|Written by Tamara Symonds|
SHATIL-Porter Students Make an Environmental Impact
Lev Rosenstein, SHATIL-Porter
One might have guessed that stone quarries in Israel are located near socio-economically deprived areas rather than near yuppie enclaves. But now we know for sure.
As a SHATIL-Porter Environmental Fellow interning at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Lev Rosenstein was charged with mapping the location of stone quarries in Israel and evaluating the socio-economic makeup of surrounding communities.
"I was intrigued by the opportunity to address the link between a hazardous environment, socio-economic status, and health," said Lev.
His study found a direct correlation between the quarries' geographic location and the low socio-economic status of adjacent communities. As rock drilling generates harmful dust particles, which may induce respiratory disease, this is a salient example of the manner in which social determinants affect health. Lev translated these results into a position paper that will serve as a basis for PHR's future educational and legal work with municipal and regional councils. His experience as a Porter Fellow motivated him to continue working on this issue even after his internship ended and he is now involved in efforts to organize a conference on the topic.
Last month, Lev joined a session with the 13 other students now completing the SHATIL-Porter Environmental Fellows Program. Participants reflected on an intense and eventful year and examined the impact their work has had on Israel's environmental welfare. NIF UK and the Green Environment Fund partner together with the Porter Foundation and SHATIL to make this fellowship program possible.
Keren Harpaz, another Fellow, chose to intern at 15 Minutes, a new grassroots NGO working to improve Israel's public transportation system. During her internship, she succeeded in persuading Egged, Israel's national bus company, and local mayors to increase the frequency of public transportation between the northern Negev and Jerusalem, and to expand bus routes to a number of Jerusalem suburbs.
"I feel as if I made a substantive impact," said Keren. "I was able to address real needs expressed by real people and help them solve problems that affect their daily lives. This year has been a real learning experience and I intend to continue my involvement in Israel's social change movement, whether in a professional capacity or as a volunteer."
The SHATIL-Porter Environmental Fellows Program establishes Israel's next generation of environmental leadership by providing Tel Aviv University students studying for advanced degrees at the Porter School of Environmental Studies an opportunity to intern at some of Israel's leading environmental organizations. Students are exposed to the organizations' work from within, gaining crucial professional experience and expertise while observing the importance of environmental activism first hand. Concurrently, the NGOs benefit from highly motivated and qualified personnel who contribute significantly to their work. The program is also an important facilitator of cooperation between social organizations.
The fellowship program, now entering its sixth year, is gradually increasing its scope of influence, expanding to new geographic regions and addressing the link between environmental concerns and other social causes. In 2012-2013, students worked at innovative grassroots organizations addressing new issues from the bottom up, like 15 Minutes; and brought an environmental perspective to organizations focusing primarily on other social issues such as PHR. Other host organizations include the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Israel, the Union of Municipal Engineers, and Green Course.