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The Art and Science of ‘Earth Repair’

Leila Darwish is a community organizer, bioremediation educator and the author of Earth Repair: A Grassroots Guide to Healing Toxic and Contaminated Lands. Up until recently, Darwish was living in Louisiana, where she worked for the City of New Orleans in the Office of Emergency Preparedness, coordinating disaster response and recovery efforts for crises both natural and human-made. Whether responding to hurricanes in Louisiana or oil spills up in Canada, a common theme in her work centers on ensuring that communities, particularly frontline communities, have access to the proper tools and resources needed to recover and heal from environmental disasters and contamination.

Darwish’s work addresses environmental contamination in its many forms. In one form, subtle and invisible destruction appears by way of chemical pesticides commonly used in the agricultural industry, which seep into waterways and food systems, slowly poisoning wildlife and causing cancers in humans. More visible and pronounced environmental destruction appears through notable disasters such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which an oil rig explosion led to a nearly three-month long petroleum leak, resulting in over 4.2 million tons of oil seeping into the Gulf of Mexico.

A Canadian native, Darwish has taught workshops in various locations across Canada and the U.S., using her activism to not only empower communities to heal the land and their own psyches after environmental destruction, but also to prevent these occurrences from happening in the first place. We spoke over Zoom in July 2020. The discussion that follows is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.

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