(un)Just Sustainabilities online Exhibit

This online exhibit for Professor Heather Bedi’s Environmental and Social Justice class allows Dickinson College students to reflect on environmental injustices and demographic trends in their neighborhood, town, city, or state. In defining just sustainabilities, Agyeman et al. (2003) argue that social and economic inequalities across place exacerbate environmental injustices. They advocate for human equality to be central in sustainability efforts. Students explore (un) just sustainabilities in their place through a paper and a publicly exhibited zero-waste visual or audio project.

Lead Exposure on Children in South Boston

This dance exhibition explores the developmental movement patterns of children but displays them regressing from age six to newborn to represent the adverse effects of lead poisoning on children’s development. The site for filming is an elementary school playground in Mattapan: a neighborhood which has the overlapping characteristics of both a high lead paint indicator (high percent of houses built before the 1960’s, when lead paint was still used) and a high population under 5 years old. Mattapan is one neighborhood among a cluster of suburbs south of Boston which have drawn many immigrants from Haiti, Cape Verde, and Vietnam. The historical city of Boston has many old houses built before 1978, when lead paint was used. Lead poisoning has a disproportionate effect on children because their brains do not yet have a barrier between the blood and the brain, so lead can more easily cross over (Hou). This is especially dangerous as children’s nervous systems are still developing. Children also have a greater risk of exposure because of their behaviors of crawling and putting objects in their mouths. The playful nature of the music mimics the playful situations in which children are most likely to inhale lead from chipping paint or from leaded gasoline in the soil. However, the music also has foreboding undertones and lyrics: this is meant to show the juxtaposition of the innocence of childhood with the dangers of lead. Interspersed recordings of colorful houses stream past, collected from neighborhoods in Mattapan and Dorchester, and display various conditions of paint or vinyl siding—a common and quick solution for simply covering over lead paint (mass.gov). Families in the suburbs south of Boston are at a high risk of exposure to lead paint and their status as a high percentage minority population could impact their ability to protect their children.


Hou, Shuangxing et al. “A clinical study of the effects of lead poisoning on the intelligence and neurobehavioral abilities of children.” Theoretical biology & medical modelling vol. 10 13. 18 Feb. 2013, doi:10.1186/1742-4682-10-13

Massachusetts Government, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. “Learn about low-risk deleading,” https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-low-risk-deleading

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