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Newsletter April 22, 2014

April 29, 2014

EAT4Health Fellow Charity Hicks Presents in Washington, D.C.

Submitted by Charity Hicks

As part of the Everybody at the Table for Health (EAT4HEALTH) initiative, on Monday April 7th, I presented a policy brief for equitable food & agricultural policy in Washington D.C.  The EAT4EHALTH initiative is a national food and agricultural policy project with focus in four local communities, Detroit, MI - San Antonio, TX - New Orleans, LA and Glassboro, NJ shaping federal policy to improve and enhance the quality of life of low-income communities of color.  Public policy at its core has to do with our tax dollars and the promotion of the general health, safety and welfare of all of us.  Examining the current conditions in Detroit and seeing the cross cutting issues which impact our community food system in Detroit the policy briefing focused on the significant intertwining of our environment, health and economy. [Continue reading...]

Giving Thanks to Our Semester in Detroit Intern Dominique Mathews

The University of Michigan has send us some pretty wonderful Interns over the past few years. And we are proud and honored for this trend to have continued with Dominique Mathews, who wrapped up her time with us last week. Dominique worked closely with the Young Educators Alliance to delve into a variety of social and environmental issues. 

On her last day, Dominique sat down with us to share a little about what she did and learned during her time here. Click here to view this short interview. 

Celebrating Mother Earth While Acknowledging Harm to Her

Today, April 22, marks the 44th year of Earth Day. And while we are grateful to have a day that invites us to consider our Great Mother,we know that conditions have worsened worldwide since 1970.  Land, air, water quality throughout the world have been compromised largely by practices of industrial pollutors.  Science now informs us of the connection between industrial CO2 and methane emissions and climate destabilization, which has led to some of the most extreme weather events experienced in modern history; weather events that have harmed people and families, destroyed communities, disrupted ecosystems, bankrupted economies and displaced many.  [Continue reading...

What We Have Our Eyes On

COMMUNITY MEETING: Detroit Renewable Power (owners of the incinerator) held a community meeting at the Palmer Court Townhomes on April 16.  There were about 15 or so attendees, including Palmer Court residents and folks from nearby organizations.  EMEAC was present as we are concerned about impacts to people and environmental health AND because our offices are in what we call the 'smell zone.' (Yes, we can smell it as far as Cass Ave.)  I write this because in the subtle use of language during this meeting, we were made to appear as though we were outsiders and not people directly impacted by the incinerator.  Some of highlights of the meeting include:

-- CEO O'Sullivan opened up with an overview of the incineration process as it happens at this facility.  He discussed the upgrades that Detroit Renewable Power (DRP) will make to the incinerator to eliminate odor pollution.  DRP awaits approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and hopes to begin construction in the fall of 2015.  When asked about what guarantees the community can have around odor pollution in the meantime, O'Sullivan responded that DRP sold $55 million in private placement bonds, most of which will be used for maintenance.  Also, the time it takes between receiving garbage to burning will be sped up to now allow for it to build up and cause odors.

--Meeting participants, which included residents and a few Zero Waste Detroit coalition members, raised some important points of concern.  Several concerns were raised about the health impacts of the incinerator on the community, particularly around asthma.  Alan Greenburg, Director of Environmental Affairs, offered that asthma was largely due to such factors home factors as moldy pipes and insect droppings, not so much environmental factors.  ZWD's Ahmina Maxey pointed out that there is a link between environmental pollutants and asthma, otherwise such governmental agencies as the EPA wouldn't have designated ozone action days (alerts that caution people with certain health conditions to not come outdoors due to poor air quality).   One woman shared that she just moved to the townhouses in October and the first time she smelled the odors coming from the incinerator, it made her sick and she coughed all the way home. 

--One person asked where DRP was in resolving odor violations with MDEQ.  O'Sullivan said that DRP developed a preliminary plan and presented it to MDEQ.  They now have to work out the details. 

How do we think the meeting went? Well, the best answer at this time is "we shall see."  Experience reminds us that many promises are made to community, but where profits are involved, our lives and health matter little.  We will continue working with allies and concerned folks to figure out what's best for our lives and the environment and bring about those solutions. 

OP Background

Background

EMEAC is a member and serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Justice Alliance, a collaborative of community-based and movement support organizations uniting frontline communities to forge a scalable, socially and economically just transition away from unsustainable energy and false solutions to climate change.  In 2013, CJA launched a national Our Power campaign to win real solutions to the climate crisis.  One component of the campaign calls for spaces to be created for deeper work. Our Power Gatherings bring together frontline communities and allies to coordinate community-led action strategies that advance an ecologically resilient and economically just transition out of deadly, destructive, dirty development into new economic solutions based on healthy work that serves our communities, heals the planet and preserves our cultures. 

Our Power camp, Black Mesa
The first gathering was held at Black Mesa, AZ in June 2013 and focused on frontline communities impacted by coal: from coal extraction to false solutions promoted by industry, such as natural gas and clean coal.  The second gathering will be held in Detroit, June 2014, and is focused on scaling up the leadership and presence of youth and young adults in generating solutions for a just transition from reliance on exploitative, unsustainable practices and policies to those that are sustainable and nurture healthy communities. 

The next Our Power gathering will take place in Richmond, CA in August. 

OP Goals

Our Power Goals

The Our Power Detroit convening aims to fulfill the following goals:

Our Power Campaign Goals
  • Build Relationships: Build relationships, develop the movement and facilitate ongoing communication of youth and young adult frontline community members committed to ecological well-being by sharing vision, analysis, critique, solutions, stories, strategies, victories, challenges and lessons learned. 
  • Expand the Base: Expand the base of youth and young adult participants and allies in the Just Transition campaign of CJA and evolve the campaign around their participation.
  • Share Strategies and Skills:  Through grassroots skills-shares, youth leadership and leadership development, intergenerational sharing, popular education and more, we will build our capacity to win on our own terms, building on our strengths. 
  • Show Our Power: Develop shared action plans and external communications that advance and interconnect local struggles through shared vision, strategies and frames. Support key frontline fights in Southeast Michigan through actions at the gathering, before and beyond, that demonstrates Our Power. 
Detroit Specific Goals

  • Highlight and build Our Power Detroit: Highlight Detroit’s strategies for bringing about a just transition locally and beyond.
  • Strengthen local leadership: Provide opportunities to expand and support Detroit youth and young adult leadership in environmental and climate justice movements. And create a space for them to strengthen their knowledge, voice and leadership for a movement that requires the participation of impacted community members of all ages for broader and deeper change.

Our Power Gathering


June 27 - 29, 2014

The EMEAC staff and young adult members of its Young Educators Alliance will bring together youth, students and young adults from working class, indigenous and people of color communities impacted by environmental injustices for a 3-day Our Power gathering in Detroit. Leadership for the EJ movement will be cultivated among the youth coordinating team members during the process of planning, implementing and evaluating the gathering, as well as among those who attend locally and nationally.  It is important to the Movement’s success that spaces and opportunities be created to allow for youths' vision, energy and generational wisdom to grow and sharpen.

The Our Power gathering is focused on scaling up the leadership and presence of youth and young adults in generating solutions for a Just Transition* from reliance on unsustainable, polluting, resource intensive practices and policies to those that are sustainable, renewable and nurture healthy communities. Specifically, we will discuss the health, environmental and climate impacts of polluting energy producing industries; collaboratively generate creative ways to address the negative impacts, while posing sustainable, renewable and non-exploitive alternatives; and define pathways to move this agreed upon work forward. 

 
 
Space is limited, so please register soon!
 



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Honoring Mother Earth

April 22, 2014

Today, April 22, marks the 44th year of Earth Day. And while we are grateful to have a day that invites us to consider our Great Mother,we know that conditions have worsened worldwide since 1970.  Land, air, water quality throughout the world have been compromised largely by practices of industrial pollutors.  Science now informs us of the connection between industrial CO2 and methane emissions and climate destabilization, which has led to some of the most extreme weather events experienced in modern history; weather events that have harmed people and families, destroyed communities, disrupted ecosystems, bankrupted economies and displaced many. 

On November 21, 2007, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed an environmental justice directive that recognized that "state government has an obligation to advance policies that foster environmental justice, social well-being, and economic progress."  This directive has not only stalled over the past 7 years, but the conditions have actually worsened. For example, on April 1, a series of bills was signed into law that allow the use of eminent domain--by companies--for the purpose of siting and constructing pipelines to carry carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery or carbon sequestration.  This law is harmful to the environment and the people who depend on it in several ways, including damage resulting from leakage and the fact that someone can destroy the land as part of a profit-making scheme.   Other examples of human health and environmental destruction facilitated abound in and around Detroit, including the toxic soup of industries in SW Detroit, the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal expansion, construction of a new bridge feeding into SW Detroit, proposed I-94 highway expansion, 3.1 mile trolley with a way station in the North End community, Detroit incinerator, Chrysler plant and numerous other polluting industries. 

There are many people and groups challenging these initiatives and companies directly and indirectly; together and alone.  The struggles around environmental justice and climate destabilization intersect with struggles around food, land, water access, privatization, gentrification, health, education and more.  Just as there are those "fighting against," there are many "fighting for" and "creating new."  Knowing what we are living in and up against can be heavy.  And conversely, knowing that we work alongside some of the toughest, most seasoned organizers, activists, concerned citizens, visionaries and more, we are encouraged and have tremendous hope. 

In honoring Mother Earth, we take time to acknowledge the pain and trauma that comes from breathing air that is polluted, eating food that is modified, having public spaces and the commons privatized and more. We acknowledge this. We also--perhaps simultaneously--draw strength and courage to define characteristics of a society that values life, map pathways to this new society, this new world, and begin building that world now.

It is in this way that we honor our Mother.  

Semester In Detroit Intern Dominique Mathews

The University of Michigan has sent us some pretty wonderful Interns over the past few years. And we are proud and honored for this trend to have continued with Dominique Mathews, who wrapped up her time with us last week. Dominique worked closely with the Young Educators Alliance to delve into a variety of social and environmental issues. In her closing interview, Dominique shares a bit about what she learned and experienced. 
video

We are glad to announce that not only will she soon graduate with a dual major in African American and Women's Studies, but she will also return to EMEAC in June as a 350.org Fossil Free Fellow.  When she returns, Dominique will help us continue planning the Our Power gathering, June 27-30, which is a national and local convening--of mainly youth and young adults--aimed at scaling up their leadership in the environmental and climate justice movements. 


EAT4Health Fellow Presents in Washington

As part of the Everybody at the Table for Health (EAT4HEALTH) initiative, on Monday April 7th, I presented a policy brief for equitable food & agricultural policy in Washington D.C.  The EAT4EHALTH initiative is a national food and agricultural policy project with focus in four local communities, Detroit, MI – San Antonio, TX - New Orleans, LA and Glassboro, NJ shaping federal policy to improve and enhance the quality of life of low-income communities of color.  Public policy at its core has to do with our tax dollars and the promotion of the general health, safety and welfare of all of us.  Examining the current conditions in Detroit and seeing the cross cutting issues which impact our community food system in Detroit the policy briefing focused on the significant intertwining of our environment, health and economy.

I presented on a food system refrained into energy and environmental frames because the largest energy footprint in the world is what we eat.  Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life stated; “Each food items in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles....If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” We can no longer separate our food and agricultural systems from our energy and environmental systems, good solutions solve multiple problems.  We need a multi-faceted view of our health, environmental and economic challenges to build greater synergy into lasting solutions.

In the policy brief I called for the full funding for local food system infrastructure via investments in FOOD HUBS, and smaller farming and urban agriculture operations to improve the local/regional sourcing of food for institutions and retail markets.  This is key to making sure we engage local food sourcing and eating in a more local/regional fresh food profile.  This has economic as well as environmental benefits.  To make for more systemic change in the federal policy arena, I also recommended that the federal government, share data and information across federal program mix to allow for local actors to build more synergy in meeting supply and demand mix, and eradicating food deserts in urban areas.  We will not have a vibrant local/regional food system without improving participation of small scale food system operations via focused actions to increase entry of new and young farmers in agricultural operations, and increase program utilization by including nontraditional agricultural operations in USDA programs which helps to support the production point.  We have been inundated with junk food & fast food messages which have increased our consuming of these highly processed foods, and contribute to an over burden of chronic conditions. We also, need to improve the investment in food & nutritional literacy and access to fresh/minimally processed foods in low-income communities to enhance health and well-being via focusing and tailoring messages, and programs from the “inside out” in communities.  In fostering a more relevant and health promoting federal policy space, we need to build a “National Performance Framework” for existing food system programs to check and evaluate for racial and economic disparities which trap populations in perpetual poverty, reduced quality of life and create significant barriers for small operators to fully participate in programs.  Economics play a key role in “food deserts” and low fresh food access communities.  The federal government should analyze all projects, programs and initiatives through the lens of poverty eradication and not just “poverty servicing”. Federal policy must be formed, implemented, and evaluated on how well it eradicates poverty and alleviate systemic economic disparities throughout the full food chain.  Lastly, we need to promote better environmental stewardship via funding bio/photo remediation of contaminated areas of urban, peri-urban and suburban lands which are brownfields, and superfund sites, which has hampered full ecological resilience in our postindustrial cities, and hampers efforts to develop urban & regional agriculture.

In Detroit we can no longer afford to contaminate our environment with 68 superfund sites, 281 facilities releasing toxic chemicals, poor air quality with high particulate matter well above national and state averages and soil contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury, lead, & cadmium.  The cumulative impact of this pollution is literally killing people. 

We must continue to work to empower the Detroit community to value the air, land and water ecology.  Our food system is directly nested in our environmental/ecological systems & worldwide energy footprint and in the JUST TRANSITION campaign we are calling for a transition from our extreme energy economy to a JUSTICE centered, localized, resilient economy.  Policy has a significant role to play in this shift towards resilience and must be leveraged to build transformative solutions. 

We are calling the full community to join the discussion, work and campaigns to help shift our food system and all of our public systems into a climate conscious, local/regional centering. We need solutions which will promote and enhance environmental justice, health & nutritional well-being, and economic equity.  This requires a triple bottom line food system which has justice in every element, our quality of life and the earth requires it.





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Welcome Local and National Allies!

April 7, 2014

Welcome national and local allies!!!

We are excited to host the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance's membership assembly from April 10-13 at the Cass Corridor Commons.  It is not too late for you to learn about and contribute to this exciting event. 

While our allies are here, we are hosting a couple of additional events aimed at bringing together local and national allies, friends, supporters and neighbors.  Please mark your calendars!

Panel Discussion: Envisioning a Just Transition in the 21st Century

REVISED 4/9/14 at 5:04pm
Movement-building organizers and activists from Detroit will engage GGJ members and friends in an intergenerational conversation about Detroit's history, the current crises facing the city, and how local organizers are using the frame of a Just Transition to build a stronger and more resilient city. Panel participants will share how their work challenges existing inequities and issues, while offering new solutions and building community resilience. Confirmed panelists include: Rhonda Anderson (Community activist and Sierra Club Detroit), Shane Bernardo (Earthworks Urban Garden), Antonio Cosme (Graffiti artist, gardener, activist, organizer), Kezia Curtis (Fender Bender Detroit), Vincent Martin (Community resident and activist), and Reverend Joan Ross (North End Woodward Community Coalition). National and international respondents will comment on what they will have heard and draw connections with national and international work and movements. EMEAC Co-Director Ife Kilimanjaro will serve as moderator. 

Date: Friday April 11
Time: 6:30pm-8:00pm
Location: Cass Corridor Commons Sanctuary, 4605 Cass Ave. (Please enter through the parking lot off Forest)
Agenda:
  6:30pm  Welcome
  6:35pm  Moderator's comments/opening
  6:45pm  Panelist's presentations
  7:25pm  Response by national and international allies
  7:30pm  Question/Answer
  7:55pm  Closing remarks

Just Transition is a broad frame that outlines our commitment in practice to co-create the transition from a polluting, resource-intensive, extractive/exploitive economy to clean, sustainable ones. It encompasses our commitment and efforts to lift up and contribute to building local, living economies that foster community resilience and bring about lasting change. We've adopted this Just Transition frame and practice because history and experience have taught us that rather than investing the overwhelming majority of time in putting out fires--that is, reactively addressing injustices as they arise--we must shift our work to be proactive in co-creating the world we want and need. 

Fundraising Social Gathering and Party

Join us at the D. Blair Theater for some powerful sounds of local hip hop artists and poets.  This will be a dope fundraiser...so join us!!!