The Environmental Justice Program engages in community projects and initiatives that are defined first and foremost by their Dominican partners. Projects are diverse and varied, depending on the needs within the community and can range from water projects, sustainable farming/community gardens, preservation of and river clean-ups, reforestation and the development of tree nurseries.
An example of a current project is in La Cariñosa, a village North of Salcedo, where a water project is currently under way. To start the project, a community diagnostic was conducted, determining the number of households that do not have running water, how many people in each household, how far they travel to obtain water (i.e., where is the closest river and/or spring), what other ways, if any, do they catch and store rain water, etc. Once this was determined local engineers were consulted to determine what was required to complete the water project. Within every budget, the community assists as much as possible, i.e., they provide manual labor, sand to mix the cement, and if needed, wood, etc. As in all projects, the community elects a committee to oversee the project.
Within the Environment Justice Program, there are three guiding principals:
1. Environment is defined by a) the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal or plant lives and operates as well as b) the natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographical area, especially as affected by human activity. This definition broadens the scope and types of projects that Transcending Borders supports. For instance, Culebra, a community North of Salcedo, has asked for Transcending Borders support for a community electrification project. Since environment includes the surroundings in which a person lives, Transcending Borders will support this project.
2. The Transcending Borders Environmental Justice Program promotes the belief that “nature has a right”. As a 2008 Constitutional Amendment, Ecuador became the first country in the world to pass the Rights of Nature, which recognized the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish. Through this law people have the authority to petition on the behalf of ecosystems, and requires the government to remedy violations of these rights a process that transforms the relationship between nature and humans by asserting that nature is not just an object. By putting ecosystems on an equal footing with humans, the conception of humans as masters or as separate from nature is dismissed. Instead, this system celebrates nature and recognizes that humans are a part of it.
3. As in all community projects, Transcending Borders reports directly to local committees, elected by community members directly impacted by the project. If at any time, additional ideas and projects evolve, the committee will have final say in determining how to carry forth the project.