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Category: Justice

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.

Celebrate Now, Then Get Back To Work

What what!

It took so long. Social, racial, and civil rights boundaries were pushed. Peaceful protestors got help from communities with donations of basic amenities. After these cold months in North Dakota and with winter storms on the horizon, relief came not a moment too soon to the people at Standing Rock. The Dakota Access Pipeline has been shut down! (For now)

standing-rock-3The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied the remaining construction of the DAPL, the portion that would cross Lake Oahe. Yes, this is the time to celebrate a victory, but it’s not over. America will see a new administration begin on January 20th (just in time for my birthday!) I’m sure the pipeline will be brought up again, and the world of social justice must persevere. Now more than ever, communication and compassion and thoughtful approaches are key.

standing-rock-2For more details, check out this news article from USA Today.

Also, read Jon Hatch’s gorgeous, moving, and insightful blog post about his visit to Standing Rock. A Christian originally from Northern Ireland, he knows about conflict, and reflects on the culture he found at Standing Rock.

Doing Theology at Standing Rock


Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

It’s about Human Rights, Stupid

I am quick to point out to folks that I do not see myself as an environmentalist. Not that I have any beef with environmentalism, but up until now, it has not been my jam. Sure I have wanted clean air and water, and lived much of the last 20 years as vegan (not currently–blame my husband.) But I have not been part of any environmental movement or group. Instead I have been deeply engaged in the worlds of LGBTQ activism and with faith issues and Bible scholarship.

In 2012  I had an apocalypse about our changing climate. This revelation jarred me awake and caused me to change my focus to learn about climate change and speak out. But it didn’t turn me into an environmentalist. I want the earth to be healthy, but I am in it for the humans, namely human rights. Not that I have anything against animals or want any to go extinct (although a world without mosquitos seems appealing.) It’s just that I am concerned about what happens in a planet that is already unjust and unequal, when it gets stressed to the breaking point. Who finds some comfort and relief? Who gets left behind?image

University of Boulder Environmental Center describes Climate Justice this way:

Climate change is fundamentally an issue of human rights and environmental justice that connects the local to the global. With rising temperatures, human lives—particularly in people of color, low-income, and Indigenous communities—are affected by compromised health, financial burdens, and social and cultural disruptions. Those who are most affected and have the the fewest resources to adapt to climate change are also the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions—both globally and within the United States.

They go on to explain that the environmental justice movement expands the definition of “environment” to be more than those places where people hike and fish, to the very places where people live.

One key tenet of the environmental justice movement is that it operates from a broader interpretation of ‘environment’ than has historically been used by the environmental movement; one that includes human habitats: places where people live, work and play. To someone involved with environmental justice, your home, office, or school playground is just as much a part of the environment as rivers, forests, National Parks and remote wilderness areas are.

We can then broaden these terms to consider island nations in the South Pacific and nationals in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the coffee growing region in Central America.  Climate change will disproportionately affect those earthings more than than many is North America and Europe. Looking at it that way we see that global warming is not just about science or research or weather, but about people. We are also connected to the other specicies on the planet, so for our stability, peace, and security, we need to address climate change.

On Saturday I will co-present a workshop called, A Queer Response to Climate Change, in Denver for the Creating Change Confernce. My primary hope is to communicate that climate change is not simply an environmental issue, part of the green movement. No it has everything to do with human rights.