This Saturday, April 22, the world will mark Earth Day. Women and men in Washington, D.C., throughout the U.S., and around the world will take to the streets to “March for Science,” in recognition of climate science and the critical importance of governments upholding commitments to global environmental protection efforts and climate change accords. It’s an important moment to rally as leaders’ denial of climate change and science in the U.S. carries devastating implications for all of us.For women around the world, every day is Earth Day. They are fearlessly working to defend their lands. They are climate justice warriors, on the frontlines fighting for clean water, equal land rights for women, and protecting indigenous lands.In my years working with women and girls and learning from their experiences in their own communities, I know that for many women, land is intensely personal. Land is full of possibility, and it holds years of rich history.Land rights are a very personal thing: they’re often passed down by generations, most often from fathers to their sons […]
Catherine Flowers has been an environmental justice fighter for as long as she can remember. “I grew up an Alabama country girl,” she says, “so I was part of the environmental movement before I even knew what it was. The natural world was my world.”
In 2001, raw sewage leaked into the yards of poor residents in Lowndes County, Alabama, because they had no access to municipal sewer systems. Local government added insult to injury by threatening 37 families with eviction or arrest because they couldn’t afford septic systems. Flowers, who is from Lowndes County, fought back: She negotiated with state government, including then-Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, to end unfair enforcement policies, and she enlisted the Environmental Protection Agency’s help to fund septic systems. The effort earned her the nickname “The Erin Brockovich of Sewage.”
Flowers was continuing the long tradition of residents fighting for justice in Lowndes County, an epicenter for the civil rights movement. “My own parents had a rich legacy of fighting for civil rights, which to this day informs my work,” she says. “Even today, people share stories about my parents’ acts of kindness or help, and I feel it’s my duty to carry on their work.”
Years later, untreated and leaking sewage remains a persistent problem in much of Alabama. Flowers advocates for sanitation and environmental rights through the organization she founded, the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE, for short). She’s working with the EPA and other federal agencies to design affordable septic systems that will one day eliminate the developing-world conditions that Flowers calls Alabama’s “dirty secret.”
Former Vice President Al Gore counts himself as a big fan of Flowers’ work, calling her “a firm advocate for the poor, who recognizes that the climate crisis disproportionately affects the least wealthy and powerful among us.” Flowers says a soon-to-be-published study, based on evidence she helped collect, suggests that tropical parasites are emerging in Alabama due to poverty, poor sanitation, and climate change. “Our residents can have a bigger voice,” she said, “if the media began reporting how climate change is affecting people living in poor rural communities in 2017.” Assignment editors, pay attention.
Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.
In Louisiana, more than 18 percent of households didn’t have access to healthy food in 2015 (the national average is 13 percent). In urban centers like New Orleans, there isn’t enough locally grown produce to feed everyone, especially residents.
Marianne Cufone provides a fresh take on locally grown food. In 2009, she built what she describes as a “recirculating farm” on a half-acre plot in the middle of New Orleans. Using bamboo harvested from right there in Louisiana, she set up floating rafts and towers to grow plants — tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, strawberries — in closely packed, in various arrangements around hand dug, rubber-lined fish ponds. Water cycles between the pond and the plants, so nutrients from the fish waste fertilize the plants and the plants filter the water — no dirt required!
Cufone says her farming system is both cost- and energy-efficient, too. Startup costs totaled about $6,000, mostly to install the solar panels and backup batteries that allowed the farm operations to run mostly off-grid. And farms like this could work almost anywhere, she said. “You can grow vertically, in almost any design you want. It doesn’t matter if the land is rocky or paved or even contaminated.”
Cufone’s New Orleans farm initially sold $15 food boxes through a Community Supported Agriculture program and provided produce to local stores and restaurants. In 2011, Cufone started the Recirculating Farms Coalition to promote the idea and secure better policies to help them flourish. That includes pushing for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow recirculating farm produce to be certified organic.
Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.
Death Of A TemptressP.F. Ford Genre: British Detectives Publish Date: August 19, 2014 Publisher: P.F. Ford Seller: Peter F J Ford DS Dave Slater is suspended from duty. The injustice of taking the rap for a fast-track London detective’s botched investigation hits him hard. To add insult to injury, his boss hands him a closed case for a discreet re-investigation. Is this a chance to redeem himself or a way of ensuring he fails? Ruth Thornhill went missing six months ago. According to the evidence, she ran off with another man, so the Met closed the case. However, Ruth’s sister Beverley refuses to give up. And Beverley has friends in high places.  Slater’s enquiries soon find inconsistencies in the original investigation, and after a near-fatal encounter with a London bus, he realises the stakes are far higher than he imagined. Someone wants him to disappear.  An unlikely ally, in the form of fellow scapegoat DS Norman Norman, helps him uncover disturbing connections between the missing woman, a Chinese businessman, a glossy magazine, an online escort agency, a top London banker and senior officers from London’s Serious Crime Unit. The two uncover a mire of corruption, blackmail, deception and possibly the most cunning murder ever seen. The evidence stacks up against one particular suspect and Slater and Norman close in.  But as with most things in Slater’s life, nothing is ever simple. “If you like your crime with a lighter touch, Death of a Temptress is a refreshing, entertaining mix of mystery and humour that never takes itself too seriously.”  […]
The Agreement S. E. Lund Genre: Erotic Romance Publish Date: March 28, 2014 Publisher: S. E. Lund Seller: Draft2Digital, LLC Journalism graduate student Kate McDermott is a good girl who has done everything she can to please her very powerful and domineering father — a Justice on New York's Supreme Court with hopes for political office. When she decides to write an article about BDSM in popular culture, she tells herself it's just research and nothing personal for she can't afford to become the target of gossip or scandal. She hopes that the carefully worded agreement she writes up will keep her relationship with the Dominant she will interview strictly professional. Then 'Master D' – Drake Morgan – walks into the interview and Kate is mortified for not only is he gorgeous, he's the son of her father's best and oldest friend… Drake Morgan, MD, bass player, philanthropist – Dominant. Known as Master 'D' in Manhattan's BDSM Community, Drake must keep the kinky side of his life secret to protect his very successful career as a neurosurgeon. After a heartbreaking divorce, Drake doesn't do girlfriends, he doesn’t do sleepovers, and he certainly doesn't do breakfast in bed the morning after. He keeps everything in his well-ordered life separate and under his firm control. Then Kate McDermott crosses his path and screws everything up. Now, nothing is neat and tidy anymore, and no longer under control for Drake is smitten and things are going to get messy… The Agreement will stay with you long after you read the final page. 18+ only for mature content. […]
When reports detailed the Trump administration’s planned budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency leaked earlier this month, it seemed like Mustafa Ali was a marked man.
Ali, an agency vet who helped lead the EPA’s environmental justice efforts for 24 years, oversaw an office that was going to lose close to 80 percent of its funding under Trump’s plan. That proposal sent a clear signal that the Trump White House wasn’t all that interested in helping vulnerable communities living amid environmental contamination.
Within a week of the budget leak, new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had a three-page resignation letter from Ali on his desk. It was gracious in tone, encouraging Pruitt to seize his “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring people together,” and beseeched him to protect initiatives like the Collaborative Problem-Solving Model and Environmental Justice Small Grants Program that had helped more than 1,400 communities, according to Ali.
Neither Pruitt nor anyone else in the Trump administration has acknowledged his letter, says Ali. Since then, he’s taken a new role at the non-profit Hip Hop Caucus, where he’ll continue to work on environmental and economic justice, as well as voting rights, aiming to “move vulnerable communities from surviving to thriving.”
Ali spoke to Grist about the struggle for environmental justice and the effect that the Trump administration’s proposed cuts would have on veterans and young people. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Q. The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice was created during President George H.W. Bush’s administration, and you worked at the agency through three other administrations after that. During that time, did you feel like there was always progress?
A. Yes, I did. Of course some administrations are a bit more wedded to the issue, but there was always at least incremental progress, moving toward improving the public health and the environment for communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous populations.
Q. But your assessment is that environmental justice wasn’t going to be a priority any longer?
A. I was worried about being able to continue this very critical work that many leaders and lots of community folks have invested in for decades. I didn’t want to take steps backward by rolling back regulations that are necessary to protect the health, the environment, the lives of our most vulnerable communities. And that was it for me. I tried to be as patient as I could to see if we were going to prioritize the lives of these communities. And I just didn’t see it.
Q. Is the environmental justice movement only focused on communities of color?
A. There is a false narrative out there. Yes, these issues are definitely about disproportionate impacts that are happening in communities of color, but we also have strong relationships with brothers and sisters who are in Appalachia, who are in the Rust Belt, and many other places. And many low-income white communities are facing very, very similar challenges. This is a movement about people and about health. The environmental justice movement is inclusive, and it touches lots of different people.
Q. What will happen without a fully-staffed Office of Environmental Justice?
A. It means less information. Communities for years have been struggling to capture the information needed to verify and support what they’re seeing on the ground — health impacts, those types of things. Information is critical. The geographic information systems (like the EJSCREEN mapping tool) allow people to plug in their address and get a much better understanding of what contaminants are in the air or water near their community and what are some of the possible health impacts. Not having information means you’re weakening those systems and you’re weakening the ability for people to be able to protect themselves. So that’s a challenge.
Q. Who can fill that information gap going forward?
A. There are some really great organizations that have already been helping out. You have the Union of Concerned Scientists who have been doing work with some of vulnerable communities. Thriving Earth Exchange is another one. And then there are a number of colleges and universities.
Q. Are there other unforeseen consequences to the sharp budget cut the Trump administration is proposing for the EPA?
A. The EPA has been hiring a lot of veterans over recent years, because veterans get a preference for federal government jobs. So when you’re talking about cutting 3,000 jobs, or maybe 5,000 jobs, a big part of that is going to be veterans. And then some of the newer hires are young people who have done everything right. They went to school, did well, got a job. And now you’re going to cut those positions.
I always think about that quote from Dr. King, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Sometimes we don’t realize that we’re all connected. The communities I focus on, the most vulnerable communities, a number of veterans live in those communities after they come back home. And young people live in those communities. So the question to be answered is: Do you really care about these folks’ lives?
According to the cover article in today’s issue of the journal Nature, the iconic reef off the coast of Australia suffered unprecedented coral die-off after last year’s record-breaking bleaching event. Now, as the Southern Hemisphere hits late summer temperatures, central and southern sections of the reef — areas which avoided the worst of last year’s bleaching — are in trouble.
“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” coral researcher Terry Hughes told the New York Times. Hughes led the team that conducted aerial surveys to document the bleaching last year, as well as subsequent surveys to assess just how much of that bleaching turned into dying.
Bleached corals don’t always turn into dead corals — some are able to recover when temperatures drop. Er, if temperatures drop. If water temperatures stay high and corals stay bleached, they will eventually starve to death. Without coral building reefs, whole ecosystems may disappear, along with the food, tourism, and jobs they support.
Hughes and his coauthors found that even corals in pristine, protected water were likely to be suffering from heat stress, meaning the only thing left to do to protect corals is, you know, address climate change.