When the people of Hernani, Spain, began a residential compost system, they weren’t looking to become heroes of the movement for climate justice. Like thousands of other towns around the world, they were simply looking for an alternative to incineration and the pollution it brings.
Category Archives: Waste
This is a tale of two US cities building solutions to the climate crisis from the bottom up.
We start in the Northeast, with Cooperative Energy, Recycling and Organics (CERO), a newly formed worker-owned cooperative in Boston, Massachusetts. While providing family supporting jobs for the community, CERO works with businesses on separating out materials that can be recovered. They then collect this waste in a truck and bring it to facilities where it can either be recycled or returned to the soil as compost.
CERO’s board members and employees are people like Guadalupe Gonzalez and Josefina Luna, who have been recycling informally for years or decades. Guadalupe Gonzalez used to do backbreaking work, cleaning commercial buildings during the day while picking bottles from the trash at night. She was one of the thousands of underrated recycling workers, earning precious extra money to support her family. Josefina Luna explains that at CERO, “Now we can earn a living while protecting the environment.”
This is part 2 of a four-part article series “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the frontlines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organizations from 90+ countries.
This series is produced by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.
“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change…. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian Ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned… And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.” – Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Sano addressing the opening session of the UN climate summit in Warsaw, following Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013
It’s been a year since Super Typhoon Yolanda (often called Typhoon Haiyan in other countries) swept through the , killing more than 6,000 people and destroying the homes of many more. As UN negotiator for the Philippines Yeb Sano explained in his address to the United Nations: for many people, this is what climate change looks like.
This is part 1 of a four-part article series “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the front lines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organizations from 90+ countries.
This series is produced by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.
Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste
The streets of Belo Horizonte were filled with singing, dancing, chanting, and marching. It was not a holiday or an election day or a soccer game. The chant was: “We don’t want incineration! Recycle! Recycle!”
Abolitionist Law Center and the Human Rights Coalition have released a report entitled, No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution Fayette, based on a year-long investigation into the health impacts of exposure to coal waste at the state prison in Fayette County, PA. The report reveals alarming rates of illnesses consistent with exposure to coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal in power plants.
Surrounded by “about 40 million tons of waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of cubic yards of coal combustion waste,” SCI Fayette is inescapably situated in the midst of a massive toxic waste dump. The prison was built on part of a Coal Refuse Deposit Area owned by Matt Canestrale Contracting, which currently operates a coal ash dump directly adjacent to the prison. Before Matt Canestrale Contracting took it over, the land was a dumping ground for coal waste from one of the world’s largest coal processing plants.
The investigation was launched in August of 2013 by Abolitionist Law Center (ALC), the Human Rights Coalition, and The Center for Coalfield Justice, after receiving reports of high rates of illnesses at SCI Fayette. Prisoners reported a number of overlapping symptoms and diseases, including chronic sore throats, extreme throat swelling, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, vision problems, stomach pain, and sores, cysts, and tumors in their mouths, noses, and throats, as well as on their skin. Many prisoners reported being diagnosed with thyroid disorders or cancer after arriving at SCI Fayette. Residents of the nearby town of LaBelle, PA have also reported high rates of breathing problems and cancer, and have been calling for the coal ash dump to be shut down.
“No Escape” represents the preliminary findings of the investigation, and more research is needed to better understand both the risks posed by the dump and the nature of prisoners’ health problems. Nonetheless, these preliminary findings raise legal questions about the location of the prison. According to the report, “Situating a prison in the midst of a massive toxic coal waste dump may be impermissible under the Constitution if it is shown that prisoners face a substantial risk of serious harm caused by exposure to pollutants from the dump.” ALC attorney Dustin McDaniel put it this way, “If the patterns of illnesses we’re seeing at SCI-Fayette are indeed related to pollution from the dump, then this prison should be shut down.”
White House Council on Environmental Quality buries its head in sand on climate change ruling – DeSmog Blog
Over the past weekend Steve Horn published an important analysis of the recent federal decisions by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to not offer guidance to the federal agencies that it coordinates regarding energy policy and climate change. Industry pushback is given as a primary reason that the CEQ has dropped the ball.
Maybe organizers and participants at the September 17-24 Week of Action surrounding the People’s Climate March in New York can find a way to fit an objection into their busy “demands” list!
Legal Case: White House Argues Against Considering Climate Change on Energy Projects
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog. August 31, 2014.
Just over a month before the United Nations convenes on September 23 in New York City to discuss climate change and activists gather for a week of action, the Obama White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) argued it does not have to offer guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to consider climate change impacts for energy decisions.
It came just a few weeks before a leaked draft copy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest assessment said climate disruption could cause “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
Demand System Change!
On Climate Progress, Ari Phillips reports that the Buenavista Copper Mine let more than 24 hours pass before reporting a massive spill in north Mexico. They could no longer deny the incident when residents down river began reporting miles and miles of orange water. There are even rumors that the spill may contain trace amounts of cyanide. Nearby schools have been evacuated and children are expected to stay away for at least a week.
Located just south of the U.S. border, the mine is one of the largest in the world. As the flagship mine of Grupo Mexico, Buenavista helped the group’s second quarter profits soar above $500 million. That’s one quarter’s profits. There are four quarters in a fiscal year. In other words, a global mining conglomerate that makes millions in ONE QUARTER can’t prevent or clean-up a toxic spill that is destroying the environment and forcing children out of their schools. In that first day, the company could have made substantial steps to limit the damage caused by the spill. Instead, they hid behind their oak desks in their corporate offices and tried to pretend it didn’t happen.
Guess what? It did.
Mining Spill Near U.S. Border Closes 88 Schools, Leaves Thousands Of Mexicans Without Water
by Ari Phillips, Climate Progress, August 18, 2014
An acid spill from a large copper mine in northern Mexico is keeping 88 schools closed starting Monday due to uncertainty over the safety of drinking water. The 12-day-old spill, which sent 10 million gallons (40,000 cubic meters) of toxic wastewater into portions of the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, may keep schools closed for over a week according to the Associated Press.
[…]Mine officials have been criticized for not reporting the massive acid spill to authorities for around 24 hours, with residents downstream detecting the spill the next day as it turned dozens of miles of river orange. According to Carlos Arias, director of civil defense for the northern state of Sonora, the spill was caused by defects in a new holding pond, where overflow from acids used to leach metal out of the crushed rock is stored. Arias said a pipe either blew out or lost its positioning on August 7th, sending the sulfuric acid downstream.
Read the full article on Climate Progress.
With the news and images, and ongoing battle, from Ferguson at the forefront of everyone’s mind, another story of race and America made news. Residents of a predominantly African American community have charged the state of Alabama with violating their civil rights when it dumped toxic coal ash in their community. The EPA is now investigating their claims.
Both stories vividly show how race and class work in the US to try to trap communities and deny the rights and quality of life deserved by all.
ALABAMA RESIDENTS SPEAK OUT AGAINST ALLEGED CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS INVOLVING COAL ASH DUMP IN BLACK COMMUNITY
Earthjustice. August 14, 2014.
Washington, D.C — Investigators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency interviewed residents of the predominantly black and low-income community of Uniontown, in Perry County, Ala., this week, to probe charges that their civil rights were violated when the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) decided to re-permit a municipal landfill containing four million cubic yards of poisonous coal ash.
The coal ash came from a massive spill in Kingston, Tennessee, where coal ash burst through a dike in 2008 and sent a billion gallons of toxic waste across 300 acres of riverfront property, destroying two dozens homes. It was the largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.
Photo comes from Carlan Tapp’s blog: He seems cool and it’s a great picture.