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Pollution so racist? Pollution does not affect everyone equally.

Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock writes about a new map that highlights how pollution and the ability to process it in a community affects residents of low-income or high-minority neighborhoods.

Chicago suffers from inequality in many forms, including uneven exposures to pollution and toxins throughout its many neighborhoods. Now, a sophisticated new map of the Windy City shows how, even among the dirtiest streets, not all pollution is created equal.

That’s because some neighborhoods are better equipped to handle these environmental risks than others—perhaps because they’re wealthier, or have more time, or enjoy closer access to their political representatives. Meanwhile, residents of low-income or high-minority neighborhoods can sometimes be all but forgotten by their representatives. It’s a distinction of which policymakers must be mindful when planning new developments in Chicago.

Created by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the new map combines both the environmental and socio-demographic characteristics of each Chicago neighborhood. It considers factors such as cancer and respiratory risks from air toxins, lead paint exposure, and proximity to Superfund sites; on the socio-demographic side, it incorporates poverty, minorities, linguistic isolation, and the percentage of young and old people.

Read the piece and see a high res image of the map at CityLab.

The Bible and Climate Change — A Candid Conversation

At a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in rural central Pennsylvania, I brought the conversation to a sudden halt, when I mentioned I am a Bible scholar and lately I have been wondering what the Bible had to say about climate change. One woman at the table nearly lunged at me, “What does the Bible say about climate change?” She was genuinely curious as were the other people at the table.

I recently sat down with three Evangelical Christians, including a pastor in the rural town where I live. I asked them about the Bible and climate change. They shared Bible passages, stories, and testimony.

I pushed back a few times–Yeah, but you are always preaching about heaven. How can you care for the earth if you see it as your temporary home and you are just passing through to a God who will forgive you for any harm you have caused? They graciously shared their faith and how it leads them to care deeply about the earth and the people on it.

Hear Corina Newsome (pictured above with the fabulous owl!) Kyle Kyle Meyaard Schaap, National Organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, and Pastor Josh Gibson from Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church. Also, my character, Tony Buffusio, shares Joseph and the not so amazing climate adaptation story. PLUS a puzzler question: Climate Change–what’s faith got to do with it?

You can hear our conversation on SoundCloud or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Just look for Citizens Climate Radio Ep 30 What Does the Bible Say About Climate Change?

Climate Movement So White???

Brentin Mock

Some people have the idea that climate change conversations only center around polar bears or parts per million of carbon dioxide. I sat down with two African-Americans concerned about the environmental health impacts on people of color. It is a moving and challenging conversation. I also chat with Tyree Daye, a poet from North Carolina who reads from his book of poems, River Hymns.

Dr. Natasha DeJarnett

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunesStitcher RadioSoundCloudPodbeanNorthern Spirit RadioGoogle PlayPlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

After 10 years of reporting on race, culture, and civil rights, Brentin Mock embraced environmental issues as his new beat. That was in 2008. He has since become a leading voice highlighting environmental racism in America.  He speaks with Citizens Climate Radio host, Peterson Toscano about pollution, segregation, asthma, and mobility. Brentin also speaks candidly about failures of predominately white environmental organizations that attempt to reach out to people of color. He shares why these attempts fail and what climate advocates can do to build a more diverse coalition. Also joining the discussion is Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, environmental health policy analyst from the American Public Health Association. She outlines statistics on historical and contemporary pollution and how air and water pollution pose severe heath risks for everyone, but espeically people of color in the USA.

  • African-Americans faced 54% higher health burden from air pollution (particulate matter) compared to the overall population. Communities of color overall had a 28% higher health burden compared to the overall population (Mikati et al., 2018).
  • Communities of color have higher exposure rates to air pollution than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts. A study monitoring 12 air pollutants showed that whites had the lowest exposures, non-Hispanic blacks had higher exposures than whites to 13 of the 14 pollutants. Hispanics generally had the highest exposures (Bell & Ebisu, 2012). Some of the pollutants studied including particulate matter, nitrate, chlorine, nickel are connected to repertory illnesses, asthma, and cardiovascular issues.
  • From a 2010 CDC report, seven million American children have asthma, about one out of ten. One out of every six black child has asthma (CDC, 2010). The reported rate rose 50% between 2001 and 2010.
  • In 2000 and 2010, disparities in nitrogen dioxide concentrations were larger by race-ethnicity than by income. Black and Hispanic people experienced 37% higher exposures to NO2 than white people in 2010 (Clark et al., 2017). NO2 is linked to asthma symptoms, increased susceptibility to repertory problems and heart disease (EPA).
  • Most communities located next to, and directly affected by the operations of, corporate, industrial, or service facilities are low-income, communities of color, and other systemically oppressed groups. This placement exposes these groups of people to health, economic, and social hazards. Over 1 million African-Americans live in counties facing cancer risks above the EPA’s level of concern from toxins emitted by natural gas facilities. (Franklin, 2018)
  • The percentage of black people in fenceline zones is 75% greater than for the U.S. as a whole, while the percentage of Latino people is 60% greater than for the U.S. as a whole (Orum et al., 2014). Larger, more chemical-intensive facilities tend to be located in counties with larger black populations and counties with high levels of income inequality.
  • People of color are more likely to be exposed to environmental threats than are whites of the same social class. Race is a powerful predictor of many environmental hazards including the distribution of air pollution, location of municipal solid waste facilities, location of abandoned toxic waste sites, toxic fish consumption, and lead poisoning in children (Bullard, 1993).
  • People of color make up nearly half the population in fenceline zones (11.4 million), and are almost twice as likely as whites to live near dangerous chemical facilities. Children of color make up almost two-thirds of the 5.7 million children who live within one mile of a high-risk chemical facility in the United States. Facilities in communities of color have almost twice the rate of incidents compared to those in predominately white neighborhoods – one incident per six facilities compared to one incident per 11 facilities (Starbuck & White, 2016).

(Special thanks to Dr. Natasha DeJarnett and Siena Fouse from the APHA for Dig Deeper content)

Exploring the Serious World of Climate Change Comedy

As a lover of comedy, I tend to watch a lot of sitcoms and standup. Lately I have been obsessed with the short silent films Buster Keaton created over 100 years ago. I am also reading David Bianculli’s book about the Smothers Brothers, a comedy duo who had an American TV show that paved the way for so many people and was a pre-cursor to Saturday Night Live.

While zany slapstick comedy works for me just fine, I do appreciate comedy with a message behind it. As someone concerned about climate change, I am always on the hunt for good climate change comedy. It is harder to find than you might imagine. While people love making fun of those people who are dismissive of climate change, beyond mocking these folks, there has been little comedy produced around climate change.

I was thrilled to interview Brian Ettling, a climate change comic who landed a national appearance on the Tosh.O TV show. Brian and I have a fun, free-wheeling conversation about the role of comedy, the challenges of climate comedy, and how talking about climate change is like passing gas at a dinner party. Lots of laughs and insights. Check it out at Citizens’ Climate Radio.

Citizens Climate Radio Ep 24 Show Notes

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, SoundCloud, Podbean, Northern Spirit Radio, Google Play, PlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

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Seeks — A new climate change themed comic book

I have been a fan of Joey Hartmann-Dow ever since I first saw Joey’s whimsical creatures drawn based on maps. Joey captures a playfulness and warmth to the work. When I needed an artist as a collaborator for my illustrated book, The Amazing Adventures of the Afterbirth of Jesus, I turned to Joey, who created the most adorable living placenta. (Ok, it’s a little creepy too, but that is part of the story.) In the fall I purchased Joey’s 2018 calendar celebrating Bad Ass Women.

Now Joey has begun a comic book series about climate change. Working with the Friends for National Legislation, a Quaker organization in Washington, DC, Joey has created Seeks. Here is the synopsis of Issue 1


When our protagonist J finds out their best friend’s brother Asa is hospitalized for an asthma attack, they want to do everything they can to help– as an activist for climate justice, they see a link between Asa’s dangerous condition, extreme air pollution, and the changing climate in their city of Philadelphia, PA. Although they’ve never reached out to their member of Congress before, J finds themself on a lobby visit with their representative, advocating for climate action as a public health issue, on behalf of their friend’s family and others like them.

You can read the first issue on-line. It’s free to read on-line! Purchase a hardcopy here. I really love this work and continue to feature it as new issues appear. Enjoy!