Lola Flores

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Interviewee Affiliation

Earth Economics


Dudley Bang-Ura and Brandon Spencer

Date of Interview


Document Type



Summary: This interviewee underscores the importance of placing valuations on ecosystem services in order to grasp their importance to human communities. Doing so leads to improved conservation efforts which consequently ensure greater resource abundance for all peoples, as well as for future generations. She also points out that improving natural habitats improves the quality of life for the people embedded within a given area, using an example from her days as a college intern. Here, the degradation of a river was directly tied to compromised human health, thus illuminating how human suffering is often tied to ecosystem well-being. This interviewee’s view toward environmental justice is strongly anthropocentric, and emphasizes how ecosystems need to be properly managed in order to adequately serve human needs.


Lola Flores: Well hello, my name is Lola Flores and I work for Earth Economics.

Dudley Bang-Ura/Brandon Spencer: What is environmental justice?

LF: I think environmental justice is a very broad concept, but for me it’s the equal access or equal distribution of natural resources. And by natural resources I mean, specifically, benefits that ecosystems give to society. So it could be potable water, food, clean air, the carbon cycle, etc.

DBU/BS: How does, doesn’t environmental justice work in your community? What needs to change?

LF: I wanted to talk about as far as my professional community right now. At Earth Economics, we have various projects, and we work with different communities all the time. Right now I’m working in specifically Washington State, and I’m working with Clallam County. So for that community we do an ecosystem service evaluation. And I think it relates to environmental justice in the way that we are able to value what feeder bluffs, for example, or shorelines, provides to the community. And then you’re able to transmit that message of conservation, so by conserving more shoreline and not developing unneeded ecosystems you get more benefits, right? Shoreline is just an example; I mean we know we get a lot of food from our beaches and our ocean. But also, for example, forests. We get water from forests and we filter out from forests and we get carbon intake and carbon sequestration. So, it goes the same for other ecosystems, it’s not only particular to one, but the matrix of all of them. So in my professional community right now, that’s how I deal with environmental justice. So if we are able to conserve that right now, we are able to conserve these services in the future, and prolong the future for our kids. This is creating justice because we are talking about future generation and it goes to more than just us it goes beyond us. So that’s one example.

We also deal a lot with policy and environmental policy, so we’ve been working with Thurston County and we just did an update of their critical areas ordinance. So this ordinance basically, what they want to protect is, as its name kind of highlights, their critical areas. So critical wetlands that do enormous services such as flooding protection our parries that also have enormous wetlands, like ground-water resources. So in order for us to value the policy that they are trying to enhance these ecosystems we’re able to value this increase in projection. So that also helps and goes to environmental justice in general.

And another particular project that was interesting that we recently finished is a project in Columbia. What happened there was that they opened up a dam near the border of Panama and what happened was all of the sediment that was piling up for years fell down the river, and the farms had no warning. So all the farm land was destroyed and these people, all of a sudden had to find a new way to live. And how to transport from one place to the other because the river was a complete disaster, and I’m not saying dam removal is not environmental friendly, but it has to be planned and structured and these people have to know that this is coming. So that was a big case of environmental justice and we are still looking into that case. So evaluation – and evaluation of losses – can also equate into environmental justice, and have communities be recognized, and also paid for the damage that was inflicted upon them.

DBU/BS: What parts of environmental justice are important to you?

LF: Yes, we have this social part and environmental part of the justice, but in the end it’s still the same. And if we are able to conserve the natural habitat and the surfaces they provide we are able to maintain a certain quality of life. And with that provide for society and have benefits that nature already gives us

DBU/BS: How does concern for the environment fit with other environmental justice concerns? Sustainability, health, and nature?

LF: In order to do that we have to see a shift because what we say here at Earth Economics is that we have to do a structure, or shift in our investments. Because if we look right now in our forests the only price we could get from it is the wood we get that comes out of our forest to build something. And that’s not wrong, but incomplete. That’s not the only thing that it provides for us. It provides fresh air, and we can immediately tell a difference in our climate and microclimate once we go into the shade of a tree or out of it and that is what ecological economics in general does, it tries to include that value into our markets, and that is what we are trying to do here. And I think that’s essential, and if we try to do that for every ecosystem then our kids will see, “hey our forest is worth more than just logging it.”

DBU/BS: How can we effectively communicate environmental justice to this generation and the next?

LF: I think kids is always like a preferred audience because of that, because they are young, and they have so much time ahead of them that you really hope that if they get it, the future will be better. I think that’s a great approach but I think right now, us, right now as adults, and politicians are in charge of making really high ranked decisions – like the ones we are making right now and are forced to make, right? And with climate change, and with increased storm surges . . . that people have to understand that [climate] is changing, and we need to change with it. It’s a consequence of adaptability.

DBU/BS: Do you have any personal experiences of environmental justice, or injustice you’d like to share.

LF: I’m going to talk about environmental injustice. When I was in college I did some internships. I worked with the government of sustainable development, and we went out to a river near the outskirts of Guadalajara, and the river is extremely contaminated, going through three of four states. Also going through industrial zones and very bad planned urban zones, and so finally we get to this little town near the bottom of the river. As I was driving in, you could smell it right from a mile away, and once you passed the bridge you could see brown-yellowish with foam everywhere. It was ridiculous. And I was like, how could people live here. So we went into the town, and we were talking to them, and to why they were there because, of course, they were having health issues. There was a lot of cancer in their community, and we were asking what we are going to do to clean up the river. So part of my internship was kind of like transmitting the message of “you guys have to speak up to your government and say we need this problem solved,” and it was a very impactful experience because I am from Guadalajara, but I never been to that area of Guadalajara. And it was just amazing to me how people could live there cause I was like I can’t stand the smell for five minutes and people live here, and they get used to it . . . and not only that, they call it home! And even if someone would say, “hey, we have a place for you,” they wouldn’t want to leave because it’s their home. So this is where it dawned on me that this is a very complicated issue here, you know . . . you can’t just move people, and the river isn’t going to be easily cleaned. It has heavy metals, and who knows what kind of chemicals in it, so it was a little exasperating to a certain point because you have these people living in this condition, and, yes, we wanna talk to politicians, but the kind of environmental aspect is to . . . well, you know . . . will this river be able to really be cleaned enough for it to really be a livable area? Well, no, not really. And I think the problem starts with, yes, it’s contaminating the river, but not having the proper regulation that actually would prevent the contamination in that river to begin with. And not even the contamination of the river, but also people, why are people living there? They shouldn’t be living there, and the government should never allow that. And the thing is that these super quick communities that originate because of their working and industrial areas they wanna work and live in the same area, but sometimes it goes again to the issue of poverty, and not having enough money to transport themselves, but a case of environmental justice because they are forced to live somewhere close to not spend as much money to transport themselves to their jobs; and then have to raise kids in these conditions and have an array of environment health issues. It’s just the very low quality of life, and I’m not saying someone is to blame it’s just so . . . just so wrong. And that’s just in one problem, and it’s in Mexico, but I’m sure it happens all over the world. It goes back to poor planning, and just allowing this to happen, and I think the government should protect its people but they are allowing this to happen.

Additional Files

Flores_Transcript[1].docx (25 kB)