Politics

In the world’s slums, the worst of poverty and environmental degradation collide

This article was originally published in OrionOnline. Precarious dwellings in North Sulawasi, Indonesia. Photos: iStockphoto. A villa miseria outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, may have the worst feng shui in the world: it is built in a flood zone over a former lake, a toxic dump, and a cemetery. Then there’s the barrio perched precariously on stilts over the excrement-clogged Pasig River in Manila, Philippines, and the bustee in Vijayawada, India, that floods so regularly that residents have door numbers written on pieces of furniture. In slums the world over, squatters trade safety and health for a few square meters of …

Will an Atlanta parks and redevelopment project benefit low-income residents?

Atlanta, Ga.: the famous “Hot-lanta” of Southern heat and hospitality, home of “down-home” fried chicken and a growing black middle class, cradle of the largest historically black college community in the world, hotbed of the civil-rights movement, and … the sprawl capital of the South. As Atlanta gets greener, who will benefit? Photo: iStockphoto. As a resident of Atlanta for the past 15 years, I have witnessed one bad urban-planning decision after another. I have watched the fare for public transportation go up to pay for its expansion into the suburbs, while services in the inner city got cut — …

Bill Richardson on energy independence

Speechifying.

Hmm ... New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is writing editorials for the Manchester Union-Leader? Whatever interest could the governor have in New Hampshire? The piece itself verges on parody, it is such a generic recitation of Democratic talking points on energy. "Foreign oil," check. "Apollo-like project," check. "Can't drill our way out of the problem," check. "Big oil companies with record profits," check. Of course, I think it's all to the good that this has so quickly become conventional wisdom. It's all true. But Richardson has always struck me as a bit smarmy and unimaginative. This piece of writing, which may as well have come from the Democratic Central Computer's Energy Phrase Generator, only reinforces that impression.

On Hollywood’s downtrodden eco-chicks, and how they’ve changed

“A working-class hero is something to be,” said John Lennon. But for Hollywood, it’s more likely to be a working-class heroine — at least when environmental issues enter the picture. Charlize Theron in North Country. Photo: 78th Academy Awards® This year, Charlize Theron’s crusading miner-activist in North Country garnered an Oscar nomination, following in the footsteps of such Academy-lauded turns as Sally Field’s in Norma Rae (1979), Meryl Streep’s in Silkwood (1983), and Julia Roberts’ in Erin Brockovich (2000). While Theron didn’t win (in part because it’s been only two years since she took home a statue for her portrayal …

A virtual walking tour through Wisconsin’s Sokaogon Chippewa community with Tina Van Zile

Like many tribal lands across North America, the Sokaogon Chippewa reservation in Northern Wisconsin faces environmental perils that threaten not only the land, but also the livelihood and culture of the people who live on it. The Sokaogon spent close to three decades battling one of those perils: the proposed reopening of a nearby zinc and copper mine. In 2003, thanks in large part to the efforts of environmental director and tribal council member Tina Van Zile, the tribe joined forces with the neighboring Forest County Potawatomi to end the battle — by buying the mine. Rich with casino profits, …

At Long Last: More of the Same

Bush administration backs industry-friendly chemical-security rules After years of foot dragging, the Bush administration is now backing federal security regulations to protect the nation’s chemical plants from terrorist attacks — but critics say the new rules may as well have been written by the industry itself. Speaking Tuesday at a forum organized by chemical-industry spokesflacks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff touted the administration’s newfound will to advance “sensible legislation,” like rules that would allow plants to establish their own security practices and would not force them to switch from dangerous chemicals to safer alternatives. He also tickled the assembled industry …

Barack Obama chats with Grist about energy independence and ethanol

The weight of much hope and expectation rests on the narrow shoulders of Barack Obama, the first-term Democratic senator from Illinois. Barack Obama. His eventual presidential run is seen as inevitable (some pundits even hype a 2008 bid). He’s a phenomenon, and everyone wants to see him up close. That’s fundraising manna for the Democrats: He was in Seattle this past weekend to stump on behalf of Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, who faces tough opposition this November. Recently Obama has moved to the forefront on energy independence. He devoted speeches to it last September and last month, and has accused …

An interview with integration advocate Sheryll Cashin

Space is the place where race, poverty, and the environment get sorted out, for better or worse. And the spaces where we live, work, learn, and play are the places where integration succeeds or fails, argues Sheryll Cashin. The Georgetown University law professor wrote 2004’s The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream, one of the most important and provocative books on civil rights in recent years. (Read an excerpt from the book.) Sheryll Cashin. Photo: Institute on Race & Poverty. Like the environmental movement, the civil-rights movement has become too focused on litigation, says …

The environmental case for integrated communities

The following passage is excerpted from The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream. (For more on this issue, read an interview with the author.) The growing concern with sprawl creates an interesting possibility for alignment of urban and suburban, white and minority, affluent and poor interests. Advocates for low-income people and for cities and older suburbs need to be much more involved in the smart-growth and sustainable-development movements. It is highly relevant, and even more important to expanding opportunities and choices for low-income minorities. Steering growth to the urban core has a number of …

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