In a move that should electrify the clean energy movement across the country, the tireless champions with the Chicago Clean Power Coalition have announced that Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of multinational giant Edison International, will soon shut down the Windy City's two Model-T-era coal-fired plants.
The historic victory, after a decade-long battle, marks a shift in the clean energy battle for the country: If Chicago, once hailed as the "world's largest market of coal," can go coal free, the rest of the nation must surely be close behind them.
Thanks to one of the most determined, diverse and successful clean energy campaigns in the nation--including a breakthrough campaign to pass a Clean Power ordinance—the retirement of the decrepit and deadly Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants will end the century-long reign of the most toxic polluters in the heartland.
Birthplace of Peabody Energy, the largest coal company in the world, an editorial in the Chicago Tribune asked in 1892: "Doubtless the end of the coal, at least as an article of a mighty commerce, will arrive within a period brief in comparison with the ages of human existence... How long can the earth sustain life?" The editorial lambasted Americans for our lack of vision and sense of energy conservation, and our need to "invent appliances to exhaust with ever greater rapidity the hoard of coal."
The Chicago Clean Power Coalition will hold a press conference in Dvorak Park on Thursday to formally announce the agreements signed by Midwest Generation, the Clean Power Coalition, and the City of Chicago.
"Today's victory demonstrates that people shouldn't have to tolerate toxic polluters in their backyard," said Rosalie Mancera of Pilsen Alliance. "By working with our neighbors and elected officials, Chicagoans have finally won the right to breathe clean air."
"For over ten years our communities have been fighting for the right to breathe clean air, clean land and clean water. Today we are ending over 100 years of pollution for profits and showing the power of community," said Kimberly Wasserman of LVEJO. "Hopefully, this is the first of many victories in Illinois, as citizens and politicians come together to hold corporate polluters accountable and usher in a clean energy future."
"Fisk and Crawford have been polluting Chicago neighborhoods for over 100 years," said Jerry Mead-Lucero of PERRO. "Our work is not over when the plants close. Midwest Generation and the City of Chicago must continue working to ensure these sites are properly cleaned up and returned to safe, productive use for our communities."
As a unique city-wide effort, the Chicago Clean Power Coalition includes: Chicago Youth Climate Coalition, Eco-Justice Collaborative. Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environment Illinois, Greenpeace, Faith in Place, Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Pilsen Alliance, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, Protestants for the Common Good, Rainforest Action Network Chicago, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Doctor's Council SEIU, Sierra Club, and the Southeast Environmental Task Force.
"This is a major victory for the people of Chicago!" said Pam Richart, Eco Justice Collaborative. "With the closure of the Fisk & Crawford coal plants, our city takes a bold step away from dirty energy and the harm it brings to human health, while at the same time opening the way for a clean energy future. We look forward to working with community groups and the City to ensure that these sites are cleaned up and restored for safe, productive uses."
"Chicago families have spoken: We have the right to breathe clean air, and we aren't willing to tolerate old, dirty coal plants in Chicago neighborhoods that harm our health and foul our air," says Faith Bugel, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). "This victory means cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner energy, and a safer environment for us all."
"This is a victory for the people of Chicago, who have demonstrated that grassroots activism is more powerful than the special interests of corporate polluters. We hope other communities across the country will find new inspiration to stand up for their right to clean air and a safe climate, " added Kelly Mitchell, Greenpeace Coal Campaigner .
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.