Biology and Green Justice

Ana Little-Sana | High School Essay Contest Winner 2014

ESSAY PROMPT: Biology is a subject which is intimately tied to other fields of study. There is enormous room for growth, exploration, and discovery in this field that can change the way we sustain life, cure disease, and protect our natural resources. Write a one-page statement (500 to 750 words maximum) of what you dream of doing in the future and how you can apply the broad field of biology to your career. Topics include but are not limited to: conservation, medicine, research, public health management, law school, writing, and art.”

We reached out to over twenty high schools in the San Diego area and received an amazing array of responses from students across the county. Ana’s essay can also be found in our Winter 2015 Saltman Quarterly Insider!

The essay is as follows:

Biology and Green Justice

A greater understanding of biology can have vast implications for a variety of different fields. My future plans include advocacy work, utilizing the judicial system to fight injustice. More specifically, I am interested in interdisciplinary law; using the understanding of living things to overcome issues of racism, classism, and poverty. I aspire to work in Environmental Justice, the fair treatment of all people with regard to environmental laws and policies (EPA, 2014). Utilizing comprehensive knowledge of biology, lawyers, activists, politicians, and community members can work together to create a greener, cleaner, and healthier world. According to the Green Action Coalition, environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. This is a well documented issue in San Diego, especially in the historic neighborhood of Barrio Logan. This waterfront community is 77% Hispanic with a median income of $16,000. 44% of Barrio Logan residents are at or below the poverty level. The health issues in Barrio Logan are thought to be the result of toxic air emissions from nearby ship building facilities and military infrastructure (Environmental Health Coalition, 2011). The emission of toxic air is attributed to the development of Leukemia, as well as respiratory illnesses, such as asthma (EPA, 2009). In fact, Barrio Logan has the highest rates of asthma-related hospitalizations in the state and three times higher than the rest of the county (KPBS, 2014). As the Environmental Justice movement progresses, more pressure is being put on local and national entities to effectively legislate against environmental racism. Using a thorough knowledge of biology, one can create policies and educate the public. In June of 2014, San Diego residents voted on Proposition B and C, which would have ensured that all companies operating in Barrio Logan possess the required permits, as well as preventing shipyard expansion in residential areas (KPBS, 2014). Unfortunately, these props did not pass. This was partly due to the monetary investature and lobbying by the shipping industries and their political allies (KPBS, 2014) . More importantly, it could be attributed to the lack of public awareness of the biological implications of these industries. This ignorance could be addressed by utilizing the scientific and health communities in voter education about the impact of shipyards on public health. This might also motivate community members to take legal action. For example, in 1978, residents sued the Ward Transformers Company for dumping 31,000 gallons of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) in a nearby landfill (Duke, 2009). This set the precedent for concerned citizens ability to take action pertaining to a local cause. This is similar to Barrio Logan, where many suspect companies are illegally dumping sewage and chemicals into the community (Environmental Health Coalition, 2011). Through the use of biological knowledge and outreach tactics, neighborhood residents will be more motivated to take action such as Warren County. In conclusion, knowledge in biology in the areas of human health and environmental science, can be used to better understand the issues of environmental racism. With this understanding, lawyers, politicians, and community members can work together to create a healthier San Diego.


At the age of 8, she was dialing local politicians in a phone banking campaign.

Today, she wields her megaphone at protests, rallying the San Diego community to push for environmental justice.

But age does not deter Ana Little-Sana, a 15-year-old sophomore at e3 Civic High School, from engaging in community activism. To her, practicing true advocacy can be something as simple as “asking questions and discovering more.”

This spirit of inquisitiveness and passion shined through in Little-Sana’s winning entry to the first annual Saltman Quarterly Essay Contest hosted by the Saltman Quarterly Community Outreach Committee in December 2014. In her first-place essay, titled, “Biology and Green Justice”, Little-Sana expressed her interests in pursuing interdisciplinary law and utilizing a multi-sector approach involving the sciences and humanities to eradicate injustices in our communities.

“I was really happy [to hear about the essay contest] because I often submit content that are not necessarily rosy,” said Ana, reflecting on her critical essay about intersectionality, environmental oppression, and the integration of biology in activism. “It was really refreshing to be published despite pointing out the issues.”

When asked about her involvement in the sciences, Ana admitted she did not identify as a “huge science person”, but considered ecology and environment as her niche in the subject of biology. And within Ana’s community of politicians and community activists, she is an outlier. “Congress is full of climate change deniers. This is the product of people not being science-minded. Our political climate should have more equal opportunity and science-minded people,” said Ana, pointing out the lack of scientist scholars in the political arena.

Ana is an ally and exemplar to our community of scientists. She has recognized the connections between her identity, community, social justice, and science to advocate for comprehensive and sustainable changes in San Diego. In the future, Ana hopes to interact with more scientist and educator-politicians and shift the current political environment to be more science-conscious.

We would like to thank participants from the following high schools:

e3 Civic High School

Mira Mesa High School

Hilltop High School


Air Pollution Emissions Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2015, from

Environmental Health Coalition – Barrio Logan. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2015, from

Environmental Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2015, from

Environmental Justice & Environmental Racism | (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2015, from

History: Warren County, NC. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2015, from

San Diego Healthcare Workers Show Support For Barrio Logan Community Plan. (n.d.).

Retrieved January 14, 2015, from