Ongoing research project raises awareness of the issue while mobilizing affected residents to action
When an activist working on environmental racism first met with Ingrid Waldron in 2012 and asked her to become involved with his efforts, Waldron was hesitant. A sociologist and assistant professor of nursing at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she didn’t know much about environmental racism. The term describes situations where industrial polluters and environmental hazards — such as landfills, trash incinerators, or coal plants — are disproportionately placed near low-income or minority communities.
Photo (CC BY-SA): Silver Donald Cameron
“I was hesitant to take on a project, as it wasn’t an interest of mine,” Waldron says. “But I thought about it more. It seemed challenging. It would be political, and there would be an opportunity to make real change in communities. Those things excited me.” The researcher decided to say yes.
Four years later, The ENRICH Project (Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities, and Community Health) still consumes Waldron. As director of the project, she leads a team of fourteen community members, seven academic researchers, three research staff — including Dave Ron, the activist who got the whole project started — and 10 students, all determined to investigate and address environmental racism in African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities. (Also known as Mi’kmaq, members of this First Nations people were the first inhabitants of the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Today, there are 13 Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia.)
Cases of environmental racism have been documented around the world, with one of the first high-profile cases occurring in the 1980s in Warren County, North Carolina, when a hazardous waste landfill was constructed in the small, predominately African-American community. In many situations, inexpensive land combined with a community’s perceived lack of power to resist leads industry to build environmental hazards in such communities.
Using research to mobilize communities
“We’re looking at the issue from a research perspective, and using that research and data to mobilize communities to action,” Waldron says. The project’s activities range from a youth arts and education project to a series of workshops hosted in 2013 and 2014 to hear residents’ concerns and encourage action. A filmmaker documented those events and created a film called In Whose Backyard?
In these workshops, Waldron and others on the team met with people in affected communities, including those in Lincolnville, an African Nova Scotian community settled by Black Loyalists in in 1784. Residents …more
Many fear Donald Trump will reverse the ambitious course set by Barack Obama and withdraw the US from the accord
Just days after the historic Paris agreement officially came into force, climate denier Donald Trump’s victory has thrown the global deal into uncertainty and raised fears that the US will reverse the ambitious environmental course charted under Barack Obama.
International environmental groups meeting at the UN climate talks in Morocco said it would be a catastrophe if Trump acted on his pledge to withdraw the US from the deal, which took 20 years to negotiate, and to open up public land for coal, oil, and gas extraction.
Trump has called climate chance a “hoax,” placing him virtually alone among world leaders on the validity of the science. The real estate magnate has promised to embark upon a four-year process of withdrawing the US from the Paris deal and has targeted the “billions and billion and billions” given to UN climate programs and clean energy development.
Domestically, Trump has promised to reboot America’s ailing coal industry, as well as expand gas and oil drilling, despite the fact the growth of natural gas use has caused the downturn in coal.
He also plans to scrap Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, which is the main policy designed to lower US emissions.
Recent analysis by Lux Research estimated that a Trump presidency would raise US greenhouse gas output by 16 percent by the end of his second term, should he get one, compared to a Hillary Clinton administration. Such a shift could prove key in not only pushing the world towards dangerous climate change but also dissuading other nations from making the required cuts in emissions.
Green groups have urged the president-elect, as the leader of the second greatest greenhouse gas emitter, to act in the interests of all the world.
“The new president must protect the people he serves from climate chaos. No personal belief or political affiliation can change the stark truth that every new oil well and pipeline pushes us all closer to catastrophe. The administration has moral and legal obligations to meet international commitments,” said May Boeve, head of climate campaign group 350.org.
Christian Aid warned that any attempts by Trump to ditch the Paris deal would be an act of “economic self-sabotage.”
“The global transition to a zero-carbon economy will not …more
Here are some of the most environmentally important contests in today's election
The 2016 election has become infamous for its visceral polarization — and environmental issues are no exception. Conservation was once a trans-partisan concern that seemed above party labels: George H.W. Bush, for example, backed several important environmental measures, and a Teddy Roosevelt spirit of lands preservation held strong among Republicans for decades. Since 2000, however, voters’ views on the environment, especially global climate change, have increasingly diverged along party lines. According to the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, climate change is now a more divisive issue than abortion or gay marriage.
But US environmental organizations say that below that discouraging fact lies a broad commitment to environmental protection among the new American electorate of younger and more ethnically diverse voters. To mobilize those voters, green groups have poured huge amounts of financial resources and staff time toward campaigning for Hillary Clinton and electing a climate action majority to the Senate. Environmental groups are projected to spend more than $100 million on influencing the election outcome, with the biggest efforts coming from venture-capitalist-turned-philanthropist Tom Steyer’s Next Gen Climate ($55 million) and the League of Conservation Voters ($45 million).
Greens’ best hope rests with millennial voters, who have by the far the strongest commitment to environmental protection of any age group; according to a July poll, more than three-quarters of eligible millennial voters agree that “climate change is a severe threat that we must start addressing now.” To mobilize the millennial vote, environmental organizations have set up operations on more than 300 college campuses and launched a sophisticated text-message-driven GOTV effort targeting young people who aren’t in college. “We need a bigger tent that the environmental movement has now in order to win,” says Michael Kieschnick, the national campaign manager at Next Gen Climate, which quickly poached Bernie Sanders’ top tech talent after Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination. “That led us to the millennial generation, which is the most progressive on environmental issues. They are skeptical about elections, but not about progressive issues. So we have made a very big commitment to young voters.”
Environmental groups are also optimistic about their ability to use climate and pollution to motivate voters of color. If 2016 proves to be the coming out party for a powerful Latino voting bloc, as many pundits are …more
The collapse of Great Lakes fisheries foretells the future of our oceans
At Empire Fish in Milwaukee, you can buy a frozen octopus the size of your head — from South Africa. Red king crab legs the length of your arm — from the Bering Sea. Or as many pounds of tilapia as you can fathom — farmed in China.
But on this particular weekday in the fillet room at the market, four men are slicing along the spines of lake whitefish and walleye, native species from the Great Lakes region. These fish were caught wild in Canadian waters.
Photo by Theresa Soley
One man brings his slender blade to the fish’s head and removes it, chucking the discard into a grey garbage bin beside him. He presses his knife through flesh until it hits hard abdominal vertebra. Next the man follows the fish’s backbone with his blade past pectoral fin, then dorsal fin until meeting caudal fin: its tail.
The man tosses a one-pound chunk of meat into a silver tray with one hand, and flips what’s left of the whitefish with the other. As instinctually as a plumber tightens a washer, he carves out the fillet. After removing the meat, the only remains are spinal column to tail. The skeleton gets tossed into the garbage bin, piled high with heads, tails and bones.
Next fish. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
While lake whitefish and walleye are from the Great Lakes, local fish are a minority at the market. Empire Fish is only 10 miles from Lake Michigan, one of the world’s grandest freshwater bodies, yet its stock is mostly exotic. The United States imports 80 percent of its seafood from other countries — like octopus from South Africa.
Not all of the fish at the market was caught wild, either, as aquaculture has become a widespread phenomenon. In 2012, the United States was ranked third in overall fish farming production by country worldwide, after China and Indonesia, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has determined that Asian countries including Thailand, India, and China use unsustainable fishing and farming practices. That’s why a frozen bag of imported tilapia fillets at Empire Fish costs proportionately less than locally sourced fish.
In the Great Lakes region, fishermen are feeling the brunt of global …more
Keeping climate change in check requires a halt to new oil and gas leasing
The North Fork Valley and its surroundings — managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office — is an exceptionally beautiful place. Located on the western slope of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the valley is home to the largest concentration of organic farms in Colorado, and is renowned for its outdoor reaction. Many in the region have worked hard to transition the local economy from coal mining to more sustainable industries such as agriculture, tourism, recreation, and the arts. Now this cleaner economy is under threat.
The BLM is currently in the process of writing a new Resource Management Plan for the region. Part of this comprehensive planning process determines which of the nearly one million acres of federal mineral estate will be available for oil and gas leasing for the next 20 to 30 years.
The agency's so-called “Preferred Alternative” is essentially the status quo in which roughly 90 percent of the lands would be available for leasing by oil the and gas industry. For a region looking beyond coal for a sustainable economic and environmental future, oil and gas leasing represents a step backward — a turbulent future of booms and busts, environmental damage, and enormous impacts to those whose backyards would host this federally-determined development whether they like it or not.
Some local citizen groups have instead been advocating for something called the North Fork Alternative in which only 25 percent of the available lands would be open to leasing. Meanwhile, other local and national groups, including Earthworks, are suggesting that BLM create a new alternative in which no new leasing occurs.
The differences of these approaches is understandable. Those in favor of the North Fork Alternative — who have worked with locals on a compromise solution for years — see a realistic chance to get solid conservation gains through this alternative if they can convince BLM to favor it over the Preferred Alternative. Others like me, however, look at it through a different lens.
Recent reports have concluded, using the best available data, that the carbon contained in the world's already-developed oil, gas, and coal resources will warm the earth beyond 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels. Not including coal, just the oil …more
The 30-plus cetaceans were likely destined for captivity abroad, says marine mammal nonprofit
Evidence recently uncovered by the nonprofit International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) reveals two secret captures of more than 30 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the Solomon Islands. According to IMMP, the dolphins were driven to shore in the Western Provinces of the country in an inhumane capture process similar to the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. They were then transported by boat to shallow net pens on Bungana Island off the coast of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.
IMMP, an Earth Island Institute project that works to protect dolphins and whales, believes those behind the illegal scheme intended to export the dolphins to China or other far-flung countries for miserable lives in captivity. The nonprofit provided its investigative findings to the Solomon Islands’ government.
Fortunately, the Solomon Islands Fisheries Ministry, led by acting fisheries secretary Ferral Lasi, has taken the matter very seriously. Earlier this week, the ministry reported that the captures are in clear violation of Solomon Islands law and that the dolphins captured both in the Western Provinces and in the Bungana Island net pens have been released back into the ocean. Lasi suggested that legal action might be taken against those involved in the captures.
"The Solomon Islands Fisheries Ministry deserves great credit for upholding the ban on dolphin capture and export,” David Phillips, director of the IMMP, said today upon hearing of the releases. “The government has cracked down on this secret and illegal capture and export scheme.”
The captivity industry in wealthy nations such as Singapore and Japan is booming, creating lucrative markets for wild-caught dolphins and whales. China has made big news recently with attempts to import hundreds of marine mammals from the coastal waters of Namibia, including orcas and bottlenose dolphins, for captive display.
“Without the Solomon Islands government’s raid and intervention, more than 30 dolphins might have been loaded aboard cargo jets and flown off, likely bound for China,” Phillips said. “The journey is harrowing enough, as is the trauma of being torn from their families and ocean home. Dolphin capture and transport is cruel and, results in stress, disease and premature death.”
Police deployed pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets in 'standoff with protestors'
The US army corps of engineers ordered North Dakota police to arrest Native American protesters and destroy a bridge that activists built over a creek at the center of the increasingly tense Dakota Access pipeline demonstrations.
Photo by Sara Lefleur-Vetter
The Morton County sheriff’s office announced on Wednesday that police were in a “standoff with protesters on the banks of the Cantapeta Creek” while activists said they were engaged in a peaceful water ceremony.
Police claimed that the protesters — who have for months been attempting to block construction of the $3.8 billion oil pipeline that they say threatens sacred lands and their water supply — were trying to gain access to private property known as the Cannonball ranch. The group had built a “handmade wooden pedestrian bridge” across the creek, the sheriff said in a statement.
“Officers responded and ordered protesters to remove themselves from the bridge and notified them that if they cross the bridge they would be arrested.”
Police, who deployed pepper spray and teargas, said the activists were “violating numerous federal and state laws,” including the Clean Water Act and the Safe River and Harbors Act.
An army corps spokesman said the agency had given police permission to enter the federal property “to prevent further campsites from developing and threatening public safety.”
Protesters eventually retreated, and the sheriff’s office said late Wednesday afternoon that police had arrested one individual who was “aiding in illegal activity by purchasing canoes and kayaks to be used for crossing the waterway.”
The activist, who police did not name, was arrested for “conspiracy to commit obstruction of a government function.”
Police also admitted to using “less-than-lethal ammunition to control the situation.”
The standoff comes hours after Barack Obama said in an interview that the army corps was exploring ways to reroute the controversial pipeline project around sacred Native American lands.
Some activists said the announcement was too little too late, noting that construction of the pipeline had come very close to the Missouri river, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said could be contaminated by the project.
Danyion LeBeaux, an 18-year-old protester at the standoff, said he got hit in the ribs by some kind of rubber bullet and saw …more