For the past five years, a history teacher has been working with a community in Guatemala to ensure their water supply is safe. Recently, he received a national grant to continue this work.
National Grant Awarded for Water Safety Project
The National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Studies program awarded Nick Copeland, an anthropologist in the history department at Virginia Techa $360,000 grant for the project “Participatory Water Science and Resistance to Extractivism.” According to the sourcethis grant will enable Copeland and his team to further their efforts in monitoring water safety and training advocates over the next three years.
Addressing Contamination Concerns
The collaborations between Copeland and the Guatemalan community began in 2018 when community organizations raised concerns about contamination from the Escobal silver mine. Working together, they discovered elevated levels of arsenic in surface water near the mine. While it was not determined whether these levels were directly caused by the mine itself, it was evident that the existing water treatment plant was not effectively removing arsenic from the water.
Empowering Water Advocates
In response to these findings, Copeland and her team initiated workshops aimed at educating grassroots water advocates on basic water science and providing them with field trial kits. These workshops have empowered community members seeking to protect their waterways by equipping them with essential knowledge and tools. The team has also continued testing with rural and indigenous Guatemalan communities who fear pollution from industries such as sugar cane and oil palm plantations.
A Continuation of Efforts
The recently awarded grant will allow Copeland’s team to carry on monitoring water safety and conducting training sessions for advocates. Over the next three years, they will continue to support communities in their fight for clean water. Additionally, Copeland plans to explore the role of indigenous environmental justice movements in utilizing water science to address industrial development. Through interviews and observations, she aims to understand how participation in science shapes the knowledge, ethics, and skills of community members.
To sum up, Nick Copeland’s ongoing work with a Guatemalan community has received recognition and support through a national grant. This funding will enable them to further their efforts in ensuring safe water supplies and empowering grassroots water advocates. By combining scientific knowledge with community engagement, they aim to address contamination concerns caused by extractive industries. Their work highlights the importance of participatory approaches in achieving environmental justice.