Tag Archive | Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice After Charlottesville, VA

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Governor Syder’s Environmental Justice Working Group is accepting comments and questions.  Emails can be sent to EnvironmentalJusticeWorkGroup@michigan.gov 

Reposted from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

Michigan, Open Your Eyes to Racism

The gruesome violence that erupted in Virginia last week was a terrible reminder of the stark reality of racism in the United States. It’s a hatred imbalance of power wrought from the treacherous past. The explosive clashes, tragically resulted in the death of a young woman Heather Heyer. In her obituary, published by the New York Times, they describes Heather as a young passionate woman who died standing up for what she believed in: love and equality.

Equality. This is a notion that the Alt Right explicitly denounces. It’s a notion rejected by Vanguard, the group James Alex Fields Jr.—the man charged for striking 19 and killing Heather Heyer with a Charger– reportedly marched with in the Charlottesville rallies. Although the group denounced his actions, and deny his membership, Vanguard’s ruthless intentions were laid bare for the nation to see– a vision of the United States fortified by hatred. Their manifesto details “that equality does not exist in nature, and a government based in the natural law must not cater to the false notions of equality.” It rails multiculturalism, “international Jews”, and sees men as the sole provider for women.

In Environmental Justice work, we fight every day for equality. It is not just a concept, rather it is a moral imperative, that has far ranging impacts even down to the molecules of the air that we breathe. Equality decides who has the right to live, and for how long. Whether we are talking about losing your home in the foreclosure crisis[i], the per pupil amount distributed to students[ii], health disparities[iii], the amount ofchemical pollution we breathe[iv] [to name a few], all are injustices, and, none of them are distributed equally in our society. Rather, each of these issues are racialized. That is, if you are a person of color, you are statistically more likely in every category to be on the losing end. And that is so true for Michigan.

In the case of Flint, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights found that the underlying issues of racism contributed to the water contamination crisis in Flint. MDCR, publicly stated, “a complex mix of historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias led to decisions, actions, and consequences in Flint would not have been allowed to happen in primarily white communities such as Birmingham, Ann Arbor, or East Grand Rapids.”

In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis the Governor of Michigan formed the Environmental Justice Working Group to explore possible solutions to help forestall or foresee other catastrophes. Residents from SW Detroit zip code 48217 – known as Michigan’s most polluted zip code—organized and hosted a listening session for working group members to hear local concerns. Local residents asked for so many things, from an EJ Office, to more pollution mitigation funding. But none more poignant that the local nurse, pleading nearly in tears on behalf of the asthmatic teenagers who visit her River Rouge clinic, “they want to breathe, they want to breathe”.  Detroit has three times the asthma rate than the rest of the state.

So, is our society equal? No. We have proven that over and over in every sector from here to the moon. The conversation that is present now is whether or not you believe it. Are you of the ilk of Vanguard, James Fields and the Alt Right which seeks to deny it? Or do you deeply and profoundly agree in equality, what Heather Heyer was marching for? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

The full report on the Detroit Opportunity Index, and other major cities, can be seen on the Kirwin Institute website of Ohio State University

Michelle Martinez is the Coordinator for theMichigan Environmental Justice Coalition, and the Executive Director of Third Horizon Consulting, a Detroit-based social justice consulting firm.

State of MichiganEnvironmental Justice Working Group Northern Michigan Listening Session Thursday, August 24th, 2017, 6:00 PM Reception, 6:30 – 8:30 PM Listening Session, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, 100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd, Acme, MI 49610, State of Michigan Working Group Website

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Staggering Amount of Chemicals Entering Great Lakes—Do You Buy Products that Threaten Drinking Water?

This article by the Alliance for the Great Lakes is re-posted from Ecowatch via http://www.griid.org.

The Great Lakes are home to 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater and, increasingly, host to a worrisome class of chemical compounds known as contaminants of emerging concern.

Often originating from everyday products ranging from shampoos and pharmaceuticals to textiles and home furnishings, as well as from common agricultural practices around the Midwest, these compounds can have impacts on people and wildlife that are far from benign and are raising concerns about their effects on the body’s endocrine system—the driver of key functions such as growth and development, metabolism and reproduction.

report released today by the Alliance for the Great Lakes notes that since the production of synthetic chemicals took off after World War II, the waters of Lake Michigan—which take a century to refresh—have yet to see a completeturnover.

Halfway through this cycle, scientists are beginning to see alarming trends of an increasing multitude of chemicals found in thewater. In southern Lake Michigan, one of the most urbanized and industrialized areas in the Great Lakes Basin and home to approximately a third of the Great Lakes population, these contaminants are a steady source of chemical exposure for aquatic species, and affect the quality of the waters we rely upon for drinking and look to for recreation.

“The number of chemicals entering the nation’s environment each year is staggering, as is the potential for them to degrade the water we drink and swim in,” says Alliance President and CEO Joel Brammeier. Upwards of 85,000 chemicals are in production and use in the U.S. today—more than 2,200 of them produced at a rate of 1 million-plus pounds a year. Beyond this, consumers can choose from more than 50,000 pharmaceutical products, and nearly 20,000 registered pesticide products have entered the market since registration began in 1947.

The report applies a published, peer-reviewed scientific framework to rank chemicals of highest concern found in national waters that are representative of those found in the Great Lakes. The methodology examines both surface water and treated drinking water—identifying the top 20 emerging contaminants for each based on occurrence, ecologic and human health impacts, and water treatment capabilities. The top-ranking chemicals include representatives from a broad range of categories: hormones, synthetic musks, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, antimicrobials and preservatives, UV blockers, plasticizers, flame retardants and pesticides.

As the chemical presence around us expands, the potential for them to end up in the Great Lakes also grows—arriving there via atmospheric deposition, stormwater runoff and sewage overflows. Others are released into the Great Lakes at trace concentrations via treated wastewater discharges because conventional sewage treatment isn’t designed to remove them.

Lake Michigan’s surface waters are affected, with six of the top 20 chemicals detected—among them flame retardants, synthetic fragrances, bisphenol A (BPA), and a popular cholesterol-lowering drug—found in the open lake waters. Current data shows that, after processing in a treatment plant, drinking water drawn from Lake Michigan may not be significantly burdened with contaminants, with only one chemical—a flame retardant—detected of the top 20 identified in the report. The report cautions that the data collected thus far provides only a snapshot of what might be in the open waters of the Great Lakes, however, and doesn’t take into account the health risks that bioaccumulating chemicals in the water pose to people who eat Great Lakes fish. Also not known is the level of risk these trace levels of contaminants in the water actually pose for people and wildlife.

“With hundreds of mostly unregulated compounds detected in Great Lakes surface waters today, it’s critical to start identifying now those chemicals that pose the greatest threat to the health of the lakes, the wildlife and the 40 million people who depend on them for drinking water,” says Olga Lyandres, Alliance research manager and author of the report.

Some municipalities and public utilities already monitor or study emerging contaminants, among them Chicago, Milwaukee and the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency—which supplies drinking water to Lake Michigan communities in northern Illinois. But many smaller communities, such as Gary, Ind. and Racine, Wis., don’t monitor for them because of the absence of clear guidance on how to do so.

Although water treatment plays a key role in removing contaminants, the report emphasizes that water and wastewater utilities are not solely responsible for preventing and controlling contaminants in Great Lakes water. To that end, it calls for a comprehensive approach that involves not only technological solutions, but collaboration among utilities, regulatory agencies, public health officials, manufacturers and environmentalists to focus on pollution prevention.

“Together these entities must work to encourage policy, social and behavioral changes that propel businesses to evaluate chemicals before they enter the marketplace, and individuals to reduce their use of chemicals—thereby lessening the risks associated with the chemicals’ eventual release into the environment,” the report states. The report further calls for:

  • Funding development of consistent, uniform regional monitoring standards.
  • Encouraging the U.S. and Canada to draw on credible prioritization methods to set binational objectives for controlling high-priority Great Lakes contaminants, and to pursue these goals through domestic policy reforms.
  • Reforming the 36-year-old federal Toxic Substances Control Act to feature a framework that places pollution prevention at the forefront of new chemical design and production.

 

Free webinar explores neurodevelopmental effects of chemical exposures in children

On March 14, a free webinar, “Neurodevelopmental outcomes in children associated with chemical exposures occurring early in life” will be presented by  Amir Miodovnick, MD, MPH, DTM&H (Pediatric Environmental Medicine, The Mount Sinai School of Medicine). The webinar takes place from 3-4PM EST.

OKT’s collaborative partner Dr. Clinton Boyd  serves as the technical director for this effort which is a part of the state-funded Michigan Green Chemistry Clearinghouse. “As part of the Clearinghouse’s mission, we are trying to bring information on green chemistry to multiple audiences including: education sector, industry, government, not-for-profits and the public.” Boyd says.

If there is interest, OKT is considering setting up a venue where attendees could gather and listen. For information and registration (after March 1), visit  www.migreenchemistry.org.

Our Kitchen Table receives grant to expand local food security projects

article pulled from: http://griid.org/2011/01/19/our-kitchen-table-receives-grant-to-expand-local-food-security-projects/

JANUARY 19, 2011

by stelleslootmaker

A local grass roots nonprofit working for environmental justice and urban food security, Our Kitchen Table (OKT) has received a $360,000 grant “to strengthen the capacity of southeast urban neighborhood residents in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to address food and environmental health disparities impacting vulnerable children, families, and individuals by creating resident owned gardens and managed Healthy Food Demonstration Sites.” The grant will extend over a three-year period with the goal of neighborhood residents taking over the work for themselves. 

OKT has been addressing environmental justice and food security issues in the Grand Rapids area for the past several years. The grant will expand their

Urban gardeners learn about compost at one of OKT’s “Steps to Growing Healthy Urban Food Gardens” workshops last summer. 

programs to many more area residents with the hope of making a real and lasting impact on people’s health in Grand Rapids’ urban neighborhoods.

OKT’s objectives for the grant funded project include planting and maintaining 100 neighborhood-based food gardens. OKT focuses on helping individuals and families plant those gardens in their own spaces. Education and training components will teach adults and children how healthy foods help manage both diet related illnesses (diabetes, heart disease and obesity) and environmental health issues (asthma and lead poisoning).

Twenty trained community Urban Fellows/Peer Educators will teach even more community members about food self-reliance, food security and having access to a nutritional neighborhood-based food system. Other objectives include establishing resident owned and managed Healthy Food demonstration sites and training both adults and children how to safely address environmental hazards associated with food gardening.

The project will focus on four Grand Rapids neighborhoods: Eastown, Baxter, SECA and Garfield Park. These neighborhoods have been identified as being at highest risk for food insecurity as well as environmental health issues, including lead poisoning.

In 2010, OKT offered the Grand Rapids community many educational and gardening opportunities including a food summit, food garden walking and bicycle tours and a series on healthy urban food gardening.

Anyone interested in starting a food garden or engaging with the program can contact Lisa Oliver King for more information at lisak1@aol.com.

article pulled from: http://griid.org/2011/01/19/our-kitchen-table-receives-grant-to-expand-local-food-security-projects/