Brinda Sarathy

Video Transcript

What are the issues you care about?

If you care about homelessness in your community or if you care about access to affordable housing. I see those as environmental issues.

My name is Brinda Sarathy, I’m a professor at Pitzer College in the environmental analysis field group. I’m also the director for the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability.

I grew up abroad. I grew up in the Middle East and I ended up going to boarding school in Kodaikanal South India tropical monsoon forests. We depended directly on the lake for our water supply.

During instances of drought or rain shortages, we had to limit for example a number of showers we took. Everything was very very, intimately tied together in a highly visual and lived way which we lose sight of in more developed countries. Because you turn on the tap and the water comes out. So I was enmeshed in the environment without even calling it an environmental issue.

I had this keen awareness. I was one of the few students of color in graduate school in my Ph.D. program I had enlisted in forestry camp for about six weeks learning about logging, reforestation, proactive fire management.

What was really striking to me was we had a number of guest speakers and they all were white, they all seemed to be US citizens. So for me, I was an international student that was the story of forestry in California and I came across this little publication called Voices From the Woods and it was a collection of oral histories. It was the first time I got to read vignettes by mushroom harvesters who were Southeast Asian. People who did fuel reduction on federal lands who were Latino and these were voices completely absent so often when people think about Latinos.

In relation to natural resources folks think about agriculture but my work was one of the first to look at Camaros, forest workers who do a lot of fuel reduction work a lot of tree planting work. You know these relations are there it’s just they’re not necessarily known or in the mainstream and so I feel really honored to have been able to shed some light on that.

How does the labor of Latinos make healthy forests on national lands public lands? And, I argue that we need to have solid labor standards and labor conditions in order to have these healthy forests. Environmental justice and concerns about justice really have to be at the heart of environmental issues.

And one of the great things about a place like Pitzer is if you have vision, if you have determination and if you can corral the resources and I would say sort of the gumption of other faculty, you can come together to better the social and natural environment which is ultimately up common good.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit