Matthew Correa

Matthew Correa

Project Title: The Salton Sea: The Impact of the Cotton Industry on Labor Rights, Environmental Justice, & Indigenous Sovereignty 

Project Description: Every summer, a combination of excessive heat waves, high amounts of hydrogen sulfide, and decaying organic matter drift throughout the Coachella Valley from an abandoned water basin known as the Salton Sea. Consequently, Chicano and Indigenous communities suffer from extreme medical crises due to substandard healthcare and poor political representation. After conducting an external investigation, I discovered that the Sea’s creation was the result of poor water irrigation from the Colorado River. Along with the sea came the creation of fertile land ideal for cotton farming. Using large amounts of water and pesticides, upland and pima were transported from low-income communities to Los Angeles cotton mills. Poor manufacturing processes, water contamination, and immoral workplace conditions then become commonplace in fashion conglomerates’ global supply chains. Today, these actions have been justified by discriminatory transnational politics, poor labor and industrial relations, and unsustainable environmental practices. Therefore, my project will explore how Native and migrant populations in global distribution channels are abused by private companies due to poor domestic policies within the context of fabric production. Employing interdisciplinary methods, I hope to construct an index assessing social ratifications’ effectiveness in promoting accessible welfare for Indigenous and minority populations. Consequently, this index can guide organizations like the International Labor Organization in developing digital tools to address the ecological impact of industrial complexes. 

Most Important Accomplishment: Currently, my most important accomplishment as of now is my past participation in the Summer 2023 cohort of the Nexus Scholars Program at Cornell University. 

Reflections on the College Scholar Program: The College Scholars Program has provided me with the opportunity to transform my curriculum into a diversified yet integrative program where I can explore multilateral approaches to expansive issues that I care so deeply about. I am incredibly grateful to serve in a cohort of scholars where I can explore interdisciplinary research opportunities while receiving the educational support needed to make lasting changes in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys.