A new book from a University of Michigan professor explores how the centuries-old connections between racism and the environment in American cities.
"The Environment and the People in American Cities, 1600s-1900s: Disorder, Inequality, and Social Change" was written by Dorceta Taylor, left, a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and director of an institute studying the issue of environmental justice its modern context. Duke University Press plans to release the book this month.
"The Environment and the People in American Cities" provides a sweeping and detailed examination of the evolution of American cities from Colonial New York and Boston to recent urban planning and labor reform efforts, outlining the rise of problems like overcrowding, pollution, poverty and epidemics and connecting them to systemic environmental racism and other forms of environmental inequities.
In its coverage of race, class and gender inequalities, the book includes a dimension missing from other academic books on environmental history. Professor Taylor adds to current research on the subject by exploring the emergence of elite reformers, the framing of environmental problems and the responses to perceived breakdowns in social order. By focusing specifically on cities, she offers important clues to understanding the evolution of American environmental activism.
Beyond the contribution to historical literature on the subject, Professor Taylor connects her findings to current issues in environmental policy. The book grew out of an undergraduate class on environmental politics Professor Taylor taught more than a decade ago. After finding no books or articles examining race, class or gender and the environment in a historical context, she decided to write her own. The project eventually grew into two books.
While all-male expeditions and solitary males who retreat to the woods for months or years at a time are idealized in many environmental history accounts, the urban activists receive no such acclaim or glory," she said, noting that female, working class and ethnic minorities were active in environmental activism and affairs. "In the city, the classes, races and genders interacted with each other to create a kind of environmentalism that was very fluid and dynamic.
Throughout her analysis, she connects social and environmental conflicts of the past to those of the present. She describes the displacement of people of color for the production of natural open space for the white and wealthy; the close proximity between garbage and communities of color in early America; the "cozy" relationship between middle-class environmentalists and the business community; and resistance to environmental inequalities from residents of marginal communities.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Will the millions of green and clean energy jobs being promised reach the black community? And the answer to that question is, “Yes – they have and they will.”
One of my African American colleagues told me about how, every year as winter was coming, his grandmother would get up on a chair and put up plastic sheeting over the windows.
She didn’t say she was “greening her home.”
She didn’t say she was “weatherizing the house.”
She didn’t call herself an “environmentalist.”
From her perspective, she was just keeping out the cold and saving money on the oil bill. But the issues that we label “environmentalism” were an important part of her life. This disconnect is a significant challenge. But it’s also one of our greatest opportunities.
Today, the inauguration of the first African American president, and my confirmation as the first African American Administrator of this Agency, has begun the process of changing the face of environmentalism in our country.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Aug. 6, 2009
"20 Years After Death, Let’s Remember Leland’s Legacy"
Twenty years ago our city, our nation and much of the world waited for word on the fate of the missing delegation led by Congressman Mickey Leland. The delegation was on the way to oversee the delivery and distribution of essential supplies to famine-stricken Ethiopia. After an international search effort, we learned that his plane had crashed, killing the congressman, congressional staff members, USAID staff and American and Ethiopian supporters.
Today, as he is missed and remembered, many of his passions and causes live on.
Although he loved Houston, Leland's efforts, vision and the size of his heart could not be confined to the boundaries of his congressional district or this nation. Leland understood that the struggle for basic human rights — food, clothing, shelter and health care — was necessarily a global one. Leland dedicated his life to giving back; championing the causes of the poor and disempowered.
As an activist, long before he ran for elected office, Leland set up free health clinics in areas of Houston where residents previously had little to no access to health care. He continued the fight in the Texas Legislature and in Washington for those less privileged, on issues such as alleviating hunger and poverty, protecting civil rights and expanding access to health care. We are still fighting all these battles today
One of the issues most associated with Leland is the often neglected issue of hunger. He pushed for the creation of, and eventually chaired, the Select Committee on Hunger in Congress. But he always linked hunger and health care as basic human rights.
He passed a bill in the Texas House to give access to generic drugs to low-income people. He fought for universal access to health care before most considered it a serious possibility. And now, as President Obama has put health care reform on the top of his legislative agenda, there is the possibility to achieve one of Leland's greatest goals: universal health coverage.
Nobody should be forced to make the difficult choice of paying bills or taking a sick child to the doctor. And yet one in four Texans — Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation — must routinely make that choice. Leland desperately wanted us to understand that in a nation of abundance, people should not be turned away from medical treatment simply because they are less privileged. He fought until the end, against incredible odds, because he believed that working together for a just cause, we can all make a difference. His untimely death robbed us of a friend and champion, but his purpose and legacy endure.
As we commemorate Leland's life on the 20th anniversary of his passing, let us rededicate ourselves to the values of compassion, courage, and advocacy that he exemplified. Let us resolve that we will push for a health care system that provides quality and affordable health care to all Americans.
We can think of no better way to honor Leland's life and legacy.
Alison Leland is a professor of political science at the University of Houston and widow of former Congressman Mickey Leland. Ellis, a Democrat, represents Senate District 13 in Houston and served as Leland's chief of staff. (Houston Chronicle, 9/8/09, Photo Courtesy Houston Chronicle)
Note: AAEA President Norris McDonald organized the first Energy Braintrust for the Congressional Black Caucus on behalf of the late Congressman Mickey Leland in 1982. Photo below.
Friday, June 26, 2009
- An extra 15 minutes added to a break or lunch hour
- A pass to wear jeans on a day other than Friday
- Create a badge or "energy star" that can be worn by the "top sustainer" for a day
Other ideas that may not be as cost-effective, but still reasonable, include:
- A pair of free movie passes
- Lunch on the company
- A paid day off
Regardless, the participation of each employee will not only mean success for your program, but a huge difference in the amount of waste that is hauled to our landfills.
- Clear and colored bottles, jars and other glass
- Rinse and throw away caps
- Clean cans, foil and pie plates
- DO NOT recycle aerosol cans or scrap metal
- Throw away caps and recycle bottles and containers
- Plates and utensils
- Bags and liners
- DO NOT recycle wax or plastic-coated materials
- Cups and plates
- Drawings and plots
- Junk mail, catalogs and magazines
- Office paper
- Newspaper and inserts
Other things you can do to reuse, recycle and reduce:
- Turn off overhead lights and use lighting on your desk
- Use computers, monitors, printers, fax machines and copiers that are labeled Energy Star
- Turn off the lights when you leave the office
- Shut down your PC and printers when you leave the office
- Minimize the number of documents you print
- Edit drafts on-screen instead of printing multiple drafts
- Ask customers if they want a receipt (tools like Mint.com track and keep accurate records of spending)
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Thinking green has spread a new leaf. While in the early stages of green living, eco-friendly decisions centered around what could be different in the home, the trend now is the change your home itself. The small living movement is taking the country by storm, and more and more people are realizing the benefits of compact living for a number of reasons in and in a number of ways.
Whether it’s a boat, mobile, or studio living, majority of Americans are downsizing their dwelling. This in light of the recent recession mixed with a rising awareness to cultivate positive eco-friendly living solutions, has left the market saturated with a number of alternatives to conventional living.
In browsing the net, stories popped up left and right about single Americans who are now looking to live cheaper and more simply. Initially doing it for environmental or fiscal reasons, all of them have attested to finding that a simpler home has somehow translated into a simpler lifestyle - and a simple lifestyle is a happy lifestyle.
There are a number of great sites that can get you started, including my top favorite, Apartment Therapy.
There are a couple of creeping problems with smaller living lifestyles. Whether it’s a room or a whole living space/studio, the obvious issue is space. The easiest way to tackle this problem is through bookshelves.
However, in a smaller space, it's crucial to make use of wall and above-cabinet space. Some clever homes even had bookshelves trailing down each side of the main steps leading from the entrance to the loft. Other clever ideas including using bedroom dividers and utilizing lighting to highlight different room areas.
Despite best intentions, and even some amazingly gosh darn cute homes, there are some problems that keep cropping up with smaller domiciles. As we saw with the articles on living spaces of 250 square feet and 350 square feet, it is possible to live functionally in such a small space. Compared to that 400 square feet seems rather large, but even a room or a studio type home of 400 square feet can have the same heat-rising microwave-effect that exists with even smaller spaces.
Unless your small space has great ventilation and accompanies a cool breeze, chances are you'll be stuck in what will inevitably feel like a pressure cooker. And if you're on the second floor, that dark little cloud is going to start inching closer and closer. With the well-known fact that heat rises, you'll have the added heat headed up your way.
If this miserable existence sounds like your situation, but perhaps not your cup of tea, then your best bet is to get a portable cooler. Portable air conditioners are mobile cooling devices that, unlike central air conditioners, offer spot cooling at a far more cost-friendly rate. For a 400 square foot room, you'd need a cooler with a BTU of 9000 - in which case the Soleus Portable AC should suit you just fine. However, in dryer climates you're better off with an evaporative swamp cooler, such as the Convair.
In addition to salvaging what’s left of your sanity come summer, you’ll have the added benefit of clean purified air, a simple, energy efficient, easy to operate cooling device, mobility and spot cooling, as well as adaptability.
Regardless of which unit you decide is right for you, they all tend to be of a compact design that can be discreetly tucked away when not in use. When they are in use, they'll seamlessly blend into your decor as the trend for most small living quarters tends to be lighter colors with classic lines.
Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home. A premier online retailer of residential/commercial cooling, Air Conditioner Home is dedicated to raising consumer awareness on green issues & promoting both air purification and eco-friendly cooling.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
This month, I want to remind or inform, whichever circumstance fits you, that April is Earth Month and April 22nd is EARTH DAY. In celebration of this day, month and cause, help me make EARTH DAY last all year long by making a few, small lifestyle changes that will make a huge, positive impact on Planet Earth.
Think about your plans to pitch in this month and help salvage our Earth. As an individual, there is so much you can do to help. Will you recyle? Switch from drinking bottle to tap water? Save fuel by car pooling or using public transportation?
Large and small corporations are pitching in also! And with their help, collectively, we can re-build a safer, cleaner environment for generations to come.
One such company, Aveda, is making an impact by donating their salon proceeds to grassroots organizations that protect biodiversity and address environmental issues around the world.
Each year the company's salon and spa professionals, employees and others choose a specific environmental theme to help raise awareness around the issue, cultivate and educate supporters, and contribute funds to dedicated non-profit conservation organizations.
On a day when Aveda salons and spas are normally closed, the company opens for business and contributes all sales from that day to the cause, making their clients and the Earth beautiful at the same time.
You can also start this month by encouraging your employer to contribute to the preservation of our planet. Find out if you can form a committee, then get busy by coordinating the following:
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs.
- Use less electricity by plugging in to a power strip, then switch it off when you leave your office.
- Recycle and decrease paper consumption by editing drafts onscreen.
- Become an Energy Star-compliant office
Do your part to help make EARTH DAY last all year long. Visiting Get Active. Go Green! and help save the planet and our youth!
As part of our environmental responsibility, we’re making Earth Day last all year long. By recycling, reusing, reducing and educating, we are protecting and restoring the Earth’s resources. Get Active. Go Green!
Monday, March 23, 2009
Another clean-coal project by Tenaska Inc. at a site east of Sweetwater, Texas, also is a contender. A power-plant proposal in Mattoon, Ill., which was a showcase project under a failed Bush administration clean-coal program called FutureGen, also is trying to secure financing and is backed by the Illinois congressional delegation.
The funding comes on the heels of the FutureGen effort, which was stalled last year by then Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman when the estimated cost rose to $1.8 billion. Mr. Bodman said he thought the project had little chance of yielding results. The Energy Department's decision to cancel FutureGen, after many millions of dollars had been spent, was a blow to those who believed the technology would never move forward without strong federal support.
In a letter signed by nearly 100 members of the Texas legislature, Mr. Chu was asked last week to offer federal assistance to the Odessa project. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas) is also lobbying for the plant, as are more than two dozen members of the Texas congressional delegation. On Friday, Ms. Hutchison said the project would create badly needed jobs and was "critical for the production of clean domestic energy." The Odessa project had lost out under the FutureGen program when it was beaten out by the Illinois site. But its backers believe it stands a strong chance under the new program. At $1.6 billion, the Odessa plant would cost about 10 times as much as a modern gas-fired power plant. (WSJ, 3/22/09)