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Los Angeles environmentalists featured in oral history project

April 22, 2010 |  4:45 pm


The UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research gives an Earth Day shout-out to Californians who have had a big effect on the environmental movement. 

The center posted 11 recordings, averaging about 90 minutes each [Updated Friday 7:15 p.m.: The interviews were conducted in 90-minute sessions. The oral histories last four to 12.5 hours.], on its website Thursday.

Among those who chronicle their lives and battles are the late Dorothy Green, founder of Heal the Bay and a leading expert on California water issues. She died in October 2008.

You can listen to a conversation with Penny Newman, a former Riverside County teacher who launched a battle in 1979 against toxic wastes that seeped from acid pits into a school playground and backyards in Glen Avon. Her fight eventually led her to full-time activism, not to mention a $150-million agreement with private companies to clean up the mess.

Also featured is poet-activist Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River, who tells of his ongoing battle to restore the concrete-lined waterway into the riparian ecosystem it once was.

UCLA Today has a full feature on the project, including interesting archive photographs from the Los Angeles Times:

“Southern California has the largest, most comprehensive environmental movement in the U.S., and it’s tackled some of the country’s thorniest environmental problems using some of the most sophisticated approaches in environmental activism,” said Jane Collings, the producer of the series and the principal editor at the center. “The Los Angeles environmental movement is really distinctive, and its story needed to be told.”

The collection is to include 25 recordings, totaling about 130 hours, with more than 5,000 pages of transcripts.

-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: The site of the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Glen Avon, which launched the environmental-activist career of Penny Newman. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times