A new comic book series titled Mayah’s Lot attempts to explain the everyday challenges of environmental justice advocacy through graphic novel storytelling. The main character of the series, Mayah, is recruited into the environmental justice movement when she discovers that a Los Angeles-based, greenwashed company is planning to use a lot in her neighborhood in New York to dump toxic waste. The community group Mayah joins helps her fight the company off by showing her the ropes of public policy advocacy. In the strip, Mayah becomes "Earth Girl,"a jade-costumed superhero armed with something of a zap gun.
The conflict is resolved not by a single, caped crusader with special powers, though, but through the empowerment of Mayah’s community, which is divided into task groups and then dispatched to raise awareness, monitor pollution and do research. The moral is that no one leader can protect communities from environmental hazards, but rather that environmental justice is about "people coming together to improve their community, standing strong, [and] finding a legal solution."
Rebecca Bratspies, a professor at City University of New York School of Law and founder of the "Center for Urban Environmental Reform," created the book along with graphic artist Charlie LaGreca and middle school students in Queens. In Greenversations, a blog run by EPA, Bratspies said that she and LaGreca help students "identify environmental problems in their neighborhoods," which the students then will turn into comic book narratives.
The first story in the series is simple and accessible, but also keenly illustrates some of the more nuanced problems the environmental justice world faces, such as police keeping residents from working in lots in their own neighborhood, even to beautify them, or polluter companies serving obscured public notices buried in the back listings pages of newspapers.
Download Mayah’s Lot here, and also watch this video for more info: