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Category: Environmental Justice

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)

A Conversation about Environmental Racism

I recently sat down with Peggy Sheppard, the co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Social Justice. She has been raising awareness and winning environmental justice battles in NYC and beyond since the late 1980’s.

In addition, I chatted with Dr. Beverly G Ward, Field Director for Earthcare for the Southeastern Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, talk about their work pursuing environmental and climate justice.

Have a listen to this insightful and essential conversation about power, privilege, and fossil fuel pollution.

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunesStitcher RadioPodbeanNorthern Spirit Radio, Google Play, 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.

Are we really all in the same boat TOGETHER?

Like most Americans, I have been transfixed and horrified by the size and scope of Hurricane Harvey, this mega storm that hit Texas and Louisiana with so much water and destruction. It has become obvious that everyone in the path of the storm and the flooding have been affected and will be for some time. They are talking about recovery efforts taking years. Everyone who survives will have a Harvey story to tell for the rest of their lives.

I imagine that anyone with family in the Houston area, America’s fourth largest city, watched and waited with dread hoping their loved ones make it through ok. Family and friends around the country have already begun to provide practical help: housing, food, clothing, and well needed dollars. While the storm has moved on, and the waters recede, life still must go on. Bills need to be paid. Students have their studies. People have jobs. Yet many are displaced. Homes are uninhabitable. The support of family and friends is essential.

Floodwaters flood Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in Houston on Aug. 27, 2017. What was once Hurricane Harvey has inundated large swaths of the city and southeast Texas since it made landfall on the state’s Gulf Coast. (Photo courtesy of Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church) Article in Washington Blade.

LGBTQ people at greater risk?

This got me thinking about my own kin in the Houston area and those places affected by this storm. My people. LGBTQ folks. It’s not that I don’t care about other folks, but part of human nature is to be particularly aware of the needs of those in our own family and affinity groups. It is what helps us survive. We need stick with the pack.

As a gay man, I wonder about the ways LGBTQ people have to struggle in a storm that is similar and different from non-LGBTQ people. Of course a lot of it has to do with the other factors in an LGBTQ person’s life that on a sunny day make life challenging.

Yes, we are all in the same boat together; just not all on the same deck. Some people suffer more than others.

Homelessness

If you are LGBTQ and without a home before the storm, you may find it threatening to go to a homeless shelter. Transgender women of color are particularly at risk from violence in public and have historically been unemployed or under employed because of prejudice and discrimination. As a result, they represent a large percentage of the LGBTQ homeless population. Many homeless shelters are often run by Christian groups who traditionally have been hostile to us. They are also highly gendered spaces. This creates special challenges for transgender and gender non-binary people. Who gets to decide where you belong? Many avoid these shelters. As a result, they become that much more vulnerable during a storm.

Undocumented LGBT Immigrants

 

I think of the LGBTQ person who is an undocumented immigrant. What happens when you try to get the help you need in the midst of a storm? Will this action trip a whole series of legal repercussions that lead to detainment and deportation to a place where it is even more unsafe to be LGBTQ?

LGBTQ Seniors

What about our seniors. LGBTQ seniors experience a lack of equality with non-LGBTQ seniors in part because of the lifelong homophobia and transphobia they experienced from their families, society, and the government. I think of Marion, a fictional 84 year old lesbian based on many real life people like her. She is living alone and estranged from her family for many years. Perhaps earlier in life she had married a man and had children. I know of many LGBTQ folks who did, and even today their family want nothing to do with them. They have never seen their grandchildren. No one checks in on them. Perhaps Marion had a long term partner, Susan, who died in 2010. They were together for 43 years. Yet when Susan died, Marion received no social security or benefits. In fact, Susan’s family suddenly showed up and demanded personal objects and money that was shared by Susan and Marion. Perhaps Marion has been able to build a social structure that supports her, but also at that age, she has begun to lose her friends and may feel very alone. What happens when a storm like Harvey comes along? Where does she go? Who checks in on her?

Help You Can Provide

You can imagine these scenarios and more. In addition to seeing and feeling these realities, we can also do something to help. Right now in Houston there are two organizations raising money specifically for LGBTQ people affected by Hurricane Harvey. IF you cannot donate, you can share this post and links to get the word out.

Trans Diaster Relief Fund organized by the Houston-based Trans Advocate group, which has been around and doing fine work since 2018. You can learn more and donate right here.

The Montrose Center, Houston’s LGBTQ Center which started in 1978 is also reaching out to the many LGBTQ people who need immediate support and on-going help. You can learn more and donate right here.

Environmental Football – Why We Want The Underdog To Win

A quiet, tough sidekick

Look guys, I’m strong too. Elke and her brothers.

As the youngest and only girl growing up, I was in rough shape. Consistently vying to be one of the bros, I endured everything from “peeing in the woods is easy, Elke” to “get on this hovercraft; I want to see if it’ll hold you” to “hold still, I want to see if you can get out of this like Houdini.” Essentially, I was undergoing nonstop hazing, the desired result for my brothers being a perfectly quiet and tough sidekick.

But there was one hitch in the plan: I wouldn’t stop singing.

Every free moment I’d be humming, mumbling, attempting – and I really mean attempting – to carry a tune. I’d walk around the house for two hours at a time wearing my Little Mermaid robe, adorned in my Flounder slippers and carrying my stuffed hamster named Cookie. Singing one song and one song only: Ariel’s “aah aah aah”s. (And for those of you who don’t know what that is, please reference this video for which I searched “little mermaid ah ah ah”.)

Nevertheless, she persisted

Based on that information, it’s no wonder that the big brothers tried to shut me up at any given opportunity through the effective singing-shaming and physical-mouth-covering techniques. And it’s no wonder that, although I wouldn’t have changed a thing about my childhood, I was incredibly timid about my singing voice up until I was the last kid at home.

This is a small and seemingly insignificant parallel to much bigger issues we all witness. The small guys and gals, the quiet voices that are always trying to be part of the conversation. They get shut out too much and too often. That’s why we love underdog movies! It’s the euphoric feeling of “yeah, take that! We won!” whenever the longshot, disheveled football team makes the tie-breaker touchdown in the last 4 seconds of the championship game. Feel familiar?

That is known as basking in reflected glory or, in other words, the feeling of success based on watching others succeed. And that is why we naturally want the little dude to win. And that is why I’m naturally so furious about climate change.

Climate Underdogs

I hear the stifled cries and I see the rejected expressions. I empathize from my miniscule-in-comparison experiences of being the “stupid little sister,” but I still get it, the overwhelming burning sensation in your core for justice.

Elke and her brother pursuing another wacky challenge.

With climate change, the people most impacted were not large contributors. They did not cause it. Lower income families are more impacted than those in steadier communities. Third world countries are more impacted than developed countries. People of color are more impacted than white people. Females are more impacted than males. And that, my friend, is why I will never stop fighting for climate action.

Check out this article for a sadly perfect example of these inequalities. And overall, as a lesson in life, I encourage you to empathize with people. Relate their experiences to yours and try to find common ground. You’ll be amazed at the similarities.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

Displaced by Climate Change — a new American reality for some

ew Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Haves and Have Nots

As Global Warming takes hold of the planet, changes are happening all over. But they already have been happening in places that are often hidden from view with majority of the general public in the United States of America.

Christopher Flavelle of Bloomberg highlights an ongoing interest of mine, the effects of Global img_5430Warming on vulnerable populations here in the United States. It shows that these effects are here and now, not in some far off future.

Storms and flooding are damaging or destroying a growing share of the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units. Those homes are getting replaced slowly or not at all, forcing the people who lived in them to leave their neighborhoods and often their cities.

This is an issue that HUD and public housing authorities across the country are going to have to face,” Harriet Tregoning, director of community planning and development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, told me.

The disproportionate toll of climate change on public housing isn’t just bad luck. “A great deal of public housing is built on less-than-desirable pieces of land, whether it’s by a river, or by an ocean, or by a creek,” said Donald Cameron, president of the housing authority in Charleston, South Carolina. When cities built that housing, most of it between the 1930s and the 1950s, “they were looking for cheap land.”

Not just for environmentalists

What we are witnessing is a housing crisis. The system was already stressed, but with extreme weather events some people get displaced and can never rebuild or return home. Renters and people in lower income house are particularly vulnerable.

This is yet another reminder that climate change is not simply a scientific issue or something for traditional environmentalists to talk about and worry about. It is an issue that forces us to look at housing policy and the needs of people who are most affected in the USA and beyond

You can read more: Climate Change is Already Forcing Americans to Move

The Growing Indigenous Spiritual Movement That is Shaping Activism

A Lakota Sioux and her 5-year-old son pose for a photo at a protest camp erected to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. CREDIT: AP Photo/James MacPherson

A Lakota Sioux and her 5-year-old son pose for a photo at a protest camp erected to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. CREDIT: AP Photo/James MacPherson

For many indigenous people in North America, their relation to the earth is something that I think European settlers with our values of capitalistic/profit motive/commodification of resources can learn from.

This is some of the reason why I personally am so interested in the effects of Global Warming on Indigenous Populations.

Various indigenous groups do not typically view the earth as separate, as something to be harvested and to be used for profit. Often their spiritual beliefs, though extremely varied are based on the belief that the earth itself is sacred and should be treated as such. They look for and work for balance in their relationship with their environment.

Jack Jenkins at Think Progress writes about this in his piece, The growing indigenous spiritual movement that could save the planet: North Dakota is just the beginning.

It would be a mistake to characterize the new wave of indigenous activism as emanating from a uniform, codified theology. All of the activists ThinkProgress interviewed insisted they spoke only for themselves when discussing faith, explaining that each tribe harbors its own unique spiritual traditions, practices, and customs forged over the course of centuries, if not millennia.

But for all their differences, the various indigenous populations share a common theological belief typical of what Joshua Lanakila Mangauil, a Native Hawaiian activist, called “earth-based” cultures: that the environment, at least in parts, is sacred in and of itself.

“Earth-based cultures are tied to places,” Mangauil, whose current Facebook profile picture reads “Solidarity with Standing Rock,” said. “There is no separation from our spirituality and our environment — they are one and the same.”

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

See the full interactive map above read the article for yourself: The growing indigenous spiritual movement that could save the planet: North Dakota is just the beginning

Featured image: A Native American prayer stick is held near the capital during a Keystone XL protest in 2014. CREDIT: AP Photos/Manuel Balce Cenata

Connecting 911 to BlackLivesMatter to Climate Action

Everything is Connected

18 months ago I posted this piece on the interconnectedness of 911, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hurricane Katrina, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and Climate Change.

In the midst of an historic election, I am reflecting on how actions and reactions have consequences for decades. Below is a transmission from the future, a success story. (Transcript provided below as well)


What does justice look like on a changing planet?

As a regular feature of the Climate Stew Show, we include That Day in Climate History, a broadcast from the year 2165 that looks at the past and our successful responses to climate change. Sometimes the segments seem silly (Celebrities of the Future, Pets of the Future) but often we raise the serious issues of earthlings taking on new roles in a changing world.

After reading Brentin Mock’s series of articles for Grist that look at the intersection of justice, environmental movement, and climate change, in Episode 26, we consider the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and its impact in times of extreme weather.

Reporting from the year 2165 Timothy Meadows reflects on the Black Lives Matter Movement and the positive effect it had on changing policing policies. Black citizens experienced human rights abuses during Hurricane Katrina and other natural and manmade disaster. The Black Lives Matter Movement not only made the streets safely on a day-to-day basis, but in the 2030s during a string of extreme weather events, better policing practices protected citizens in times of crises.


Transcript

That Day in Climate History

I am Timothy Meadows. It is Saturday May 18th  2165 and time for That Day in Climate History.

On Bourbon Street in New Orleans' famous French Quarter, paratroopers from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, patrol nearly deserted streets. nesaranews.blogspot.com

On Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter, paratroopers from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, patrol nearly deserted streets.
nesaranews.blogspot.com

Nearly 164 years ago on September 11th, 2001 a group of terrorists attacked the United States. In reaction the US government ramped up its anti-terrorism efforts and started a series of protracted and mostly fruitless foreign wars that did little in the end to bring any lasting peace or stability.

Domestically the US also created a department they called Homeland Security. In addition to protecting the US borders from those who would choose to harm citizens, Homeland Security oversaw FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. With a new emphasis on national security, the role of FEMA expanded and militarized and included protecting property as well as people with disastrous consequences. This was most sharply felt in New Orleans in 2005 in the aftermath of a hurricane called Katrina.

Image Source: Black Lives Matter

Image Source: Black Lives Matter

The federal government responded with military force. As a result, those who did not have a chance to evacuate or chose to stay behind, mostly poor, working class, and Black citizens, experienced human rights abuses at the hands of their own government. What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe. The existing prejudices and injustices only magnified with the mega storm.

Nearly 10 years later after a string of incidents in which police officers, mostly white, killed Black citizens during arrest or in custody, the Black Lives Matter movement formed demanding robust changes to policing practice including body cameras for all officers and independent prosecutors to investigate when a law enforcer is implicated in a crime. The relentless efforts of these protesters helped bring about lasting reforms to the criminal justice system including more humane sentencing laws, greater oversight of police forces, and integrated community involvement in decision. These reforms made the country safer for people of color including transgender and queer people who had been unfairly treated by police.

Because of the foundation of justice and fairness laid by the Black Lives Matter Movement, later, in the 2030s, during a string of extreme weather events that rocked the USA, measures were already in place that protected citizens during a time of disaster. While there were storms as big and bigger than Katrina, and still isolated incidents of police brutality and injustice, a systemic change had been made that forever bettered policing practices in the USA. On this day in 2165 we remember That Day in Climate History

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Climate History is brought to you by the Canadian Board of Retreat and Relocation, providing short-term and long-term housing in the beautiful Northern Territories.

 

Take action: An update on #NODAPL

We can't live without water. We have alternatives to oil. We have alternatives to oil; we have no alternatives to water. —Kandi Moss, Indigenous Earth Network of Turtle Island #NoDAPL

This post first appeared at Mackenzian.com

Policing Indigenous People

Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Earth Network shared a live update from Standing Rock today.

standing-rock-indian-reservationShe describes the way the National Guard, police from five states, Energy Transfer Partners, and the Dakota Access corporation have corralled indigenous people in camps near DA Pipeline construction. And she calls for trans-ethnic solidarity.

[These states are] sending their police forces over here to protect an oil industry pipeline which is becoming obsolete before it’s even built.

The price of oil has dropped so low. The amount of oil that’s being pumped out of the Bakken Shale Formation is so low that this pipeline is becoming obsolete before it’s even constructed. There are charts; there are graphs that show that they may not even need this pipeline.

And so why they’re continuing to allow it is beyond me.

We don’t know where our president is. We don’t know where you are, Obama, but we could really use your help out here. We’re trying to protect the water for your children too.” —Kandi Mossett

Mossett’s update is 16 minutes long, and includes some graphic reports of violent policing. It is auto-captioned.

An Invitation to Action

Mossett invites Native and non-Native people to journey to Standing Rock and stand with the Native people there.

She also encourages continuing donations to the Indigenous Environmental Network of Turtle Island‘s Indigenous Rising project and to Sacred Stone Camp. The costs of this disruption are significant and water protectors shouldn’t face them alone.

We need people to come because the Missouri River is right there, and we need people to help us to protect the Missouri River. For the 18 million people that are downstream, for the millions more that are downstream of [them], we need President Obama to demand a full environmental impact statement. We need the Department of Justice to come out here and see what’s happening to us. We need you to go to your Army Corps of Engineers offices and we need your help…

We never give up hope… Send your support any way you can.” —Kandi Mossett

Donate

 

featured image from The Ring of Fire

Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Industry: A Double Threat for the Inuit

2016_1011cw_2

One of many waterfalls cascades down the vertical cliffs of Sam Ford Fiord, testament to the volume of glacier melt. (Photo: Chris Williams)

Which Americans are most affected by Global Warming?

An ongoing interest of mine is the effects of Climate Change on minority populations. Here in the USA, we have, to some extent, the money to insulate ourselves from the immediate effects of Global Warming. Not so much minority populations as this article about the Inuit of Alaska shows…

For Inuit, Arctic climate change imposed by a social system based on profit and endless commodification represents a double threat to their culture.

The Inuit in the Canadian Arctic are engaged in a centuries-old fight to retain their culture and reestablish self-determination and genuine sovereignty. In particular, Inuit in the autonomous territory of Nunavut are resisting what American Indian studies scholar Daniel R. Wildcat has described as a “fourth removal attempt” of Indigenous people, coming on the heels of failed efforts at spatial, social and psycho-cultural deletion.

Read: On Melting Ice: Inuit Struggle Against Oil and Gas in the Arctic by Chris Williams, Alternet.

 

The Future is Here: Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

Looking Ahead for Direction Today

ACTup-leveledHere at Climate Stew we are big fans of future thinking. In order to creatively and justly move forward in the world today, it is essential to imagine a just and stable future. This includes envisioning the steps it will take to achieve and maintain such a world.

In Episode One of the Climate Stew show we introduced That Day in Climate History, a report from 150 years in the future. In the first of this series we learned about the Traffic Blockades of 2015 and 2015.

It was 151 years ago on November 5th 2015 when a group of teenage friends walked to a highway near their homes in Pennsylvania, USA. On that Thursday morning at exactly 8:30 am they stepped onto the highway and held hands and held their breaths.

Their action that day inspired others, and within a few weeks hundreds then thousands of similar groups of people, young and old, gathered on roadways on Thursday mornings at exactly 8:30 am and brought the world to a standstill. The Traffic Blockages of 2015 and 2016 created a crisis for lawmakers forcing them to act.

Native protesters at Standing Rock. Photo credit: C. Northcutt via the BBC

Native protesters at Standing Rock. Photo credit: C. Northcutt via the BBC

A Major Protest Today

It is one thing to want change in the world; it is quite another to put your bodies on the line to make that change happen.

You may have seen tweets and other social media postings about the Native protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. It has gotten little mainstream media coverage. Still the protests are growing.

Digging Deeper into #NODAPL

To get the basics about what is happening, Keisha Mckenzie published a piece with lots of useful links. She makes a lovely prediction:

“On This Day In Climate History” will one day need to include this year’s Native protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. Energy Access Partners, the company that the US government has so far allowed to build this pipeline, plans to track it across Native treaty lands and four states, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Read her piece, Get up to speed on #NODAPL to dig deeper into this story. 

 

Featured image: Laced (As Pure as New York Snow) by Cal Lane