Redefining environmentalism in South LA 

By gardening and keeping lights low, a family in Watts

challenges mainstream notions of “environmentalism.”


Ashley and her mother in the garden at their Watts home. | Ashley Hansack

“Turn off the damn lights! You act like I have money coming out of my ass,” yells my mom.

It’s not: “turn off the lights because you waste energy,” “turn off the lights because we need to reduce fossil fuels,” or “turn off the lights because we need to conserve resources.”

It’s: “Turn off the lights because I cannot afford to give up an extra ten dollars to pay the bill. I told you once and I don’t want to have to tell you again: turn off the damn lights.”

There are 13 light switches controlling the visibility and the mood lighting throughout my family’s house in Watts. In every bedroom, hallway and common living space, there is a light switch waiting to come to life and shine.

Enter the bathroom. Light on. Exit the bathroom. Light off. Enter the bedroom. Light on. Exit the bedroom. Light off.

Again and again, I turn the lights on and off without ever stopping to think about where this light comes from and how I have the great magical power to bring light into a room with the effortless flick of my wrist. [Read more…]

Second Wetlands Park opens in South L.A.

imageNinth District Councilwoman Jan Perry greets 49th Street Elementary School students at South L.A. Wetlands Park.

All drains lead to the ocean from the new South Los Angeles Wetlands Park. Its developers think the park will make storm water cleaner – and its own community safer.

It will also become a space for fun and learning, said Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry.

“Right here at 54th and Avalon, it’s going to be a green space. it’s going to be an outdoor classroom for these kids, and give them something they’ve never had before.”

Perry has championed Wetlands restoration for most of her council term. Five years ago, this park was a metro bus yard. Now, it’s a nine-acre oasis – and the second such park in Perry’s district. The first, the Augustus F. Hawkins Wetlands Park, is a two-acre square on the corner of Compton Ave. and Slauson Ave. in Huntington Park.

It’s not just for the kids, though. The South L.A. park collects runoff, removes floating trash and dangerous chemicals, and then lets it drain naturally into the ocean.

Michelle Vargas is a spokeswoman for the L.A. Department of Public Works.

imageThe wetlands cover 9 acres of land along 54th Street in South L.A.

“It’s very important for us to clean the storm water because that’s what goes out into the L.A. river and then out into the ocean. Obviously it’s environmentally friendly, and it protects public health in the city of L.A.”

This park is a neighborhood dream come true for Rhonda Webb. she directs environmental volunteer projects for students at Compton’s Leaps Action Center.

“It’s just a vision of open space, and I can just imagine the various middle schools, high schools and community members coming out and just having a healthier outlook about their life and about their future,” Webb described. “We can actually come together and collaborate and actually do wonderful things that can really improve the quality of life for all residents.”

In fact, Webb hopes her neighborhood is next.

“When would I like to see it? Tomorrow,” she laughed. “I have visions of grandeur – tomorrow!”

She hopes the new park will inspire her neighborhood to start working on a ribbon-cutting ceremony of its own.