Sweating it out together

April 6, 2012 0 comments

  By Gregg NewsomeDetroit Food Justice Taskforce Communications CoordinatorThis is the latest in a series of columns discussing the Environmental Justice Principles drafted and adopted by delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held Oct. 24-27, 1991.

This week, I'm honored to be writing from Albuquerque, New Mexico while attending the 13th annual White Privilege Conference. "The WPC is a conference that examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world". This year's conference was extremely well attended by a diversity of peoples from all over North America and the world. My personal intention in attending is to continue to learn, study and reflect upon what it means to be a white male anti-racist/anti-oppression ally to the majority Black and People of Color communities, organizations and individuals that I share with in Detroit. I attended the conference with my partner, Angela Newsom, who serves as the program director for People’s Kitchen Detroit.

We haven't left Detroit very often since we began sharing here six years ago, so rather than fly we decided to drive to Albuquerque with our three year-old. As we traveled across the country I reflected upon this weeks' environmental justice principle. EJ principle #6 states that "Environmental Justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production." The extreme proliferation of environmental toxins that are rampant in our city, due to the collapse of the auto industry, the dishonorable departure of business and industry that left behind hazardous wastes, and the continued operation of the Detroit Incinerator and the catastrophic effects of toxic industries in and around zip code 48217.

The week before we left, local news reported the water department and hazardous materials crew was flushing the sewer system around the Detroit Medical Center due to what was most likely massive quantities of illegally dumped paint products. As the miles pealed away on our odometer, I reflected upon my own family’s exposure to toxins since we moved to Detroit in 2006. Last year, due to a cracked-opened "manhole" in the basement of a home we were renting in North Corktown/Briggs, we were slowly poisoned by sewage gas. Unaware, over a couple of months we found ourselves slowly become more and more sick. Thanks to a knowledgeable friend, we eventually discovered the leak, sealed it and began the process of detoxification.

Due to our destination being focused on privilege and oppression, as we drove, I thought upon our own privilege when confronted with the inescapable toxins we are exposed to daily and how other families in Detroit, who have been exposed over generations to hazardous materials by eating, breathing and living in the Arsenal of Democracy’s dumping ground must be effected. I also thought about the privilege of being able to leave Detroit for close to two weeks as we began to breathe easier in the noticeably fresh air outside of the city.

We began to breathe easier, sadly, until we reach the so-called heartland of US. As we traveled through increasingly rural areas, we began to pass by large industrial farms and started to see Monsanto signs everywhere. Monsanto is the world’s largest producer of genetically modified seeds and the chemicals farmers use to grow them. Being food justice activists, I admit that we may have been looking for these signs, but what we didn’t expect to see was just how prolific Montsanto is and how daunting it was passing by large chemical storage facilities and industrial spraying machines.

Dismayed and slightly depressed by the corporate domination of the landscape even here, we pulled into our first motel for the night. Exhausted and simply looking forward to rest, we entered our room and were immediately hit by the intense chemical smell of disinfectant and an over-the-top sickly-sweet scent that I can only assume was intended to cover up the disinfectant. Being too tired to load everything back into the car and find another, less toxic room, we laid our heads on pillowcases washed in chemical-laden industrial detergent. Waking with a massive headache, Angela’s first words in the morning were “we need to get out of here as soon as possible!”

I agreed and we got back on the road immediately. Passing by more industrial agricultural spraying equipment, I began to notice how “blown-out” the small towns we passed through were. Trying to find solace in the fact that these small town ruins somehow reminded me of home, it struck me that while our country’s urban areas are vilified due to their poor populations and environmental hazards, many rural areas seem to be in the same situation.

I returned to this week’s environmental principle and mourned over the immense and seemingly impossible idea of cessation of chemical production. While our privilege affords us the opportunity to attempt to reduce our family’s exposure to toxins and hazardous wastes, it appears that communities, not only in urban but rural areas as well, are under attack by companies like Monsanto, whose website lies that they are “meeting the needs of today while preserving the planet for tomorrow.”

With the US government’s strings being pulled by corporations, the idea of their being held accountable to people brings more frustration. The idea that these companies would implement detoxification or that they would be honest with us in any way seems nearly impossible. Our entire culture, oppressed and privileged, urban and rural alike, has become dependent upon the very products that are killing us. While corporations dominate the government, media, production and distribution of goods, from food to cleaning products, we are all threatened and literally under their control.

As my family and I enjoyed Albuquerque and learned and shared at the White Privilege Conference, Detroit’s city council was negotiating a loose/loose agreement with the State, the outcome of which will most likely be known by the time this prints. While I don’t want to be a naysayer and strongly support the efforts of those who labor to block it, this agreement and the push to put more of our resources, including our water and our children’s education, on the auction block for profit, often appears unstoppable. As I tuned into the local news and social media while away, my personal frustration over the impossibility of not only the cessation, accountability and detoxification from toxic and hazardous waste, but also from the corporate domination of our lives continued to grow.

Thankfully, this frustration shifted towards the end of the conference. Two days before our departure, we were extremely honored to share in a traditional community healing ceremony. This indigenous ceremony, called a Tezmacal, shares some common ground with a Native American sweat lodge. As Angela and I sat in the extreme heat and purged many of the toxins from our bodies I finally found some resolve to my frustration and a slight release from the overwhelming oppressive systems we are all connected to and co-implicated within.

As the community that gathered in the Tezmacal released their pain and anger through songs and screams that seemingly reverberated across and through our diverse generations of both privilege and oppression, I found solace in the fact that, while at the moment these massive systems and corporations would deny accountability, each of us can reframe our relationships so that we can grow an accountability to one another. Through singing, screaming and sweating out our pain, depression, anxiety, anger and loss… through the healing many of us already know we need, we can learn more about each other and, what’s more, we can overcome. As I back out of the small door of the Tezmacal, I suddenly looked forward to returning home, even in the face of the toxic politics and environment, to learn more, share more, sweat more and heal more.

YEA team visits Hush House Museum for panel discussion on gentrification in Zone 8

ZONE 8, Detroit – Members of EMEAC's Young Educators Alliance (YEA) visited the Hush House Black World Museum and Leadership Training Institute for Human Rights on April 3 for an informal intergenerational panel discussion on gentrification with Hush House Co-Founder Dr. Charles Simmons and Zone 8 Neighborhood Community Activist and author Yusef Bunchy Shakur. Representing the YEA team were Noelle Frye, Rayven Roberts and Ingrid Barnes along with EMEAC Associate Director Ahmina Maxey and Stand Up! Speak Out! Youth Coordinator William Copeland.
“With the Young Educators Alliance we talk a lot about developing leadership and how we can develop young activists. We'd like for them to gain those skill sets, and Hush House is a very important community resource,” Copeland said. “It's good just to see the continuity of the generations and the trains of thought can be seen in their minds. There is a lot of experience with Baba Charles and Yusef sharing their experiences in the neighborhood. With YEA, they are just beginning to make that path of making a difference. It's good to see the connections made and hear the thoughts percolate.”
The conversation began with Dr. Simmons, who's background includes working for the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper founded by Civil Rights icon Malcom X, several years as a professional journalist – including a stint with the United Nations, and professorships at Howard and Eastern Michigan Universities, giving a historical overview of gentrification as it relates to the city of Detroit and the neighborhood known as Zone 8 today. Shakur, who has chronicled his life's struggle as a former gang member who later met his father in prison before going on to turn his life around after prison in his two books: The Window to My Soul and My Soul Looks Back: Restoring the Neighbor Back to the 'Hood, next spoke about the modern history of Zone 8 and his efforts to rebuild his community as a young entrepreneur and activist.
“It was very knowledge filling and I got some points on my gentrification project that I can use to make a successful presentation,” said Frye who along with Barnes is studying Environmental Sciences at Wayne State University. “It definitely showed me that history has just about repeated itself. It shows me that the daily struggles that they went through have come back. It's not like flat out racism in your face but it's like secretive racism behind the scenes that you can only see sometimes through history.”
Barnes, who recently joined the YEA team said the event was just the kind of experience she was hoping to get out of the program.
“I just joined the group but I'm glad I came today because I found out more information about our history and (gentrification),” she said. “I definitely want to learn from more people about the environment and get them to stand up for making this a better community.”
After the panel presentations and a brief question and answer session, Dr. Simmons took the team on a tour of the museum which features a collection of historical images, articles, paraphernalia and even consumer products depicting the portrayals of African-Americans in Detroit and around the world. The Museum, which was converted from the neighborhood home of Simmons' grandmother is under the directorship of Simmons' wife Dr. Sandra Simmons who currently teaches at Wayne State University.
“I think these types of intergenerations meetings with the young people of Detroit and some of the elders at places like the Hush House really reflect the role of young people in changing societies, changing conditions and changing the world,” he said. “In most of these struggles globally where we have fundamental changes taking place, it's young people in the leadership.
“Whether it was the Arab Spring, the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor Movement, the Abolitionist Movement, it's always been young people who are generally in the vanguard of changing the world to make it better. When you mention African-American history or Black history, you should keep in mind that that is American history and it's world history. The information that we are getting about U.S. History is totally distorted. The perspective of the history that's taught is from the top down. It's what the great kings and queens and presidents and senators did, but what did the common people do? What did the serfs do? What did the workers do?”
After the tour, Roberts said she feels more empowered to share the things she's learning with other young people. She also hopes it can help this generation make better sense of what is going on around them.
“Out of this I got that I should really go share more stories with the young people my age and the generation under me about the things that happened back before I was even thought of,” she said. “These things are contributing to the problems that we have going on now.”

Community screening of “13 in the Hole” documentary April 25 at Redford Branch Library

Watch the Trailer
DETROIT – A special community screening of the documentary “13 in the Hole: A Story of Detroit's 48217” will take place on April 25 from 5:30 pm to 7:45 pm at the Redford Branch Library located at 21200 Grand River. The documentary takes a look at how residents on the blocks intersecting Pleasant and Leibold Streets were affected over a two-year period by Marathon Oil's daily shipping of over 3,000,000 gallons of waste water from its newly expanded tar sands oil refining facility, through the public water main running under Pleasant Street and to Detroit's Waste Water Treatment facility.
The documentary focuses on an area of 48217 called “The Hole” where 13 residents who were left behind following Marathon's 2009 buyout of the nearby Liddesdale block – making way for expansion of the Waste Water Treatment Plant's Combined Sewerage Overflow facility – continued to suffer from toxic gases identical to the ones used in the tar sands refinery process suddenly emanating from their basements. Caught directly between Marathon's new tar sands refinery and the city's new CSO, two of the 13 residents – Regina Smith and Adrienne Crawford – tell their stories about growing up in The Hole only to find themselves ignored and under siege when they joined other community members in protesting being literally poisoned in their own homes.
Mrs. Regina Smith resident of The Hole
“Some of the most important messages of the documentary are the clear connections that are made,” said Dr. Angela Allen, who worked on the project as part of the Detroit Future Media Workshops along side Dr. Conja Wright, Rhonda Anderson of the Detroit Seirra Club's Environmental Justice Office and EMEAC's ReMedia Program Coordinator Patrick Geans-Ali. “First, no one should underestimate the experience of a community resident and investment in community residents should be the first focus of any sustainable revitalization plan, including the advocacy and mobilization of residents in nearby communities.
“Second, that the knowledge that just one EPA regional staff person can have that impacts the ability of a neighborhood to gain justice. Third, all politics are local. What the conversations are here will be the same that will take place in Wiliston, North Dakota, in communities engaging fracking and other environmental justice impact policies shared by city, state, and federal engagement.”
With most authorities ignoring their initial complaints, residents of The Hole turned to the Sierra Club's Anderson and 48217 community activists like Theresa Landrum, Dr. Delores Leonard and Vincent Martin among others for support. The citizen-led movement eventually had to enlist the services of the environmental watchdog group Global Community Monitoring to prove their claims and win some measure of support from local media and political leaders. Even with that, Marathon has yet to reach an agreement to resettle many of the remaining residents of The Hole.
Detroit's 48217 zip code sits along the city's industrial corridor and was found to be the most polluted area in the state of Michigan and the third most polluted by a University of Michigan study. Residents suffer from disproportionately high levels of a complete range of health problems as a result. The documentary takes a look at one acute crisis situation as a means of bringing greater awareness to the environmental health hazards facing all of Southwest Detroit – if not the city as a whole.
“The most important part of working on the documentary for me was two-fold: one, listening to fellow activists and learning from them to be a part of putting this very important and timely story together,” said Dr. Allen. “Second, building the story from the perspective of the individual residents and connecting it to the larger local, domestic and international context is key. That's been my goal over 17 years of community development work, and it was fulfilling and rewarding to be a part of this project because there is so much more to be done.”
The documentary, which is still very much a work in progress, was produced as part of the inaugural Detroit Future Media workshops. The producers are hoping to get community feedback in hopes of making the project as historically accurate and socially responsible as possible.
“What I'm most looking forward to about the upcoming community screenings is the response from neighborhood residents who may be facing similar environmental and business relationship issues within their neighborhoods,” Dr. Allen said. “I think this is a great time to weave together stories across Detroit neighborhoods so business owners (corporate and small business) as well as city policy makers get a strong and clear picture from residents that the story of just a few residents in one neighborhood is representative of the disinvestment of an entire major metropolitian city. Investing in even just a few residents means investing in the quality of life of an entire major metropolitian city. It's about time community respect was honored.”

ReMedia teaming up with Vanguard CDC youth on media EJ projects

 NORTH END, Detroit – EMEAC's ReMedia program is about half way through a four-month series of workshops on media production skill sharing with the Vanguard Community Development Corporation Youth Program in Detroit's East Side North End community. EMEAC Associate Director Lottie Spady, who also directs the ReMedia program, has been conducting a pair of three-hour workshops each week focusing on helping North End youth create their own video projects from an environmental justice perspective.
“I'm really excited to be working with the youth at Vanguard on an environmental justice media project that focuses on the Northend neighborhood,” Spady said. “The group I am working with has a wide range of skills and talents from spoken word poetry, graffitti art, and rap to dance, and long-boarding which should make for dynamic short film that truly reflects youth voice and is relevant to their concerns, opinions and solutions to the wide variety of environmental justice issues in the Northend.
So far, youth have identified areas of concern around violence, safety, homelessness, abandoned houses, air pollution connected to the Detroit incinerator, littering and the potential around alternative transportation.”
Joining Spady in conducting the twice-a-week video production workshops has been ReMedia fellows DeRaina Stinson, who grew up in the North End and Cass Tech High School junior Torrin Clay. The Remedia team is coordinating with Vanguard Youth Coordinators Domonique Baul and Dontai Mitchell in helping the youth shape their visions, find their voice and tell their stories for the project.
My goals for this collaboration are to create at least three videos that can be submitted to the Green Screen Youth Environmental Film Festival in November,” said Baul. “We want to create a videos that directly addresses issues in the North End, and lastly create a dynamic video that can be used to attract artistic youth to the program.
So far things are good. The young people are coming around and are learning some needed skills. Dontai has been working with some youth doing a video about the blight in their hood. I am looking forward to seeing these ideas become our finished projects.”
In addition to gaining experience throughout the entire video production process, ReMedia aims to teach young people the value of media making from an environmental justice lens. While it's important to teach the technical aspects of video production, Spady says youth should also come away with a broadened educational perspective as it relates to their environment.
My goals for this collaboration are to share skills with young people that will empower them to share their stories in order to counter what is oftentimes a negative and stereotypical representation of youth and their activities,” Spady said. “Such representations are seen in the media and influence the way youth are treated in school, in community, by adults, and by peers.
Another goal is that of leadership development and peer education so we can develop relevant and timely solutions to the issues and educational materials that position youth as experts in these areas. Lastly, I believe that video exploration can help youth redefine their community in positive terms and reconnect to a sense of place.”
EMEAC's ReMedia program empowers community members, youth and adult, with the skills and technological tools to tell their own stories about environmental issues in SE Michigan. These can be public service announcements, music videos, short films, digital art works or documentaries about air quality, water access and affordability, land use or food security. ReMedia also has an environmental justice media fellows program where program participants are hired by area justice organizations to meet their media needs around documentation and promotions.
ReMedia has stand alone lesson plans which are flexible in order to flow with the class size, which can vary,” Spady said. “The media lessons also fit together so that by the end of the program there is a body of media work with which to create final videos. Participants practice interviewing skills, video techniques, and every aspect of video production. They also review other youth produced environmental media for deconstruction and inspiration.”
Spady also expressed appreciation for the efforts of her youth support team in Stinson and Clay. Stinson was a member of ReMedia's initial group of fellows while Clay joined the program last fall.
My teaching assistant and ReMedia Environmetal Justice Fellow, DeRaina Stinson, grew up in the Northend and has a long history with Vanguard CDC,” she said. “It's really good to see youth come back to their home-base and share with their community. Her insight and connections to the Northend are really an asset and I appreciate the way her facilitation and leadership skills continue to grow.

YFJTF Coordinator Anthony Grimmett attends SOUL Training in Oakland, California

YFJTF Coordinator Anthony Grimmett at Soul Training
DETROIT – Youth Food Justice Task Force Co-Coordinator Anthony Grimmett recently gave a report out from his attendance at the 2011 School Of Unity and Liberation (SOUL) National Youth Organizing Training Institute at the Center for Third World Organizing from March 7-10 in Oakland, California. The annual event is a 3-day national training on movement building for young organizers, and youth organizers from across the country.
“It was full of a lot of good information. A lot of the stuff I had already learned knowledge on here. They just had different methods and it was really interesting to see the different ways they were going about doing things,” said Grimmett. “For example while doing outreach, they had a whole set of guidelines that took you step by step through what would carry you through it successfully each and every time you reach out.”
 
Over 20 participants came together to build their skills, exchange lessons learned, and strategize to fight to win justice for their respective communities. They developed a solid and systematic orientation to the fundamentals of organizing, including base-building, campaign strategy, and leadership development. Rooted in current youth struggles, the SOUL training provided a unique space for emerging leaders to engage with the challenges and opportunities of the current moment, to advance their organizations and build a stronger movement across the globe.
“There were people from Cali there and New York but the only people from outside the states was Guam,” Grimmett said. “They were explaining about deculturizing in their area where the government was trying to take their land and do what they wanted to do with it. They were basically occupying their land.
“I think the youngest person there was like 15 and the oldest was like in their 40s. There were two or three people in their 30s and 40s who came with students. What stood out most to me was just the people. That was a really dope group.”
The SOUL staff said that Anthony's presence and experience was most welcome at this year's training. 
"Anthony arrived to the Institute with an incredible amount of enthusiasm, excitement and gratitude that a space was created for him to absorb, apply, discuss and engage in organizing skills and movement building in the most tangible sense," said SOUL Lead Trainer Nefertiti Altan. "He was consistently and actively listening to the numerous points brought up by participants and the training team, and connected concepts back to his important work with EMEAC. Anthony's love for the work and his commitment to social justice shone through, and I was always so appreciative of the few moments he took to run up to me and offer the biggest and warmest hug of gratitude for being a part of this training. 'This is so awesome and amazing, thank you so much for everything,' he would say after the day's workshops."



The training took place inside the Center for Third World Organizing mansion in Oakland. Grimmett, who made his first trip out of the United States during a recent trip to Canada as a member of EMEAC's Young Educators Alliance to help teach a series of workshops during the Seventh Annual High School Social Justice Forum at the University of Windsor, came away even more impressed by his first trip to California.

“It was wild. They really made me feel at home,” he said. “It's a lot like (Detroit) obviously. It was in a really big old house. We stayed there for the entire time for four days. It was very intensive work. We woke up each day and had a really tight schedule. I think our days started at like eight in the morning and then went to nine o'clock at night some times.
“California was beautiful. It was like our first four hot days here in Detroit. It was really sunny. The temperatures were kind of warm but there was a nice cool breeze. I've never seen leaves that green and everything was in bloom. They let us be young adults. It wasn't too uptight. I just really enjoyed myself all together.”
SOUL started as a summer training program inspired by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s Freedom Summer and was born out of the struggle over the future of affirmative action was raging at UC Berkeley in 1996. SOUL was designed to serve as a program that would train young women and young people of color to build and lead the social justice movement. Since that first summer, SOUL has blossomed from a student-based summer program into a year-round community-based organizing and training center for young people. They now run a wide variety of organizing skills trainings, political education programs and technical assistance projects to meet the many needs of the social justice movement in the Bay Area and around the country.
"The training was a powerful opportunity for youth organizers to strengthen their skills, build new meaningful relationships and deepen the movement-building across communities SOUL strives to cultivate," Altan added. "Participants came with extensive organizing experience, a deep commitment to the work, and an openness to build community, walking away with a high degree of camaraderie and a collective experience of creating genuine community across difference in a short amount of time. Participants expressed appreciation for the amount of care on the part of facilitators to create an open and safe space for them to bring their entire selves and share their talents, personalities, struggles and strengths"

Trash and the Incinerator: Detroit's Dirty Truth

By Ahmina Maxey
EMEAC Associate Director
Stand Up! Speak Out! Coordinator

In 1986 the city of Detroit constructed the world's largest municipal incinerator. It was lauded by the city's government and citizens as it was expected to bring economic prosperity to Detroit. It was thought that industries would be attracted to the city because at the time incineration was viewed as the safest, most cost-effective waste disposal method. Although many Detroit residents were in support of the incinerator, there were some citizens and environmental groups that were not. This group, largely made up of suburban environmental groups, was known as the Evergreen Alliance. They felt that the incinerator was a major environmental and health risk, and actively protested against its construction. Their campaign however was unsuccessful.

The concerns the Evergreen Alliance had about the Detroit incinerator unfortunately rang true. The incinerator is one of the worst polluters in Wayne County for criteria pollutants. It emits nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead into the atmosphere - pollutants which can be toxic to human health. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide both contribute to the formation of ozone which is harmful to respiratory health. In addition the toxins emitted by the incinerator are particularly harmful to children’s health. Particulate matter emissions have led to asthma hospitalization rates for children living around the incinerator to be 3 times the national average.

The Detroit incinerator has also proved to be a money pit for the city of Detroit. The expected economic benefits of the incinerator were never realized. The incinerator was sold in 1991 to private investors to pay off city debt, and although the city no longer owned the incinerator citizens were forced to continue paying bonds owed on it. In total Detroit's residents have paid over $1.2 billion in debt because of the incinerator.

Since the incinerat­or’s opening in the late 1980’s it has caused nothing but environmental, health, and economic strife in the city of Detroit. Recently the the incinerator was bought and renamed Detroit Renewable Energy in an effort to “green wash” the facility although it remains a toxic, polluting facility. Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD), a coalition of organizations advocating for the City of Detroit to move toward a waste recovery system and away from incineration, work hard to hold Detroit Renewable Power accountable for their actions. When residents in the neighborhood began to complain of odors coming from the incinerator in the fall of 2011, ZWD engaged the community to report this information to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). As a result, Detroit Renewable Power received three notices of odor violation. Zero Waste Detroit has worked for over 7 years to push the City of Detroit to stop sending their trash to the incinerator, and although City Council seems receptive to the idea the Mayor does not. However, with continued community engagement and education on the environmental, health, and economic benefits of recycling our efforts will not be for naught.

EMEAC is a member of the Zero Waste Detroit coalition, a group of organizations advocating for curbside recycling, a materials recovery system that would bring jobs and economic development to city, and an end to waste incineration. The coalition is made up of over 15 organizations representing the environmental, environmental justice, faith-based, civic, and legal communities of Detroit. If you would like to support Zero Waste Detroit and their work, or report odors coming from the incinerator, please visit their website at www.zerowastedetroit.org.

Here are Ten Top Reasons for opposing HB 4265 and 4266:

Why Yard Waste Doesn’t Belong in Landfills
10) More energy would be saved by composting and source reduction than would be generated by landfilling it.
9) Increasing organic material in landfills will increase greenhouse gas production and eventual release.
8) Landfills are an inefficient technology for energy production.
7) Organics make up a significant portion of the waste stream and have the potential to increase waste diversion dramatically.
6) Compost is valued for its nutrient content, is used as a soil amendment and for erosion control and stormwater management on farms, adjacent to roadways, and in environmental rehabilitation efforts.
5) Michigan has a well-developed infrastructure for composting yard clippings and yard waste provides an important bulking agent for the composting of other organics such as food waste.
4) Cost to municipalities and residents to dispose of yard clippings is likely to be more than composting yard clippings.
3) Composting yard clippings creates more jobs than landfilling.
2) Michigan has a very low recycling rate. Landfilling yard clippings will lower our ranking further.
1) The yard clippings disposal ban is one of the few tools Michigan has to limit solid waste importation.

The Senate Energy and Technology Committee will be considering HB 4265 and HB 4266, exempting yard waste from the landfill ban, which passed the Legislature last week. As members of Zero Waste Detroit, we urge you to contact members of the Energy and Technology Committee and urge them to oppose this legislation.

Zero Waste Detroit, among many, opposes these bills for numerous reasons—economic as well as environmental. These bills will not save collection costs, as source separation is still required for three years. The bills will greatly damage the composting industry. Job creation from composting yard waste is multiples of that from disposal (landfill or incineration).

Composting is a low-tech, environmentally sound, cost-effective, and decentralized method for managing yard clippings and other organic wastes, without the long-term impacts of disposal. Michigan’s compost industry provides jobs and a valuable soil amending end-product to farmers, landscapers, governments, and residents.

Please take the time as soon as possible to meet with Senators from your own district to help them understand the impact of these bills on you and/or your business or organization. Your Senators will be closer to home over the spring break, doing business at the in-district offices, holding coffee shop meetings, and more.

Find you Senator here.

Senate Energy & Technology Committee members are:

Mike Nofs (R) Committee Chair, 19th District
John Proos (R) Majority Vice Chair, 21st District
Rick Jones (R) 24th District
Jim Marleau (R) 12th District
Tonya Schuitmaker (R) 20th District
Howard Walker (R) 37th District
Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D) Minority Vice Chair, 8th District
Steven M Bieda (D) 9th District
Coleman Young II (D) 1st District
Committee Clerk, (517) 373-5307

You can find more information on the bills at the Michigan Recycling Coalition's website.

GVSU forum examines hazards of fracking and tar sands pipeline

By Jeff Smith
Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On March 27, there was a forum on fracking, organized by a student socialist group at GVSU on the Allendale Campus of Grand Valley State University. The group invited two speakers to present, a GVSU professor and Chris Williams, author of the book Ecology and Socialism.
Professor Peter Wampler, who presented first, works in the geology department at GVSU. His presentation was very clinical in that he showed slides and presented information that provided those in attendance with basics around where natural gas is and how it is being extracted around the US.
Wampler made some distinctions between shale-based natural gas and other forms of methane gas, such as the gas from human or animal waste or the methane created at landfills where organic material are breaking down.
The GVSU Professor then presented some basic aspects of what is fracking? and how the industry extracts it natural gas from shale. He stated that most shale is found at least 1000 feet below the surface.
Wampler then shifted his presentation to why there is such a big push for fracking now. He stated that this is a “trend” that really began in 2009. You can see from the graph here the current and projected trends with natural gas extracted from fracking.
Wampler continued with more information on how the industry extracts the gas from shale. He then identified consequences of fracking, such as micro-earthquakes, groundwater contamination, surface water contamination and increased dependence on fossil fuels. One thing he mentioned about contamination in groundwater is because of the chemicals that are pumped in with water to create the fracking necessary to extract the natural gas.

View the complete article

Sugar Law issues statement condemning Consent Decree

Watson and Kenyatta voted against Consent Decree
 DETROIT -- The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice representing 28 Michigan citizens challenging the state’s emergency manager law issued a statement last month condemning efforts by Governor Rick Snyder to install a replacement for elected officials.   The so-called "consent agreement" proposed by the Governor “abandons the rule of law,” said John Philo, Sugar Law Legal Director. “It is a transparent attempt to control Detroit’s fate whether an unconstitutional law remains in effect or not.”
In violation of the emergency manager law, Public Act 4, the proposed agreement, which was approved by the Detroit City Council on April 4 by a 5-4 vote, would take effect without the approval of the Governor-appointed financial review board. Moreover, it allocates power over local government to positions never contemplated in the city’s charter, the current emergency manager law, or its predecessor. Voting for the Consent Agreement were Charles Pugh, Gary Brown, Shanteel Jenkins, Ken Cockrel and James Tate. JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta, Brenda Jones and Andre Spivey voted against it. “Either the Governor and the other key players here are getting atrocious legal advice or they’re ignoring good advice,” said Philo. “The Governor’s disregard for his own review process is a travesty--it shows contempt for judicial orders, the rule of law and democracy itself."   A leader of one of the state’s key civil rights organizations shared Philo’s outrage. “What is the purpose of having democracy, the rule of law and courts if the leaders sworn to uphold those institutions are the very ones who act against them?” asked Yvonne White, President of the Michigan NAACP State Conference.   Before the proposed consent agreement was released, Ingham County Judge William Collette had ordered Snyder’s Detroit financial review team to start from scratch and meet in public. PA-4 received another blow when more than 225,000 petition signatures were submitted February 29 to place repeal of the law on the November 2012 ballot.   The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice is serving as lead counsel for 28 Michigan citizens challenging the emergency manager law in court, on the basis that it violates the Michigan Constitution in several ways. Sugar Law is joined by attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Sanders Law Firm, Miller Cohen PLC, and Goodman & Hurwitz PC on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, Michigan chapter.

Greener Schools

April 5, 2012 0 comments


GREENER SCHOOLS: The Greener Schools Initiative brings children in Detroit schools closer to nature. We believe that by instilling a sense of interconnectedness and love for the environment our youth can become advocates for their environment and their communities.

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MULTICULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ARTS & SCIENCES (MEAS) LABS provide environmental justice education in the classroom through hands-on lessons covering subjects including biodiversity, air quality, water quality, food security, cooking, and Sharing Nature with Children. We currently have two labs at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy and Nsoroma Institute where students investigate local environmental issues, grow their own vegetables, sell plants to parents and teachers, and create nature themed or recycled art projects. We work closely with teachers in order to supplement their core subjects and align our lessons to Grade Level Curriculum Expectations.


THE UGLIEST SCHOOLYARD COMPETITION provides a way for Detroit public and charter schools to create their own natural environments and outdoor classrooms at their school. Winning schools receive a $10,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation for their outdoor classroom. A University of Michigan Landscape Designer teachers an introductory course in landscape design and the students themselves participate in the design and construction their own natural spaces in their schoolyards. Projects and designs have included a meditation path, a pond, a native plant habitat, and an interactive showcase for green technology.

GARDENING ANGELS: program is a partnership with the Luella Hannan Foundation through the Community Foundation's Senior Engagement Program. Gardening Angels brings youth and seniors together in partnership to work for environmental justice and healthy, sustainable communities. Through a process of sharing and learning, youth and elders explore environmental justice and food security issues; they work together in school garden projects; and young people document the histories of their elders to learn about their lives and the communities that shaped them. Activities include Learning Circles, Oral History trainings and recordings, gardening exchanges, and food justice lessons.

Stand Up Speak Out



STAND UP SPEAK OUT: (SUSO) is the advocacy arm of EMEAC. SUSO programs and activities advocate for environmental justice in Southeast Michigan through legislative policy initiatives while encouraging community involvement through our youth and adult education and training.

SUSO has recently worked in conjunction with other environmental justice organizations in Detroit to make pro-environmental policy changes like the Zero-Waste Detroit initiatives to eliminate tax payer subsidies for a major environmental polluters like the Detroit Incinerator. SUSO has also advocated for successful pro-environmental regulations like the anti-idling ordinance for commercial vehicles within the city limits of Detroit.

SUSO also conducts environmental education classes and training in select local schools for students in grades 6-12. SUSO also is conducting a youth leadership initiative aimed at young people ages 16-20 in the Detroit community.


YOUNG EDUCATORS ALLIANCE (YEA): The Young Educators Alliance is a small group of young adults (aged 14-24) who come together to identify issues in their environment and work collectively on solutions, using their creativity and personal insight. YEA advocates for healthy environments in Detroit in a way that fosters leadership and holistic development. Young people learn to identify injustices, place them in a historical context, and propose alternatives that involve community input, community organizing, and/or advocacy. The program aims to build a “pipeline for community activism” in which young people come to see themselves as community activists and learn to network and engage with existing communities of activists. 
 
ZERO WASTE DETROIT: EMEAC is a member of Zero Waste Detroit, a coalition of Detroit organizations that support and work toward the implementation of the City’s adopted New Business Model for Detroit Solid Waste. This Business Model aims to eliminate the incineration of Detroit’s trash, and instead implement a city-wide recycling program. Coalition partners include: Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Ecology Center, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Greenacres Woodward Civic Association, Rosedale Recycles, Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club Southeast Michigan Group, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, and the Sugar Law Center for Environmental Justice.

Read more about Zero Waste Detroit here.