Northern California Public Media presents Living Downstream: The Environmental Justice Podcast, produced in association with the NPR One mobile app. Living Downstream explores environmental justice in communities from California to Indonesia and is hosted by NCPM News Director Steve Mencher.
Seeking Justice: On Repeat, In Every Language, Unceasingly
For this final Living Downstream episode of the season, we're dropping in on three recent webinars:
One gathering considered Social and Environmental Justice at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico. Another knitted together poetry and a powerful environmental film. It was put on by the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program. And a third event was cheekily called Toxics are a Drag, and was billed as a panel discussion on toxic beauty products in the queer community. That was hosted by one of the most important grass roots environmental groups in the country: New York City's WEACT for Environmental Justice.
Find more information about all these events in the Resources section of our website at https://norcalpublicmedia.org/resources/living-downstream-resource-guide
First, this show has an update on what's happening right now, the last week of October 2021. I called White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member Dr. Robert Bullard, often called the father of environmental justice in this country. He spoke to me just days before leaving for COP26, the United Nations climate change conference set to start next week in Glasgow.
Health, Wealth and Race in Today's Louisiana
This season, we’re looking at environmental racism across the country, and today that takes us to the sugarcane covered, oil-rich region at the intersection of southern Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico: Iberia Parish.
In this episode of Living Downstream, we will hear from people who say they are fighting over something that their families have already fought for generations to maintain: wealth. In this case, we’re talking about land: what grows on it and what lies under it.
We’ll hear from Black sugarcane farmers who say it’s become impossible to stay within the industry. These farmers describe the challenges of keeping their businesses afloat in an atmosphere of overwhelming racism, and they share with us how the stress is affecting their minds and bodies.
And we'll hear the poignant story of a woman who documents how oil was taken from her family's land, while the only compensation was a $10 contract she says is a fraud.
Gulf States Newsroom regional healthcare reporter Shalina Chatlani takes the story from here.
The Sea Next Door
From Northern California Public Media and Mensch Media, this edition of Living Downstream is guest hosted by Molly Peterson.
This time, from the Coachella Valley, east of Los Angeles, we’re talking about the biggest lake in California — now starved of water — and the people who live around The Sea Next Door.
The Salton Sea sits in a depression of land 30 miles from the Mexican border — and it poses a growing threat to public health. In this episode, two young women from the Eastern Coachella Valley introduce us to their neighbor.
We begin with Adriana Torres, who lives in a rural community there: an area called North Shore. We'll also hear from her classmate Rosa Gonzalez.
The Little Town That Would Transform the World
On this episode of Living Downstream, we take you to a little city with big plans for changing the world. While we’re there, we ask what role local governments can play in the movement for climate justice — that’s where climate activism and the fight for social justice meet. Ithaca, New York sees itself as a living laboratory for climate justice. Climate justice is based on the recognition that the people whose lives are most disrupted by climate change — the people who tend to die in the storms and heat waves, or to lose their homes in the fires and floods — are generally the people with the least money, the most precarious jobs, the least access to health care, the shabbiest housing, and the least reliable transportation.
So if you want to do something about the climate emergency, the thinking goes, you can’t just focus on things like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for disasters. You need to address long-standing social and economic inequities at the same time.
Climate justice is the big idea behind the Green New Deal — the resolution that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first introduced with Senator Ed Markey in 2019 and re-introduced in April of 2021.
Congress hasn’t formally adopted the Green New Deal, but many local governments around the country have gone ahead and passed their own versions. Ithaca is one of them. And it’s brought in a man with a global vision to lead the charge. Veteran public radio reporter — and long-time Ithaca resident — Jonathan Miller takes us there.
Degrees of Injustice: The Social Inequity of Urban Heat Islands
On this episode of Living Downstream, Texas Public Radio’s Yvette Benavides takes us to Central and South Texas where summer days are frequently in the upper 90’s, but where in many low income neighborhoods the mercury climbs even higher.
And with climate change, these areas will be experiencing more extreme temperatures, more frequently and for longer durations.
New research shows how these hotter temperatures are taking a toll on the people who live in some city neighborhoods — typically in communities of color. The heat is affecting their bodies and minds — effectively shortening their lives.
We'll be hearing from some Spanish-speaking residents as they explain how they coexist with the heat. Yvette will translate, but we’ll make room for these Texans to have their voices heard in their own language.
What's the connection between longstanding racism in our cities and the built environment there? What can be done to reverse what the EPA and many researchers call “the Urban Heat Island Effect”? The answers will demand that we untangle a complex web of issues, reject some of our prejudices and think creatively. That’s essential if we want to save lives and come to grips with the changing planet and our place in the community of people inhabiting it. Yvette Benavides reports.
Chicken Country, North Carolina: Justice on the Factory Floor
On this episode of Living Downstream: The Environmental Justice Podcast, Victoria Bouloubasis visits a rural county where the multicultural workforce kept America fed during the pandemic. We'll meet Esmeralda, who has become a community health worker, and her mother Marta, who works in a poultry plant.
In the face of blatant mistreatment and inadequate protection, food factory workers in North Carolina became sick, and died, in unacceptably high numbers. This mother-daughter team stepped up to protect the health of their neighbors and coworkers, efforts they continue today.
Struggling to Breathe in the Bronx
Moving and well put together. Shocking that suffering from asthma is practically a rite of childhood in the Bronx. The voice of a mom wondering about the health fate of her 3 year old son is heartbreaking as is the grieving for a grandmother who would not otherwise have died except for a community vulnerability to Covid 19.
Such a great podcast!
A podcast like this is long overdue. Not only is it well produced with great storytelling, but it’s very timely. Our environment is collapsing to quickly to fathom and a show like this gives some perspective and empowers me to understand a little more about what’s going on and what we can do about it. The issues are compelling and interconnected.
Living Downstream is one of my favorite podcasts. It gives really interesting and helpful insight about environmental injustices in communities around the world. I like that the reporters actually talk to the people in these communities— the ones most affected by issues. Most episodes focus on minority communities like the Calumet neighborhood in Chicago or the Navajo, etc, which we don’t really hear about.
Overall, I really enjoy and respect this podcast. I can’t wait to hear more!