the issues highlighted in the photos.

Over the past three sessions, some of the solutions offered were to increase outdoor connection through better facilities and events, to campaign creatively on the litter problem that extends beyond the neighborhood, and to improve pedestrian crossings, bus stops, cycle paths and outdoor seating.

Anthony Allen, Save the Sound’s assistant director of ecological restoration, said the initiative’s fund allows the group to be creative in what they do – listening to the community first rather than planning everything before asking for help. grant.

“It’s really about flipping that script and flipping the pipeline,” Allen said.

Sarah Miller, an alder from Fair Have, said people don’t always look at issues artistically or critically. So the exhibition was helpful in giving the community a new perspective.

“I think we need to be honest about what’s going on and really tell a full story in order to work things out,” Miller said. “I think sometimes we’re so focused on just complaining about things, but we’re not really looking at what the solutions are.”

The Save the Sound and Photovoice programs plan to post the photos online, but are currently showing them at community events to get “a backlash”.

“When we use photography, we don’t just take a picture to take it,” García said. “We want to make sure there’s an intention and a story behind it, so that means a bit more time in the selection process.”

Fair Haven is one of the neighborhoods in New Haven that environmental experts have identified as a community that will see a more extreme effect of increased temperature and sea level rise in the coming decades due the built environment and more limited access to resilience resources.

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