Daily Archives: April 19, 2022

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Close the Deadly SSM Loopholes – Trailer

Apr 6 2022

Did you know that there are deadly loopholes in the EPA and state Clean Air Act rules? The Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction loopholes allow polluters to ignore their permitted emission limitations — and of course they take advantage of this! The consequences are even more deadly air pollution dumped on communities near plants and factories — who already suffer the greatest burden from these poisons.

Dangerous Neighbor -Trailer

Apr 19 2022

Dangerous Neighbor chronicles the powerful story of community activists in Peoria, Illinois, and how their decade-long struggle influenced a historic legal victory to retire one of the state’s worst coal plants while allocating millions of dollars back to the impacted community.

Don’t skip environmental justice in rush to build infrastructure, advocates warn

By Emma Foehringer Merchant

April 19, 2022

Gov. Charlie Baker is asking the Massachusetts Legislature to approve a $9.7 billion transportation and environmental infrastructure bond bill to help build bridges, roads and railways across the commonwealth. But some advocates worry the state is not taking the steps necessary to ensure such projects don’t do undue harm to low-income or minority communities.

A year ago, the state adopted its landmark bill to combat climate change, requiring — among other policies — the creation of an Environmental Justice Advisory Council. It was designed to advise the administration on the environmental justice impacts of its policies, including those governing large infrastructure proposals. The 2021 Climate Roadmap Law created the council specifically to help the state define the demographics of an environmental justice population: neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by environmental issues like pollution, flooding and extreme heat.

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But the council hasn’t been formed, so it can’t advise on the billions in infrastructure projects.

“What is the point of having a law, of having won this huge victory, of having a definition of environmental justice and these requirements, if they’re actually not being implemented?” said María Belén Power, the associate executive director at GreenRoots Chelsea, an environmental group that helped push the roadmap legislation forward. “The bond bill is absolutely one of those opportunities that the commonwealth has to really decide: how do we invest in environmental justice communities and ensure that we are not providing benefits to wealthier communities while putting the burdens on Black and brown communities?”

Baker’s proposed bond bill aims to leverage federal funds for large infrastructure projects like public transit. The Baker administration said the projects it’s looking to back have a particular focus on “climate change mitigation, resiliency, equity, and safety for all users.” But environmental justice advocates who helped rally support for parts of the 2021 roadmap legislation, like Belén Power, say that to follow through on that vision, the government should consult with the council on potential projects and concentrate more of those investments in areas the state defines as environmental justice communities.

“Chelsea and East Boston are surrounded by highways and tunnels and also have an incredible need for investment in public transit,” she said. “The need to ensure that the EJ council is created so that it informs these investments is absolutely critical.”

In addition to helping the state define environmental justice populations, the council is expected to advise the administration on how it considers the environmental impact to those populations in state policy decisions. The infrastructure bond bill presents an opportunity for the council’s input, particularly for portions managed by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), said Staci Rubin, the vice president of environmental justice at the Conservation Law Foundation. “It would be great for the EJ Advisory Council to be able to make some recommendations for how that money gets allocated,” she said.

Baker has made no appointments to the council, though advocates say a handful of people have been contacted about possibly joining the board. Baker’s budget requests in the last two years included no specific spending to help create the group, though for the next fiscal year he requested $332,014 for the EEA to implement its environmental justice strategy and “promote and secure environmental justice.”

…(read more).

See related:

‘My planet’s dying’: UMass students feel anxious, compelled to act on climate change

By Jeremy Siegel
Paris Alston

April 6, 2022
Morning Edition

‘My planet’s dying’: UMass students feel anxious, compelled to act on climate change

Climate change is affecting our world and our livelihoods, from rising sea levels to extreme weather events. Last month, the U.N. Science Panel on Climate Change released a dire report on the situation. Still, some experts say it’s not too late.

Juliette Rooney Varga, a professor at UMass Lowell and director of the school’s Climate Change Initiative, said the students she works with are experiencing a sinking anxiety about the state of the environment, something often referred to as climate anxiety. To better understand that, GBH’s Morning Edition hosts Jeremy Siegel and Paris Alston met up with the professor and her students to learn how the state of our planet is affecting their lives.

Libby McGrosky, a junior environmental science major, said many in her generation feel a sense of urgency to act.

“I guess you could ignore it and not care — and maybe people who [do] are probably happier and a little less burdened by it all,” she said. “But like, I’m aware of it and I want to do something about it.”

Maddy Roop is clear: She is not passionate about climate change, but it has shaped her life. The senior business major said it has changed the way she lives, and that she carries the guilt of not doing enough to help the planet.

“I hate climate change. … I don’t want to, like, literally throw my whole life away to fix this problem that is not my problem, really. But I have to,” she said. “Because what else can I do? My planet’s dying.”

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For some young adults, climate change is at the forefront of major decisions, such as their career and family. McGrosky said reports about a single person’s impact on the climate have led her to weigh what it means for people to have kids.

“And so it’s like, is it worth it or is it selfish?” she asked.

Madison Sachs, a senior environmental science major, grew up on Cape Cod. Her family still lives there. She loves the area, but she knows that climate change is already having an impact there, and it could become uninhabitable.

“I would love to live there,” she said. “Like, that’s always kind of what I envisioned. But like, realistically, it’s not smart to do that.”

Sachs said it’s important not to overly stress about environmental action. She believes an “all-or-nothing” mentality will lead to people giving up on their efforts. Her advice: Do small things here and there.

“You can’t do it all. No one can do it all. You know, we’re just one person,” she said. “And so it’s kind of just like a team effort.”

…(read more).

How the West’s obsession with fast fashion compounds an environmental nightmare in Ghana | The World from PRX

Over 30,000 people trade in used clothing at Kantamanto market, Accra, Ghana.

By Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman /The World

As the West continues to mass produce cheap clothes, a lot of it ends up barely worn, donated or in a landfill. In Ghana, the deluge of worn-out fashions has overwhelmed the West African country’s infrastructure and poses huge environmental threats to its coastlines. The World October 18, 2021 · 3:30 PM EDT

Inside the bustling Kantamanto market in Accra, Ghana, shoppers head to the largest, secondhand clothing market in Africa, teeming with thousands of people hawking their goods.

Traders conduct their business in densely packed wooden stalls bursting at their seams with large bales of used clothing — from underwear to shirts and jeans — with some items hailing from big fashion brands and designers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

he secondhand clothes industry has been thriving in many African countries including Ghana for many years. But with the boom of fast fashion — the mass manufacturing of cheap clothes — a lot of it ends up barely worn, donated or in a landfill.

…(Read more).

Only 1 in 7 households in Ghana has a toilet. Communities are fighting to ensure sanitation for all. | The World from PRX


of Ghanaians resort to open defecation due to a lack of access to clean toilets. Some young people in Ghana are leading the movement to change the narrative around this dangerous practice.

The World November 18, 2021 · 12:30 PM EST

Close to 50,000 residents live crammed within the Nima neighborhood in greater Accra, Ghana, a community of homes made of wood, concrete and rusted iron roofing sheets.

Indeed, living in Nima is a squeeze.

Here, Rose Alhassan is frying fish with her 8-year-old granddaughter, who fans the pan atop the coal pot resting on red-hot charcoal.

Alhassan’s house has nine single rooms that accommodate 32 people. Yet, this household — like many across this community — has no toilet.

“The lack of toilets in this house really worries me a lot because the closest public toilet is about [a] 10 minutes’ walk from here,” Alhassan said. “And I have rheumatism, which gets really unbearable when I walk for that long.”

She ends up having to use a plastic bag to defecate, which she then discards into an open drain.

Related: How the West’s obsession with fast fashion compounds an environmental nightmare in Ghana

About 4.2 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation worldwide, according to the United Nations. Of those, 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities and 673 million still practice open defecation, the UN said.

At least 2 billion people use drinking water contaminated with feces globally, according to the World Health Organization.

In Ghana, 1 in 5 people defecates openly, while only 1 in 7 households in the West African country have toilet facilities.

The bags not only choke gutters, but open drains also pollute the air with putrid odors.

Alhassan said this practice is widespread.

“All the houses around here don’t have toilets and so usually, when you wake up early in the morning, you will see people throwing toilets [bags] in the drain,” she said.

Ghanaian law requires landlords to provide toilets for their tenants, with associated penalties for defaulters. But over the years, authorities have been lax about effective enforcement of this law.

In Nima, public toilet conditions have deteriorated. The building has huge cracks with perforated, rusted roofing. Inside, 12 open cubicles choke with heat and the stench of a heady mix of urine, cigarette smoke and piles of feces.

Health authorities say scenes like these are often hotbeds of infections and diseases like cholera, diarrhea or typhoid.

Outside, desperate patrons in a long queue hold pieces of tissue paper and used newspapers, waiting to take their turn. They pay $0.16 for tissue paper or $0.08 for a used newspaper to access this public toilet.

Mariatu Mohammed said coming here at night is a risky affair.

“There is no toilet in my house and so, I meander through so many corners before I get here. And for a girl or woman like me, it is dangerous especially at night,” she said.

Gender activist Lilipearl Baaba Otoo is concerned about the disproportionate impact of the problem on women and girls in Ghana.

…(read more).

Ghana’s fishermen are drowning in plastic. The govt is trying to tackle pollution before it’s too late. | The World from PRX

On a hot, humid Saturday at Winneba beach, Ghanaians flock to one of the largest fish markets in Ghana’s central region. Here, fisherman Kwame Nkum is repairing a fishing net that he says was damaged after getting entangled in plastic waste.

The massive heaps of plastic trash strewn along the beach are “very disturbing,” he said, with empty bottles, grocery bags, discarded face masks and gloves everywhere.

“For some years now, whenever we cast our nets, all we catch are plastics,” Nkum said. “Sometimes, after a whole haul, you can only get a dozen fishes and the rest is just waste.”

Ghana launched a national plastic action plan a few years ago to mitigate the problem — including a push for more recycling and funding to support it — but vulnerable communities continue to bear the brunt of the damage caused by plastic pollution.

…(read more).

Senegal’s Stunning Gold Jewelry … And The Controversial Women Who Wore It | WBUR

A Senegalese woman wears clothing and gold jewelry inspired by the fashions of the country’s powerful signares — women who lived in the 18th and 19th century. The photo is featured in the exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. (Fabrice Monteiro/Mariane Ibrahim Gallery )

February 02, 2019

Imagine if we’d never heard of China’s Ming dynasty vases, Russia’s Fabergé eggs or Ghana’s Kente cloth.

Yet it so happens that Senegal boasts an artistic practice just as unparalleled — but which has largely gone unrecognized beyond its borders: For centuries goldsmiths there have been crafting some of the world’s most intricate gold jewelry.

And it’s a tradition with a fascinating history, dating to the 12th century and intimately connected to a powerful class of women whose rise in the 1700s was impressive … and morally complicated.

Now the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. is showcasing this jewelry and the history behind it in an exhibit that runs through September 29, 2019.

My first tour guide through the exhibit is the somewhat unlikely collector who largely made it possible – Marian Ashby Johnson, a retired art history professor from Provo, Utah, who donated most of the pieces on display. I spot her peering into a glass case containing an enormous necklace — three pendants of elaborately layered gold.

“I’m still admiring my own pieces of jewelry,” she says chuckling. “They bring back so many memories.”

…(read more).

400 Years After the Slave Trade Began, Tracing the Roots of Jambalaya to Jollof | Civil Eats

Ghana’s ‘Year of Return’ marked an ancestral journey on the route to self-discovery and culinary connections.

By Kayla Stewart

December 5, 2019

Civil Eats partnered with America’s Test Kitchen to develop this story, which today airs an audio version as part of their podcast, Proof from America’s Test Kitchen. Proof goes beyond recipes and cooking to solve food mysteries big and small. Listen here.

My first memories of jambalaya rice date back to my childhood. This signature Louisiana dish made appearances at my childhood home at holidays, large family events, and, occasionally, on the after-church Sunday dinner table. The juicy jumbo shrimp, peppered, earthy andouille sausage, and long grain rice, all blended with tomato paste in one pot, made a distinct, and incomparable meal; until I tried jollof rice on my first trip abroad to Ghana.

It was 2013, and I was in a quiet, unassuming restaurant in Accra. One spoonful of jollof immediately transported me back to the kitchens and restaurants of my youth. The seasoning, although different, were much like the ones my mother and aunts always use in jambalaya. The meat—goat, in this case—paralleled the seafood and andouille sausage; an example of Black people using regional ingredients to make a culinary masterpiece. What really stood out, however, was the combination of rice and tomato paste, which gave the dish a rich, red color very much like the streets of Ghana’s capital. By the end of the meal, I knew that these dishes had to be connected.


Six years later, Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo declared 2019 “The Year of Return”—a call for the descendants of those forced to migrate to the Americas (beginning in 1619) to endure several hundred years of racialized slavery to return to their homeland. So, this summer, I had the opportunity to mark the birth-right journey by returning to Ghana, both as a Black American and as a reporter.

My motivating question was, I thought, straightforward: Where does jambalaya rice come from, and can jollof rice tell us anything about its origin story

Jambalaya and Jollof: Different Yet Similar

My question wasn’t new. Academics and historians have long observed the obvious connections between the two rice dishes; not only are the ingredients similar, they’re both also cooked in a single pot. Ghanaians are eager to talk about how jambalaya, along with just about every other dish representative of African American culture, came from West Africa. And in many ways, they’re right. African American food culture—not to mention dance, art, and several of cultural rituals—embody many of the traditions and techniques used throughout West Africa. And yet, there are clear differences, many of which are reflected in jambalaya and jollof.

…(read more).