Activist promotes sustainability through art

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Students gather in the Titan Theatre on Wednesday to hear a talk given by activist and historian Jenny Price, Ph.D., in which she encourages the support for a sustainable environment. (Robert Huskey / Daily Titan)
Students gather in the Titan Theatre on Wednesday to hear a talk given by activist and historian Jenny Price, Ph.D., in which she encourages the support for a sustainable environment. (Robert Huskey / Daily Titan)

An activist and historian spoke on ways to make the environment more sustainable through art in the Titan Student Union’s Titan Theatre on Wednesday.

Jenny Price, Ph.D., discussed how different groups, such as the Los Angeles Urban Rangers, have played an important role in helping sustain a large project concerning public beach access in Malibu.

“In California, all beaches are public towards knee-high tide line, basically that means you could walk on wet sand on any beach in California,” said Price. “In Malibu, 20 of the 27 miles of beaches … are blocked off by private development.”

Price explained that besides the beaches being blocked by property, illegal signage is also a problem resulting in public parking spaces, with one sign in particular stating, “Private Property – Visitors Welcome.”

Price said the project surrounding public beach access is split between two components, with the first featuring a guide and map providing proper information of where correct public land is and how to navigate and distinguish false signage.

The second component features a safari led by a ranger through two different beaches, to help spread the environmental awareness.

“For our Malibu public beaches project, what was different about it was that we took people to the beaches and we would just talk about it,” Price said. “But we actually did something that no one had ever done before … we took people there and we showed them all the things they need to know and it’s highly experiential.”

Price said another problem in environmentalism is the divided classes, which haunts environmentalism.

“In general, low income folks and working class folks in this country, who are the most affected by environmental problems and who contribute the least to environmental problems, do not think that environmentalism is about them,” said Price.

Price added that the people who feel they are unaffected are the ones drinking the worst water and breathing the worst air.

Mike Steiner, Ph.D., an American studies professor at CSUF, explained how Price’s talk helped educate students on more than just art and the environment.

“Jenny Price’s talk is designed to show how interactive art projects can mobilize people to envision and actually create sustainable practices and places in their backyards, neighborhoods and throughout Southern California,” said Steiner.

Steiner said he hopes students learn about how art can help to re-imagine our connection to nature and help people to appreciate the significance of nature amongst the urban and suburban landscapes.

Since some of the current projects involve rangers, Price said their presence is more than just informing people, but making people feel safe.

“Rangers are also probably the friendliest people on the planet,” Price said. “Most important of all these qualities … we are the guardians of America’s great public spaces, we are only posted in public spaces.”

Patrick Heyer, 28, an American studies grad student, said the most interesting part of Price’s presentation came from the Malibu beach project.

“She was making distinctions between private and public land, and public access to beach fronts in Malibu, and I was interested in the legal (end) of that and the ethical aspects,” Heyer said. “I think she did a good job with her presentation, making it simple enough to understand what she is talking about in terms of social justice.”

Price added that she hopes students grasp the idea that artists have essential roles to play in recreating and re-imagining cities as more sustainable, livable and equitable.

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