Living Downstream

occupy richmond 4 20 2012 dan arauz flickrIn this podcast, “Smackdown: City Hall vs. Big Oil,” you heard about the struggle between the citizens of Richmond, Calif. fighting oil giant Chevron over control of city hall. For further information about refinery towns, organizations fighting oil refineries, cities part of the national movement to combat climate change and other aspects discussed in this podcast, we have provided additional links to articles, statistics and maps. 

[Image: Community demonstrates against Chevron, April 20, 2012. Credit: Daniel Arauz, Flickr]

Richmond, unique in its successful removal of Chevron from city hall, is not the only city in California living in the shadow of Chevron. What other towns in the U.S. encounter the same issues as Richmond? Are they all, like Richmond, low income communities of color? (The University of Michigan provides a chart of the ethnic composition of Richmond) The LA Times journalist Robin Abcarian writes about another town, El Segundo, dominated by a massive Chevron refinery. Unlike Richmond, El Segundo is not a predominantly African American community. El Segundo, Chevron’s second refinery after Richmond, whose refinery is known as El Primero, has a primarily white population. Abcarian discusses the creation of the city of El Segundo, the effect of the Chevron refinery on the citizens’ lifestyles and the locals’ pride of El Segundo, despite the stench. 

Nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice provides a map of the refineries in the U.S. with details about each refinery. Earthjustice aims to get oil refineries to clean up the pollution that they create. 

Other organizations and environmental activists such as 350 Bay Area and Chevron Watch also monitor the effects of refineries and combat the environmental and health threats posed by these refineries. 

Richmond is commonly known as the asthma capital of the country. In this podcast, Andrés mentioned how asthma clubs are being created at schools instead of book clubs. Danielle Parenteau, writing for Richmond Confidential, delves into the role of Chevron in Richmond and how the high asthma rates cannot be directly attributed to the oil refinery, despite overwhelming evidence. Parenteau writes about the role of Chevron in Richmond as the biggest property tax payer, highest employer and a large contributor to charities, and how it will not admit to contributing to the high asthma rates. 

Near the end of the podcast, reporter Claire Schoen mentions how Richmond is part of a national movement of cities and counties who are stepping up to the climate challenge. 400 U.S. cities have committed to uphold the Paris Agreement by retrofitting buildings to make them energy efficient or installing LED street lights. Although President Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, Global Climate Action Summit co-chairs former Governor Jerry Brown and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg created America’s Pledge. In this pledge, states, cities, businesses and universities declare support for the Paris Agreement and aim for greenhouse gas reduction targets. 

A quick guide to the resources listed on this page:

Mac Shaffer PCB Story Photos 0146

In this podcast, “Living Downstream Visits the Birthplace of Environmental Justice,” you heard about the intersection of environmentalism and social justice when a grassroots coalition formed to resist the decision in 1978 by the state of North Carolina. Their plan to dump toxic materials in Warren County was not erased, but was significantly scaled back because of neighbors’ activism. 

For listeners who want to know more about global instances of environmental justice, the trend in waste site locations, environmental racism, the organization Working Landscapes and other subjects discussed in this podcast, we provide additional links below. 

[Image: Anti-PCB demonstration 1982. Credit: Mac Shaffer]

Environmental Justice, a project funded by the European Union, maps global environmental justice conflicts and provides scientific papers based on the Environmental Justice Atlas, a database maintained by the project. EJAtlas is an interactive map of 2,816 reported cases of environmental justice conflicts around the world. This database was created as a resource for teaching, networking and advocacy. This map includes the PCB contamination in Warren County as one of its locations.

A private company dumped its waste Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Warren County. But what are PCBs? What are the adverse health effects of PCBs? Journalist Joe O’Connell says by the late 1970s, the darker side of PCBs was revealed. Researchers linked PCBs to a slew of negative health effects and the EPA banned their production altogether. The EPA provides information about PCBs including what they are, how they’re used and what their health effects are.

This podcast emphasizes the increase in environmental consciousness following the Warren County environmental justice movement. However, another major point is the centuries long history of exploitation in this wealthy county built on the backs of slaves. It is no coincidence that Afton, a small, rural African American community in Warren County, was chosen as a waste disposal location. In fact, researchers at the University of Michigan have found that income and race are major factors in choosing hazardous waste sites. The Nation also discusses environmental racism, providing a graphic and discussing this trend in the context of Flint’s water crisis. 

Growing gardens that are accessible to low-income families, Working Landscapes brings social equity to Warren County. The nonprofit organization uses farming to boost the county’s economy and keep the people and the environment healthy. Read more about how Working Landscapes works to rebuild a food system in the birthplace of environmental justice.

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Uranium mine signIn this podcast, “Uranium: A Toxic Legacy at Red Water Pond Road,” you heard about mines and mills located in remote and impoverished places, where the people do not have political and economic clout to prevent mining companies from polluting or to get the resulting contamination removed. You also heard about the Red Water Pond Road Community, contaminated by two abandoned uranium mines and the largest radioactive waste accident in U.S. history. If you’re interested in reading more about the history, culture and language of the Navajo Nation, health effects of uranium, the Church Rock Tailings Spill of 1979 and other issues discussed in this podcast, we have included additional resources on this page. 

The Navajo Nation faces toxic contamination and its community bears the resulting health risks, but during World War II, Navajo Code Talkers created codes to help the U.S. covertly communicate. The official site of the Navajo Nation provides a map of Navajoland, discusses the formation of the Navajo Nation government and elaborates on the Navajo Code Talkers and the Navajo flag. 

This podcast also mentions aspects of Navajo culture including the tradition of burying umbilical cords. PBS introduces Navajo spiritual leader Hoskie Benally and explains the Navajo sacred relationship to the land that begins with umbilical cord burial. You can also listen to or read “The Five Sacred Medicines” story about Navajo spirituality and cultural ceremonies. 

Want to know more about the Church Rock Tailings Spill of 1979, known as the largest radioactive waste accident in U.S. history? The Office of the State Historian in New Mexico provides an article discussing the tailings spill, the subsequent environmental disaster, human health risks and disputes over continued uranium mining in the area. 

What are the health effects of uranium? The EPA provides a graphic of the chemical and radiation effects of uranium on the human body and discusses how Navajo people may come in contact with uranium. The EPA also provides a brief background on how uranium came to Navajo lands, and a five-year plan to clean up uranium in the area. 

Reveal News writes about the impact of uranium on people living in the Navajo Nation such as Angie Hood and her family. However, budget reductions at the EPA have made it difficult for uranium mines to be cleaned up, leaving nearby families vulnerable.

Although budget cuts slow the EPA’s cleanup plan, grassroots organization Red Water Pond Road Community Association also aims to restore the uranium-contaminated land and water in Navajo Nation. Read more about nonprofit RWPRCA and other alliance groups in the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment. Among these alliance groups are other grassroots efforts to oppose uranium mining and development. 

A quick guide to the resources listed on this page:

stay out waste resizeIn this podcast, “Trailer Park Activists of Coachella Valley Fight for Health,” you heard about the plight of Eastern Coachella Valley trailer park residents who face health issues because they live close to pesticide-laden fields and illegal dumps, live in overcrowded mobile home parks and a lack of access to safe drinking water, electricity, proper sanitation and green spaces. 

However, rising education rates and promotores (community-based health activists and educators) bring hope to this region. In addition, organizations like Pueblo Unido work to build sustainable communities in the Eastern Coachella Valley. For more information about the demographics in Coachella Valley, the studies conducted by California institutions, promotores and Pueblo Unido, we have provided additional links below. 

[Image: A hand-written sign warns Duroville mobile home park residents in Thermal, California, to stay away from a waste pond on the neighboring property. (Credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra, 2010)]

In this podcast, journalist Ruxandra Guidi says researchers found that income inequality has everything to do with the fact that migrant populations typically face extreme levels of environmental hazards. But what are the disparities in poverty rates in Coachella Valley between different races and ethnicities? How much of Coachella Valley is made up of migrants? The population of Coachella is 97.6% Hispanic or Latino, with 39.3% of its residents born outside of the country, according to Data USA, a database of public U.S. government data displayed comprehensively through charts and statistics. Data USA also breaks down many other statistics about the economy, health, diversity, education, housing and living in Coachella. 

Journalist Ruxandra Guidi also writes more about specific promotores in Eastern Coachella Valley, like Griselda Barrera and Eduardo Guevara, and the work of Pueblo Unido in Eastern Coachella Valley for High Country News. 

Pueblo Unido, the organization in Eastern Coachella Valley creating a healthier and more sustainable model for a mobile park community, has several projects underway including its Rural Infrastructure Program, Rural Habitat initiative, CDC Community Driven Model and more which the organization discusses in depth on its website. 

Promotores help their communities as community organizers, doctors and nurses, advising on ways to improve the system and helping researchers assess the quality of life. However, promotores are not only making a difference in Eastern Coachella Valley. The Center for Well-Being in Santa Rosa, Calif. also created a program built around Promotores de Salud to foster community leaders who will encourage healthier environments in local communities. In addition, Planned Parenthood created its own Promotores de Salud programs in Los Angeles, supporting its Latino community. 

In this podcast, Guidi says more and more young people who grew up in the mobile home parks of Eastern Coachella Valley are going to college. Desert Sun provides an article discussing the correlation between education and the economy and the efforts of Coachella districts to support students’ learning. According to the article, Coachella has seen increased education levels with 32 percent of students graduating from high school in 2000 compared to nearly half of students graduating from high school in 2014. 

University of California, Davis is one of several institutions creating ongoing assessments of the local quality of life in Eastern Coachella Valley. The UC Davis Center for Regional Change provides a summary of their study about the environmental hazards in Eastern Coachella Valley as well as the full report of its findings. 


A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

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