ASTONISHED

EJCC led and organized the dynamic Youth Track at WeAct's ACJ Conference in January.

Ezra Small writes from WeAct’s Advancing Climate Justice Conference:

I was astonished on February 1, when I read in The Week that a new Pew Research Center poll found that out of 20 issues Americans say should be their elected leaders’ top concern, global warming ranks last.

I just returned home from a two day conference in New York City, called “Advancing Climate Justice” sponsored by WE ACT. Throughout the two days I repeatedly heard the alarming figures from elected officials, human health experts, social science professors, and community organizers, that if we don’t take drastic actions on global warming over the next 5 years, humans, especially the low income, communities of color, and indigenous people of the US and the world will disproportionately and unfairly be faced with massive humanitarian, health, and environmental crises.

The poll found that among the other issues that ranked higher than climate change were the economy, terrorism, energy, and immigration. The irony of this is that these apparently more stressing issues are either directly related to global warming, or will be strongly exacerbated by global warming! Americans clearly need to more aware about the following items brought up at the conference.

In the Appalachians, over 3.5 million pounds of explosives are used daily to blow up what used to be 450 mountains, and over 1,000 miles of rivers have been filled in due to the destructive process of mountain top removal for coal, which accounts for nearly half of our nation’s electricity generation. These poor, rural communities have the highest rates of cancer in the country. In Chicago, black and Latino neighborhoods that are situated under smoke stacks, under highways, and near barges that carry in coal ash, have some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. All the while, burning coal accounts for more global warming pollution than burning oil and gas combined, and we see “King Coal,” the largest coal companies barrage us everyday with “Clean Coal” commercials and billboards. Clean coal is a dirty lie!

I heard a presentation from a NASA scientist about how the United States is and will begin to see higher temperatures, more frequent and intense rain fall, more intense droughts, and mounting impacts on water and food availability, human health, more lack of human mobility, and higher sea levels. Who will be impacted? It’s the low income, people of color, in dense populations in our American cities, and primarily in countries in the southern Hemisphere who lack the resiliency resources, the transportation, the access to knowledge and information, proper health care, and are ultimately more vulnerable than anyone else. The towns of Brownsville, Texas and its sister city of Matomoros on the US/Mexican border has had recent outbreaks of a tropical disease called Dengue Fever now spreading faster with global warming. However the Mexican town Matamoros has 5 times more cases than Brownsville. If you think immigration is a problem now, just wait until billions of people have to migrate to where there is more water or less disease.

You think we are in an economic crisis now? If carbon emissions in the developing world don’t peak in the next 5 years and we don’t bring the global atmospheric concentrations back down to 350 parts per million of CO2, our chance of stabilizing ice melt, encroaching desserts, and disastrous storms, could become an impossibility. Because we did not act over the last 25 or 30 years, this global emergency mobilization to mitigate and adapt to climate change is now upon us. Mitigation and adaptation measures are going to cost trillions of dollars. Who can afford that? It is our responsibility and obligation to the rest of the world to pay for this because not only do we do the polluting but we also have the distributed income and capacity to go “green” more than India and China or any other nation in the world.

At the conference I spent two afternoons of workshops with the young people who were attending the conference. We were brought together by members of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative (EJCC) and asked to discuss where and how the Youth Movement can lead the way in the greater environmental justice movement. This was the highlight of the two days among all of the dreary stories and reports of the state of our communities and our world, this classroom was filled with the young leaders who have the energy that we need right now. A group of about 20 college students, campus organizers, and young professionals discussed what we can do to make the planet and our local communities look like what we want them to look like. I wonder if these people were polled by the Pew Research Center.

There are amazing leaders in every city and town and reservation in our country doing the work to organize their communities around these issues, and you can be one of those people too. The last weekend in February, Power Shift ’09 will bring together over 10,000 young people for a weekend of training and the biggest youth lobbying day in history. Go to http://www.powershift09.org for more info. On March 2nd, there will be a mass civil disobedience action at a coal plant inside Washington DC. Go to http://www.capitolclimateaction.com for more info.

Ezra Small is the Project Organizer for the Climate Crisis Coalition.

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STUFF!

Check out this interesting video about consumerism and its social and environmental costs. It’s a little kitschy but there’s some good info that might make you think…

Click here to watch the Story of Stuff in its entirety.

Is Environmental Injustice a Myth?

By Ariana de Leña

According to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger’s newest book, it is. The book, entitled Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility is a take-off from Norhaus and Shellenberger’s 2004 essay which criticized environmentalists for offering solutions that were too narrow and disconnecting people from environmental issues. This time around, Norhaus and Shellenberger take aim at the Environmental Justice movement, arguing the EJ activists are seeing “conspiracies that don’t exist” [pg. 72]. The EJ movement, which they say is “complaint-based,” [pg. 68]  is also weak and disjointed, without a single “compelling agenda” [pg. 82].

Though Nordhaus and Shellenberger, who won Time’s Heroes of the Environment award in 2008, advocate for a greater government investment in renewable energy, it’s hard to overlook these critiques of a movement which they seem to know very little about.

DACCA BOOTS

…green fashion done not-so-cheesy. check these fly recycled plastic boots from a Chilean industrialdesign student, Camila Labra…

only $45 a pair

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These boots are the work of Chilean industrial design student Camila Labra, and made mostly of recycled plastic bags. The boots are built by fusing layers of plastic polyethylene bags together to create a thicker and more resistant material to work with. Their interior is covered with quilted piqué cotton fabric to make them more comfortable and prevent overheating. According to the designer, the boots are impermeable, flexible, light and non toxic.

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The line of boots is named Dacca (aka Dhaka) after Bangladesh’s capital, one of the most polluted with plastic bags in the world (the bags were banned in the city in 2002).

Made after special orders, the boots are sold for 22,000 Chilean Pesos (45 USD).

http://botasdacca.blogspot.com/

camilalabra@gmail.com

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Biking For Obama

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By Ariana de Leña

On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, while bundled tourists and busloads of high school students patiently waited to take their picture in front of the Jefferson Memorial, 22-year-old Ryan Bowen rolled into Washington D.C. with bicycle posse in tow. Looking at Ryan and his crew of wheel-equipped, smiling faces, you would never guess that he had been on that very bike for the previous 47 days. In fact, Ryan had been on that bike since Los Angeles, where his long pilgrimage across the country began.

On December 2, 2008, Ryan departed Los Angeles from Occidental College, his (and Barack Obama’s) Alma Mater. Since then, he has been pedaling across the southern United States trying to avoid mountains and cold weather, taking a sharp left somewhere in Florida. While  friends and fellow cyclists joined Ryan along the way, much of the trip was done solo, camping out in his tent or spending the night in the homes of supporters. While the ride was most literally about cycling, on his website Ryan blogged about the symbolic importance of the ride. Despite the pitfalls and bodily anguish of biking across this expansive nation, he encountered many forms of hope, kindness, generosity (and once even the hard side of a jeep! Ouch).

Ryan was met in D.C. by an enthused Senator Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who offered him the inaugural ticket his legs well-deserved. Blumenauer, who came on bike, espoused the benefits of cycling, both for your body and for the environment, praising Ryan for his courage and innovation. Trekking from West Coast to East, Ryan proved that “Change You Can Believe In” can start with something as simple as two legs and a bike.

Another step

Good news for the EJ community!  A step forward is finally being taken by public health and environmental groups against the EPA to force our government to protect the health of our communities and environment:

Washington, DC – Today, a coalition of public health and environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court here, seeking a firm and enforceable new deadline for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require deep reductions in mercury and other toxic air pollutants emitted from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Power plants are the nation’s largest unregulated source of mercury pollution, and also emit enormous quantities of lead, arsenic and other hazardous chemicals. If successful, the lawsuit would end six years of delay by the Bush administration.”

Click here to read more.

One Franklin for One Human.

A recent article from Foreign Policy states: “There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history.” Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has become the slave trading capital of the world.  According to the CIA’s World Factbook, 80% of Haiti’s population lives under the poverty line, and 54% in abject poverty.   Furthermore: “Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country’s widespread deforestation.”  Only 28.11% of the land is arable, with only 11.53% of it being permanent crops.  Furthermore, Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and is subject to severe storms, occasional flooding, earthquakes, and periodic droughts.

The implications of what Global Warming would have on the country as far as natural disasters go are obvious:  increased frequency of hurricanes will ravage the land, and droughts will destroy what little crops the country has now.  Although, what are the social implications that Global Warming will have on the people of Haiti and other third world countries already facing strain on their natural resources?  Already, human trafficking proves to be popular among poor nations and is a plausible effect of natural resource strain brought on by global warming.