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Watershed Heroes: How land use impacts the watershed
Water

Watershed Heroes: How land use impacts the watershed

We sit down with Dr. Claire Jantz, Director for the Center for Land Use and Sustainability.

Dr. Claire Jantz is the Director for the Center for Land Use and Sustainability and a professor in the Geography Earth Science Department at Shippensburg University.

Green Philly: Tell us about the Center for Land Use & Sustainability?

Dr. Claire Jantz: The center is housed at Shippensburg University, but we are an outward-facing entity. We work through partnerships and collaborations; and all of our work has a very applied focus on the environmental side. We also have faculty and students who work on the social and economic components of sustainability.

What’s challenging about land use?

Dr. Claire Jantz: There’s many. One of the big challenges that we face with land use, across the US, and particularly in Pennsylvania, is how decision-making is so fragmented. Usually, decisions about land use are made on an individual/property-owner basis, then above that, there’s a municipality or a county. It’s very localized and what that means is that municipalities and counties will compete with each other for development opportunities. They will make decisions that negatively impact each other.

A decision that’s made to put a development or a warehouse in one location is obviously going to have traffic impacts in other locations, it’s going to have stormwater runoff issues generated in other locations, but those other locations don’t really have a say in what’s going on “upstream.” Within the context of a watershed, for example, there’s no real connection that’s being made to watershed processes of how our land-use decision-making is structured.

How do you feel about the current work being done in sustainability? Do you think it’s enough?

Dr. Claire Jantz: There is a much more broad understanding of what sustainability is. Typically, the first thing you think about when you hear the word sustainability is the environment. But people really understand better today that all of these economic, environmental, and social systems are really interconnected. To come up with a real sustainable solution usually requires kind of taking action across all of those areas. People are getting a much better understanding of the complexity of the systems within which we live.

The Center’s website highlights the idea of equity within sustainability. How do you feel privilege relates to sustainability? What can be changed?

Dr. Claire Jantz: That is a really good question and one that we struggle with a lot. What I find almost across the board is a complete lack of diversity, and I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and I rarely see people of color. But at the same time, there are communities out there that want to engage, that we should be engaging so that the benefits of that work can be felt across a broader base.

What I have been trying to do in the work that I do is to engage people from all different perspectives, people of color, people from different backgrounds and experiences. And it’s not just because of a commitment to equity or social justice, but it’s also because when you have different perspectives at the table, it can be really eye-opening. You realize that you’re missing this huge point of view, it points out your own blind spots so you can learn a lot about what you have not seen in the world and how that can be brought onto whatever problem you’re dealing with.

It’s hard to connect to communities that are not used to being connected to, and you don’t want to be an organization or person that swoops in and is like “I’m going to save you” because that’s not what they need. It’s a slow process and something you really have to commit to doing better so that the connections that you make are real and durable.

What has been your organization’s greatest accomplishment?

Dr. Claire Jantz: Some of the things I’m proudest about really focuses a lot on student engagement. We’re at a university so that’s part of our mission, but we’ve been able to bring in math majors and sustainability majors, and social work majors, and history majors. You have all of these disciplinary perspectives through the engagement with students and they learn from each other. In a nutshell, breaking down disciplinary boundaries and getting people out of their silos. It’s a lot easier to do that with students than it is with scholars and faculty, but that’s really what I try to aim to do. 


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Caroline Dooling is a Junior advertising major at Temple University. She enjoys cooking, playing board games with her family, traveling, and reading. View all posts by Caroline Dooling

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