The Bluedot Institute features conversations with middle and high school students about the environmental projects and research at their schools.
Simone McGraw attends Thacher School in Ojai, California and recently completed a research project about flooding in Ventura County and how marginalized communities were disproportionately affected when compared to more affluent areas.
Question: How did you first get involved in sustainability and environmentalism?
Answer: I am a senior at the Thacher School in California. It’s a boarding school near Ojai, which means that we are surrounded by not only agriculture and farming but also very near the oil field industry. So a lot of these issues are close to home for me. I’ve always been interested in the environment, and have gotten the chance to do a lot of that work in school. I will be studying policy in college, so I’ll be continuing to think about these issues.
Q: You chose to write about the impact of flooding in Ventura County in January of 2023. Why did you choose this particular topic to write about?
A: I picked this topic because as a student living in California, we have been experiencing abnormal weather conditions, and I feel like there is a misconception that climate change is a problem for the future. But the effects of climate change are happening right now. California has faced the brunt of a lot of these storms, and living in a very isolated, privileged campus illustrates a stark difference between how we are able to adapt versus how surrounding communities are able to adapt that don’t have resources like our school’s. The impact has been harsh.
Q: What were some surprising things you learned while doing your research?
A: I think the greatest takeaway was just how little information I was able to get out of the local government. I looked for information related to the response to this flooding, how much time and money was allocated to different places, and which areas still need aid. It took a lot of phone calls, and a lot of that information was not immediately available to the public.
Q: What do you hope people take away from reading your piece?
A: I want to emphasize that this piece was meant to be action-oriented — we have the ability to make meaningful change in our communities, even at an individual level. It’s not about just dwelling on the problem, but reaching for a solution. I think allowing all people to have a voice is essential, which I reference in my research. There are certain places that don’t have the resources to deal with extreme flooding like this, but do not feel powerless — there are solutions to these problems as long as we put all of our effort into making them a priority.
Simone’s project on the impact of flooding on housing in Ventura County, California, utilized her own firsthand experience with the devastation caused by rising sea levels, along with in-depth research into the disproportionate impact flooding has on low-income and marginalized communities. Ultimately, Simone’s research illustrates how poorer, disadvantaged communities not only suffer the brunt of storms and rising sea levels in Ventura County, but that climate impacts are felt most severely by these disenfranchised communities around the world.