Posts Tagged ‘environmental justice’

I appreciate the recent blog post by the EPA Office of Environmental Justice. First, because it is outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson’s recap on her top priority while she was at EPA and second, because it pays homage to a great community leader.  Though I may not be the protesting type, I strongly support those who organize and stand up for fair treatment, which all U.S. citizens deserve.  When it comes to environmental protection I support those who stand up for fair treatment even more.

In her final video message, Lisa Jackson spoke about the work of Hazel Johnson.  A founder of a Chicago nonprofit called “People for Community Recovery”, Hazel Johnson was often called the “Mother of Environmental Justice.”  If you’re new to the term of environmental justice (you haven’t been reading my old posts) it typically refers to the fair and equal treatment of all races so that people do not bare disproportionate environmental impacts such as air, water, and soil pollution.

During Lisa Jackson’s term as Administrator I too have seen a renewed focus on environmental justice.  The EPA Office of Environmental Justice released Plan EJ 2014, and 17 federal agencies have continually met to form the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice.  I presume Hazel would have been very supportive of Lisa Jackson’s work on EJ, but still concerned that these issues are ongoing.  Hazel coined the term “toxic donut” a term referring to encircling industries that were polluting in her Chicago neighborhood.  Lisa Jackson saw (as did I during my undergraduate degree) a similar pattern in Cancer Alley, a stretch of industries from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana; many of these types of patterns are all across the U.S. from Texas to California to New Jersey.

Hazel’s top priority was for communities to be brought to the decision table when siting industrial facilities.  To me that seems like common sense. Sometimes that’s not the case and many community residents are ignored. But progress has been made and toxic sites have been cleaned up, so that should be applauded.  However the work is never done.  Not until Americans take a strong unified stance on how they use and obtain energy.  Open conversations about consumption and energy sources are the only ways to prevent things that Hazel and Lisa have so commonly seen.  You can see the EPA Blog post and video here.

A few weeks ago, the largest environmental march to date was organized in Washington D.C.; it was a march from the Washington Monument to the White House to tell President Obama to deny the Keystone Pipeline and reduce our use of fossil fuels.  It was organized by the Sierra Club and many local environmental groups across the nation.  I wanted to see it for my own eyes so I braved the cold and watched for 30 minutes.  The march was organized and civil, and many had signs to reject the Pipeline.  After the State Department’s release of a draft environmental impact statement, I don’t think pro-enviros are too happy.  I took a couple photos just so you could feel like you were there:

"Obama how dare you frack your momma" - said the crowd

“Obama how dare you frack your momma” – said the crowd

En route to the Washington Monument

En route to the Washington Monument

I presume warmth was the motivation for the get up.

I presume warmth was the motivation for the get up.


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Helloo?! Hi!

This is your Spinach team.  We’re still here, and we haven’t forgotten about you.  Excuse our appearance as we partake in the hottest summer on record.  We’re going to be better, we promise.

I have some good news to report.  The EPA Office of Environmental Justice blog reported that EPA is in the process of testing a new tool that would allow you to measure pollution in your community (take about leverage for an Erin Brockovich style lawsuit).  Communities all over the country face different types of hazards.  Whether it’s river pollution, intense storms, or nearby landfills and factories causing harm to your community, there’s no doubt that local environmental problems are diverse and have unique challenges.

EPA’s Office of Research and Development is in the process of designing the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) to address local unique challenges. C-FERST has been developed to increase the availability and accessibility of science and data for evaluating impacts of pollutants and local conditions, ranking risks, and understanding the environmental health consequences of your community.

Springfield, MA and Portland, ME were among the first two cities that used C-FERST and they convened members of their community to review data and held town hall meetings.  They now use reports and maps from C-FERST to prioritize the community’s top issues as they undergo a community assessment. Communities already baring health impacts face even more burden when they have to prove causation that a company or practice is causing harm.  It is my hope that these tools become more accessible to communities.  Protecting and investing in our communities keesp our nation strong; I once heard that sustaining our communities is a matter of national security. Have a nice weekend. Cheers.

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To date, I’ve posted about cool things that can save you money and protect your health; but The Green Light is also about telling the stories of people who are making a difference.  Last week, I traveled to Detroit for a regional Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference sponsored by the Blue Green Alliance.  Most people said “I’m sorry you have to go to Detroit”, and/or “don’t go out past sundown.”  I try to focus on good things when I see them, and I saw and heard plenty of good things in Detroit.  I stayed at the GM Center (every GM model was on display) which is the largest structure in downtown Detroit.  You can see Canada from your room (no I didn’t say Russia from my house, but I thought about it).  The weather was beautiful when I arrived and I had an hour to spare so I went for a run along the riverfront.

Trails on the waterfront park

Is that the Natchez and the bridge to the West Bank (nola reference)?! No, it’s the Princess and a bridge to Canada.

I sat in on several sessions over the next two days related to public health, toxic exposures, community job training, safe jobs, and environmental justice.  There are inspirational people in Detroit who are committed to developing a local workforce and building a sustainable economy.  Donele Wilkins, President of The Green Door initiative (GDI), has worked in the environmental justice movement for over two decades.  The Green Door Initiative provides 12-hour training programs to local residents on specific job types, life skills, and environmental literature; GDI also has a “Youth Green” program, along with several other types of programs, that trains inner-city youths on environmental justice and how they can be leaders in their community.  The take home message  – residents who are trained locally, work locally, and thereby invest more in their community.  Leon Petty, of Go Green Contracting, Inc., is a demolition contractor specializing in proper removal of lead, mold, and asbestos; I have never heard a private business owner so passionate about protecting people’s health and performing proper construction even if a personal sacrifice is required.  It was a pleasure to listen to you, Donele and Leon.

Lastly, I enjoyed learning of the work of the Delta Institute, a group based out of Chicago that takes on a variety of environmental projects around the Great Lakes region  – seriously, they do everything, they are the Super Target of environmental specialists.  Kindy Kruller of the Delta Institute spoke about the community development branch and how deconstruction (that’s breaking down the home in pieces rather than smoking it with a crane) of homes has led to new business opportunities!  The branch and other partners salvage wood and other materials and then sell new indoor and outdoor furniture to schools and businesses in the community – way to reuse!  During the opening session, a men’s choir group, called Vision, and a women’s choir group, called the Lady Achievers (this was not a GSA conference) from the Detroit School of Arts performed and a class member spoke about how attending a green school has maximized learning and student’s health.  Both of the groups gave wonderful performances – luckily I found The Lady Achievers’ performance for you to enjoy (I could not find Vision’s video – they deserve a complement on their bow tie cummerbund set)!

So, don’t count Detroit out (remember the Clint Eastwood Superbowl commercial?).  Find out what good work is being done in your neighborhood and remember to thank them for their efforts; and/or even better, offer a helping hand to those good people!  Cheers.

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