Marcia G. Yerman

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Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Droz Tragos follows the intimate accounts of women as they grapple with the impact of their pregnancies and how the crisis impacts the trajectory of their lives. The insights revealed are quite different from the political pronouncements of elected officials.

April 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

Pope and Bloomberg agree that the impetus for change is not going to come from Washington. They see cities as the drivers of change and the “key” to tackling the problems of climate change.

May 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

On Election Day, I cast my vote full of hope.

On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. — after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.

I have been writing about the environment for six years.

As I looked over all the articles I have produced,

November 17, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Peggy Shepard of WE ACT on Air Pollution, Asthma, and Environmental Justice

Peggy Shepard of WE ACT on Air Pollution, Asthma, and Environmental Justice

WE ACT is proud to bring an empowered, informed and mobilized constituency to the table. Once that structure is in place, a lot can be accomplished. Act locally, think globally.”

May 20, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

Peggy Shepard of WE ACT on Air Pollution, Asthma, and Environmental Justice

The history of WE ACT for Justice goes back to 1988. Peggy Shepard was one of three neighborhood activists who recognized that West Harlem was bearing the brunt of toxic pollution.

The Environmental Justice movement was getting off the ground. Awareness was building that low-income communities and people of color were targeted for sitings by polluting industries in disproportionate numbers.

Now, the Trump administration plans to negate gains from the past eight years. Mustafa Ali, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office on Environmental Justice, resigned in March. The stakeholders WE ACT represents are facing greater jeopardy.

I reached out to Shepard, to ask her what she anticipates moving ahead.

What do you expect from Trump and the EPA, and how are you preparing your community to push back?

“I anticipate a rollback of many of the regulations and policies that the Environmental Justice movement has worked on over the last twenty-five years.

We’re used to blackouts at the federal level. We lived through Bush and Reagan, and we will overcome this new hardship through commitment, hard work, and keeping our eye on the prize. Environmental Justice folks are used to being under-resourced and ignored. It has not stopped our vision and savvy at finding ways forward.

The new administration has helped motivate the grassroots and when we have regular people fired up and ready to go, good things happen.

We took four buses to the People’s Climate March in D.C. last week.”

Much of the work WE ACT did to fight air pollution was through the courts. Do you think the judicial branch of government will be successful in protecting any of the in-place legislation?

“Actually, I believe we have gained as much through the regulatory process as the courts.

We got EPA Region 2 to do air monitoring in Harlem. That data was used to promulgate the fine particulate standard.

I am not optimistic about the courts, but we will have to wait and see. Even with a win, government has to enforce and implement. If that does not happen, then the law is ineffectual. We have to monitor the laws we already have, to ensure they are enforced and complied with.”

How are you bringing awareness to health in the home, particularly with the one in four asthma rate among children in Harlem?

“We are providing leadership to a Healthy Homes coalition in New York City and support the Asthma Free Homes bill (Intro 385A), which holds landlords responsible for making repairs in a given period of time, when there is a tenant with a diagnosis of asthma.”

What is your advice to frontline communities in America on how to protect their rights over the next four years?

“Organize at the grassroots. Coordinate leadership development and issue-oriented trainings to empower, mobilize and strengthen social cohesion so regular folks understand and experience their voices being heard. We just coordinated the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change.

WE ACT is proud to bring an empowered, informed and mobilized constituency to the table. Once that structure is in place, a lot can be accomplished. Act locally, think globally.”

What impact will potential cuts to programs devoted to protecting children from lead paint have in New York state?

“WE ACT used to have several HUD grants over the years. We were able to run bus ads, conduct workshops around the city, and train parents how to do lead testing. We reached over 100,000 people in our last campaign. We were an active member of the NYC Coalition to End Lead Poisoning which organized to pass the most protective law in the nation, Local Law 1 of 2004. Unfortunately, we now find the city is not enforcing the law. We have to go back to court to secure the city’s compliance to ensure landlords are contacting parents in their buildings who have a child under the age of 6. They must make the necessary repairs within a given period of time.

When new families and immigrants move into apartments, they do not have the information to protect their children from lead. We cannot assume that because lead poisoning incidence is down, everyone knows about this toxin. Over 80 percent of all new cases in New York City are children of color, living in the ten worst neighborhoods for housing maintenance.”

The New York City Council voted to protect low-income New Yorkers and communities of color with the Environmental Justice Study Bill (Intro 359) and The Environmental Justice Policy Bill (Intro 886A)

“We will be working on implementation in the coming months. We had this vision for years — to get the city to focus on equity and Environmental Justice. This is a moment for us to be creative and strategic.

We need a study because government and media want documentation of what we already know to be true. As city agencies develop their plans to address identified EJ concerns, we will have some access and documentation to hold them accountable. It is easier to do that locally than federally because we have the affected residents within shouting distance of their electeds.

We must scale up our civic engagement with electoral work, holding candidates and incumbents to a higher standard, and to keep their commitments.”

Tell Your Senator to Protect Our Health from Air and Climate Pollution

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force

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May 20, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

A new book by business magnate and former New York city mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and Carl Pope, previously executive director of the Sierra Club, puts forth the premise of “How cities, businesses, and citizens can save the planet.”

In seven chapters, they break down key ideas with clearly delineated points to generate a game plan for attacking climate change from a pioneering angle.

The two men connected around PlaNYC, a New York City sustainability plan. Bloomberg Philanthropies later supported a Sierra Club initiative, Beyond Coal, with a $50 million grant. The goal was to close down or phase out one-third of the coal-fired plants in America.

Bloomberg states that he is both a capitalist and a believer in the premise that the prime responsibility of government is to “protect public health and safety.” He’s a numbers man, and his motto is, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Referencing facts and figures, Bloomberg presents stats that show why acting now on climate change is the best move — economically and financially. Early on, he references global GDP figures to support the point that when it comes to dealing with the fallout from climate disruption, the costs of confronting the problem is substantially less.

Pope and Bloomberg agree that the impetus for change is not going to come from Washington (Especially with an administration of climate deniers.) They see cities as the drivers of change and the “key” to tackling the problems of climate change.

As mayor, Bloomberg tracked emissions, “quantified” them, and then categorized them by source. He applied cost/benefit analysis to his findings, instituted an Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, and made alliances with other mayors from around the country and the world.

I don’t agree with Bloomberg on everything. He supports nuclear power and is okay with fracking — “if it’s done safely.” He acknowledges that gas companies have not self-regulated, and that they need established oversight to avoid methane leaks, pollution of ground water, and earthquakes. He sees gas not as a “permanent solution,” but an essential alternative until we reach a “decarbonized economy.”

Beijing is an example Bloomberg cites for coming to grips with the net costs of high air pollution. The metropolis has seen health ramifications for inhabitants, as well as less foreign investment.

A pragmatist, Bloomberg wants to see cities planning for the 21st century and future generations. He had plenty to consider after Hurricane Sandy left New York City residents with a horrifying lesson about flood zones. Bloomberg notes that by the 2050s, 800,000 New Yorkers will be living in a projected floodplain (level land that may be submerged by floodwaters).

Armed with data, Bloomberg learned that 75 percent of emissions come from buildings. He puts forth the concept of tying tax credits to the installation of green roofs and solar panels. He became part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, where member cities used a standard system for measuring carbon emissions.

Cities as “drivers of action” became a crystallized concept for Bloomberg, often frustrated by the pace of federal action. He underscores, “Cities can’t wait for national governments to act.” Bloomberg envisions a network of cities as “collective forces of change” — setting precedents in innovative urban planning, promoting public transportation, and embracing public space that doesn’t included vehicular traffic

Pope and Bloomberg cover a full range of territory. Topics include getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies, the consequences of how we eat (agricultural practices are responsible for 30 percent of total methane emissions), an examination of how we use our resources, and the need to see climate change as an economic concern with tangible financial impacts.

My biggest takeaway from the book was what Bloomberg called the failure to recognize “disruptive innovation.” An example is the electric car. He uses a Silicon Valley phrase, “Valley of Death,” to pinpoint what happens when the technology is ahead of the market.

It’s all about adopting novel ideas and business models. Going with a green technology revolution in transportation instead of holding onto the old fossil fuel paradigm or re-examining how our electrical grid is sourced and operates.

I also liked the concept of using bio-mimicry, or taking a page from nature, to solve our environmental problems. My favorite was the permeable concrete that allows rainfall or flooding waters to pass through, and then be collected in aquifers.

All of the models presented by Bloomberg and Pope will take political will, and a fight against “the profit motive” embraced tenaciously by those who have the most to lose.

That’s where the citizen part comes in. When people are ready to realize that climate change is about their lifestyle choices, homes, communities, health, and children — they will hopefully join the fight.

 

Tell Your Senator: Protect America’s Health From Air and Climate Pollution

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force

 

 

 

 

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May 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

mark! Lopez Fights for East Los Angeles, Wins Goldman Environmental Prize

Photo: Courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize

Environmental justice advocates may be feeling discouraged as they watch the Trump administration dissemble regulations piece by piece.

However, each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize winners remind us that activism can start with one person.

The 2017 awardee from North America is mark! Lopez, a 32-year-old community organizer from East Los Angeles.

Lopez, who received a degree in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz and a Master’s from Cal State Northridge, came to his calling early. Raised in a family where his parents and grandparents were advocates in defense of their neighborhood, he attended rallies and marches alongside them.

East Los Angeles is described by Lopez as a “hardworking, family-driven community.” It is also a frontline zone that is oversaturated with industrial sites, heavily trafficked freeways, and emissions emanating from port related cargo transports. School, homes, playgrounds and parks are in immediate proximity to these sources of air pollution.

To make matters worse, in 2000, Exide Technologies took possession of a battery recycling plant in Vernon. The smelter, eight decades old, was made operative — skipping needed repairs and improvements. They functioned with temporary permits and collected numerous violations.

The equivalent of forty truckloads of lead-acid car batteries per day was processed. Fumes included arsenic. The lead dust was pervasive; 7 million pounds were released into the air. Samples revealed lead to be at a “hazardous level.”

Children from the area were tested. Their blood had one hundred times above the health limit amount. Lead and children are a deadly combination. It is a neurotoxin that causes brain damage — as well as behavioral and learning issues.

When Lopez returned home after college, his grandmother informed him that the Exide facility was still running.

In response, Lopez initiated an outreach campaign to educate his neighbors about the lead contamination. He joined the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), where he is now the Executive Director. He urged residents to take advantage of free lead testing.

Two hundred homes were analyzed. Only three didn’t show findings for lead. It became clear that a wider assessment was needed.

At the state’s capital, Sacramento, Lopez testified on government panels. He underscored the need for broader soil examination.  He pointed out he disparity in reaction time between the Exide scenario in East Los Angeles and the gas leak in Porter Ranch — an affluent community.

In April 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown approved $176 million to expand lead testing of 10,000 homes impacted by the Exide pollution, and a cleanup of the 2,500 homes found to have the highest hazardous levels of lead.

Lopez was made co-chair of the advisory committee in charge of overseeing the efforts.

However, as Hilda Solis, Los Angeles County Supervisor pointed out, “The actual cost to do a full and proper cleanup would cost $300 million.” She added, “This is our Flint, Michigan.”

I reached out to Lopez to ask him about his work.

What are your thoughts on where the future of Environmental Justice stands in the Trump administration?

“Regardless of who the president is, it is important to remember that movement starts at the grassroots. We began by knocking on doors and informing our community about Exide, and encouraging people to take action and fight for all of our health. If we start by working with our neighbors, soon enough we’ll organize our block. If we can organize our block, we can organize the blocks around us, and our communities. If we can organize our communities, we can connect with other organized communities and elevate the struggle. That is true no matter who is in office. We do not need to lose hope because change begins on the ground and becomes a movement when people come together.”

 What has been determined about the monies that will be awarded for cleanup?

“Since the lead contamination could very easily go beyond the 1.7-mile radius originally tested, we keep pushing for more testing until we can find the edge of contamination. For that we need additional funds. The Lead-Acid Battery Recycling Act of 2016 is expected to produce $30-32 million annually via a battery fee. A portion of that will go to cleanup Exide contamination, as well as “ghost smelters” (Closed sites with no responsible party across the state of California.) Estimates of total cleanup for Exide are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, so securing funding will continue to be a priority for us moving forward.”

What advice can you share with other parents concerned about their children and the outlook for environment?

“There is no safe level of lead for children, and I fear for my daughters’ safety as any parent would. This fight is for my children, but also the entire area. When confronted with issues, we have to be the ones to stand up and advocate for ourselves and our neighbors. I grew up with a sense of community. I was taught that I needed to do well in school, not to ‘make it out,’ but so that I could contribute to my community.

I’m raising my daughters with the same ethics and worldviews that have been passed down for generations in my family and community. Most importantly, the struggles we start today are struggles our babies don’t have to start tomorrow.”

For those who question the validity of individual and group action…
Exide closed its Vernon plant in March of 2015, after a federal investigation into its operation.

 

Tell your Senators: Protect our health from air and climate pollution.

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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Apr 26, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »