Category Archives: environmental justice

Standing Up to Climate Denial in Action

by Thanu Yakupitiyage – 350.org

US-Peoples-Delegation-1

The only event the Trump administration hosted at the COP 23 UN climate talks during the last two weeks in Germany was a panel promoting “clean” coal, nuclear, and other fossil fuels. This is climate denial in action.

Luckily, people weren’t buying it. As fossil fuel executives took the stage to speak, hundreds of people rose up, disrupting the event by singing, and walked out. I was there, and I can tell you that being part of that beautiful and powerful moment sent shivers down my spine. But don’t just take it from me — watch this powerful video of people rising up in resistance.

This powerful act of resistance was led by members of the U.S. People’s Delegation. The delegation included youth, Indigenous peoples, frontline communities, advocates, and policymakers who came to Germany to stand their ground as the true representatives of people in the U.S. Through direct actions, speak outs and discussions with elected officials, they spotlighted that true climate leadership in the U.S. comes from the people.

The U.S. People’s Delegation sent a powerful message to the world in Germany: U.S. communities aren’t waiting for this administration to get its act together — we’re demanding lasting change now. The delegation showed world leaders that people are already organizing in cities and states across the country to call for a fast, just transition to a world free of fossil fuels that’s powered by 100% renewable energy for all.

The organizations represented in the People’s Delegation include: SustainUS, Sunrise Movement, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, and the Climate Justice Alliance as part of It Takes Roots, U.S Human Rights Network, Climate Generation, Our Children’s Trust, ICLEI USA, NextGen America, and 350.org.

Now, with the climate talks having just finished, the delegation members are heading home for some much-needed rest — but here in the U.S., our fight is just beginning. We will be in touch soon with more information on what’s next.

With resolve,

Thanu Yakupitiyage

 

 

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Walk the Line, September 30th

Walk the Line

Walk the Line – Pipelines carrying Tar Sands oil—the dirtiest form of oil there is—are running through our neighborhoods in Northwest Indiana. Join us on Sept. 30, 2017 as we walk along the path of the tar sands pipelines that pass through our communities to help support a just transition to a renewable energy economy.

When: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. (arrive by 8:00 a.m.)

Where: The route is 10K (or 6.21 miles). The Walkathon will begin at the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve (135 E Main St, Schererville, IN 46375), just west of the Enbridge Pipeline Co. entrance.

Go to WalkTheLineNWI.com to register to walk or to sponsor a walker.

Please contact Melissa Brice, Chicago 350 with any questions and we hope to see you!

E-Mail: 350chicago350@gmail.com

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Waste Land Slides

 

Earthflow

Earthflow in Russia: April 1, 2015

“A couple of people emailed to suggest, and Brett Gilley noted in comments,  that this might be a mine waste landslide, based on the materials involved, the appearance of the hills in the background and the presence of heavy equipment.”

Read more and see amazing video at American Geophysical Union

 

11_10-Aberfan-2

Aberfan Disaster in Wales, October 21, 1966

“Prior to the disaster, Aberfan was just another small, Welsh coal mining village, located in the valleys of South Wales.  [ . . .]  The landslide behaved like a liquid, but with twice the density of water, sufficient to demolish everything in its path.”

Read more here.

(Coming soon, a post on Graham Harman’s Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy.)

Image credits:

@theAGU

AGU.Blogosphere

 

 

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Q&A: What Really Happened to the Water in Flint, Michigan?

from Scientific American (March 2, 2016)

After Flint, Mich., switched from purchasing water via Detroit to sourcing locally from the Flint River, residents began noticing a change in water quality. One resident—Lee Anne Walters—suspected the water might be toxic, and had her water tested for lead. She brought samples to Marc Edwards, an environmental engineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a world-renowned expert on water treatment. He found lead levels in her tap water at 13,200 parts per billion; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sounds the alarm at 15 ppb. She subsequently discovered her three-year-old son had blood lead levels so high that he was considered lead poisoned. In fact, researchers estimated 4 percent of all Flint’s children five and under had elevated blood lead–a percentage almost double that seen before the switch to the Flint River water.

Keep reading here.

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Exploring the Nature of Diversity in Chicago

by Eoin O’Neill

Author details: Dr. Eoin O’Neill is a tenured Lecturer in Environmental Policy at University College Dublin and is visiting at DePaul University for the Autumn Quarter, hosted by the Department of Environmental Science and Studies.

Whilst visiting at DePaul and as an urban dweller in Chicago, I’m somewhat unusual; I don’t have a car and can be seen with my wife walking the streets at all hours pushing a large red buggy, which we have been told is a rather ‘awesome stroller’ and ‘like a red Cadillac’. While it takes us longer to get everywhere, walking allows for an intimate acquaintance with hidden nooks of Chicago that I may otherwise never have seen. It also allows for time to reflect and appreciate the diversity to be found within and between its neighbourhoods.

As I walk (or sometimes travel elevated on the ‘L’), I often wonder whether the difference in the types of ‘nature’, crudely assessed in terms of observable trees/vegetation, experienced by people in various neighbourhoods is in anyway attributable to some form of interplay between environment and cultural factors. On one of our walks, for example, one moves across an invisible boundary and the intensely green and manicured grass verges, the street trees, shrubs and flowers in a highly maintained urban setting give way to a relatively un-manicured urban environment, and a different cultural influence clearly apparent along the streetscape.  Whilst the type of ‘nature’ on the street is visibly different, seemingly limited to occasional window boxes and less well maintained street planting (with different biodiversity potential), I wonder whether the influence of culture is a significant factor influencing how communities express environmental preferences or appreciate nature; or whether the manner in which nature is revealed locally is predominantly resource driven? Or maybe they are inextricably linked with both having an influence in combination.

To my untrained eye, culture does not seem to be a hugely significant factor; however, the impact of the distribution of financial resources is visibly a significant influencing factor on the type of nature evident in parts of Chicago.  Some neighbourhoods look like they are entering into a period of significant transition (or transformation).  Extreme examples include extensive areas of abandoned or derelict homes and lots etc. with a less structured nature re-emerging apparent in some neighborhoods (see http://57thandnormal.com/ – although this is a drastic case).  I imagine that neighhorhoods losing their sense of urbanity might generate negative feelings and a sense of uncertainty for residents in an otherwise regulated urban setting.  Such feelings may come from recollections of experiences attached to the place as it was; and perhaps from efforts to exclude, and avoid, risky aspects of ‘authentic’ nature from the regulated environment.  Moreover, the emergence of multi-generations of urban dwellers (a global phenomenon) has probably increased the level of disconnect between people and nature.

These ‘abandoned’ parts of the Chicago urban landscapes (see also, for example, http://abandonedchicago.tumblr.com/) are in a state of flux – sufficiently managed to avoid emergence of much of a sense of wilderness; but at the opposite end of a spectrum that might be signified by Grove at al. ‘ecology of prestige’.  However, it seems that some new ideas are emerging within the policy community about using this change to bring about prospects for a more purposeful yet beneficial experience of such nature for affected residents.  Whilst thinking about Green Infrastructure solutions (such as rain gardens, urban agriculture, parks etc.) is not unusual, with some examples apparent as I walk around, perhaps the systemic thinking being applied by participants in the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, to (amongst other efforts) strategically coordinate repurposing of parcels of vacant land to better manage stormwater is innovative.  (I recently attended a meeting of this group, in an observer capacity.  The collaborative model in this case comprising c. 30 stakeholder agencies and non-profits looks like it may be worthy of replication beyond Chicago.)

 Pilsen

An improved ‘vacant’ lot in Pilsen generating ecosystem services.

From a policy perspective such circumstances present opportunities for such innovations; however, the period during which an individual’s neighborhood becomes re-defined is at least socially disruptive and a ‘messy’ experience for residents who have to live through the transition.  But perhaps other places can learn from these experiences.

Sticking to the water-related theme, the newly developed (and developing) riverside walk along the Chicago River provides a pleasant break from the immediate hazard walking alongside city traffic and the stop-start of pedestrian crossings, generating feelings of relaxation as noise levels are abated at the lower level of the water.  Similarly the walk alongside the lakeshore gives an even greater access to an unbroken, authentic, and sometimes wild vista.  Alternatively, the recently opened Bloomingdale Trail, developed on a former rail line, provides an enjoyable elevated perspective within the urban environment.  However its appearance differs from my expectations with the trail being a concrete pavement rather than a beaten path.

Trail

A section of the Bloomingdale Trail passing Bucktown

More generally, and apparent to me no matter where I walk, is the extensive amount of street-trees, bringing with them various environmental benefits in addition to well-established wellbeing and stress-reduction benefits, which must surely be welcomed by most city residents.  On the other hand, and as a consequence, the lack of any green planting on most back-alleys and laneways off main streets provides a harsh setting, especially against the backdrop of tall buildings with limited direct sunlight.

I must admit that my reflections are influenced by my background, where there is a much more homogenous society (predominantly white and of Irish and European origin), and limited evidence of any significant contemporary non-European cultural influences imprinting itself on the Irish landscape so far, of which I am aware.  The pie chart below portrays the ethnic or cultural background of all people (Irish and non-Irish) resident in Ireland at the time of the most recent census (2011).

Chart

Source: Central Statistics Office 2011. Available from www.cso.ie  Accessed 10/29/2015.

Maybe the scale of the City of Chicago, being just under three times larger (by population) than Dublin, and with a far more extensive and vastly more culturally diverse and populous metropolitan region, means the landscape in all its guises is reflective of the environmental preferences of its various constituent communities.  Somewhat contrary to my elementary musings here, some recent findings from New York (Grove et al. 2014), suggest that socio-economic factors alone are not sufficient to explain which neighborhoods have the most exposure to nature (assessed by vegetative cover measured by tree canopy and lawns).  Perhaps this type of analysis may be an important consideration when advocating for green infrastructure and ecological restoration initiatives more widely across Chicago in the future.  Indeed the Great Rivers Chicago initiative (GreatRiversChicago.com) seems to be a good example of engaging with communities to establish their preferences for a better relationship with, and improved access to, an aspect of nature.

meeting

Attendees and facilitators at the Great Rivers Chicago public open-house meeting at the Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse in Chinatown (10/28/2015).

 

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to enjoy my walks around the city and its neighborhoods.

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What are the Connetions Between Culture and Conscience?

Upcoming New York and radio event sponsored by The Center for Humans & Nature:

“Explore the relationship between culture and morality: How do humans discern between right and wrong? How do these decisions shape our communities and cultures? How does culture influence our values? Melvin Konner and Jonathan Haidt kick off the conversation, with new voices added weekly.

Join us in New York City on October 26 for a live event with Jonathan Haidt, Melvin Konner, and Krista Tippett. This conversation on culture and conscience is a partnership with the On Being radio and podcast.”

See original post here.

Note from C. Skolnik: These issues may be somewhat tangential to Environmental Critique, but they are central to conversations of the blog’s sponsoring organization, the DePaul Institute for Nature and Culture.

 

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Remarks by Pope Francis to Congress

Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of Congress on September 24, 2015, the first time a pope has spoken to Congress. He discussed immigration, poverty, and care for the environment, quoting parts of his encyclical released in June 2015.”

See here.

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