Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Second Advisor

Susa R Katz

Third Advisor

Betty E Taylor


Many California public school students lack exposure to any formal, academic curriculum that emphasizes environmental awareness and activism. This may result in a population of adults who believe they know more about the environment than they actually do, lack the skills to compete in an expanding green job market, lack creativity and the ability to problem-solve, suffer from obesity, depression, anxiety, and attention disorders, and unknowingly contribute to the ever-increasing problems of air and water pollution, land and habitat destruction, and other environmental injustices. Community organizations and university programs are filling this much-needed gap in student environmental education, as they involve youth in understanding the principles of environmental activism, justice, and sustainability. But who are these students who are being informally educated to become tomorrow's environmental pioneers? It is these students who can provide a greater understanding of the motivations, life experiences, and community impact of environmental justice activists.

This research study employed the narrative approach in interviewing and observing six ethnically and socio-economically diverse, male and female, Bay Area high school and university environmental justice activists, all of whom were involved in different aspects of the food justice movement. Participants were recruited via a flyer and word-of-mouth, and observed and interviewed at their homes, schools, and work sites. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Students were found to be motivated by concerns of health and nutrition, energy usage, maintaining cultural ties, food deserts, employment opportunities, and the rights of agricultural workers.

This research provides support for the author's claim that an environmental and food justice theoretical framework is based on a combination of social justice, environmental psychology, and ecological justice theories. Evidence suggests an increasing diversity of student advocates, including white, educated, middle to upper socioeconomic status students, who were not previously or personally impacted by environmental or food injustices in their communities; the necessity of family, friend, and mentor support; and the importance of altruism over monetary compensation.