Otis Intern Kate Paladin ’15 learns the value of green ‘action’

Kate Paladin ’15 has seen first-hand how the mismanagement of industrial pollutants can exacerbate issues around community health.

She points to the residents of Bayview Hunters Point, a neighborhood in San Francisco burdened by high crime rates, lack of medical care and an overdose of toxic waste.

San Francisco’s two major freeways, I-280 and U.S. 101, merge over Bayview Hunters Point. Residents struggle with the confluence of poverty, crime and disease exacerbated by harsh pollutants and industrial development. Photograph by Kate Paladin ’15.

Paladin, from nearby Palo Alto, Calif., interned last summer with Greenaction, a grassroots organization committed to environmental justice in low-income and working class communities. She received funding for her work through the college’s Otis Internship program.

With Greenaction, Paladin explored the effects of Bayview’s two Superfund sites, industrial facilities identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as potentially hazardous polluters. One is the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard; the other the Yosemite Creek sediment site.

Kate Paladin ’15 speaks about her experience as Otis Fellow during an EnviroLunch in New Commons on Jan. 17, 2013. Photograph by Mike Bradley/Bates College.

Picking up on a Greenaction community survey project, she noted that the reported rates of health problems among Bayview’s residents were well above the national averages.

Despite Bayview’s long history of pollutant-related health issues — particularly asbestos poisoning — Paladin says the government and corporations have been slow to act. She believes that for Bayview and other impoverished communities, change will come when activists partner with an empowered citizenry.

The Otis Internship and Fellowship, funded in honor of Phil Otis ’95 by Margaret V.B. and C. Angus Wurtele in memory of their son, is awarded to students of any major who demonstrate an interest in the ethical stewardship of the environment.

As an environmental studies major, Paladin says that her experience in Bayview has inspired her to “keep fighting for those whose voices tend to be ignored.”

Moving forward, Paladin is interested in sustainable development and reducing consumption.

“If we use less power, plastics and other ‘stuff’ in general, we will prevent future communities from becoming the next Bayview Hunters Point,” she says.

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