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This week we talked with Justin Onwenu, a Sierra Club community organizer in Detroit working on environmental justice and the COVID-19 pandemic. Justin is a member of Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Environmental Justice Advisory Task Force and the Democratic National Committee’s Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis. Here are some of the highlights.
On Environmental Health Crises
Detroit has also had environmental justice crises. Water shutoffs. The Federal government has disinvested in water infrastructure for many, many years and as a result, people have been shut out of water because they cannot afford it.
On Pollution From Detroit’s Refinery
The only refinery in the state of Michigan is located in the city of Detroit. A refinery that is surrounded by dozens of other heavily polluting industries. And I see first hand working with residents every day, the number of folks on a single block that has asthma and cancer is just off the charts. One of the things I have been working on with residents is getting the oil company to commit to better protect community health by paying for things like air filtration systems in nearby schools.
Advice for Getting Involved in EJ Issues
It is important for folks to realize how connected environmental and environmental justice issues are to all the other issues that we care about…I think getting involved in great organizations and just connecting all the dots with issues that are a priority.
On Being Part of the Democratic Party Platform Committee
I was ecstatic to be able to participate…we included in our recommendations things like investing in vulnerable communities directly.
A 21-year old woman from the U.K., Jasmine Harrison, became the youngest female to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean — she did it in just over 70 days — surviving capsizing twice and a near collision with a giant tanker ship. Why did she do it, you ask? She said on her website, “I […]
This week we wanted to learn about how to make our politics less divisive, particularly when it comes to making progress on climate change and environmental issues. So we reached out to Mo — an original Friend of the Planet — who has been studying civility in politics for years. In GU Politics’ most recent […]
According to the National Park Service, between 1870 and 1930, hundreds of thousands of white people, African Americans, and European immigrants came to West Virginia to work in the coal mines. For Black coal miners, this backbreaking work was an opportunity to escape the Jim Crow South and build a better life for themselves and […]
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