By Jazmin Murphy
Whenever you talk about race relations here in so-called "America," Indigenous communities [are] always the last ones on the rung," says Wanbli Wiyan Ka'win (Eagle Feather Woman), also known as Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network who fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In defending the land so deeply beloved and cherished by her people, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Braun recounts how actively her community is excluded from environmental work and how she and her colleagues are blatantly silenced, even when working alongside allies. "We've had to really fight … to even have a seat at the table," she says.
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By Breanna Draxler
Climate change is the undercurrent that drives and shapes our lives in countless ways. Journalist Judith D. Schwartz sees the term as shorthand. "It's almost as if people think climate is this phenomenon, determined solely by CO2, as if we could turn a dial up or down," she tells me over the phone. "We are missing so much."
Overcoming Cultural Myths<p>Schwartz comes to the topic of climate solutions with curiosity and a deep appreciation for science. You can hear it in the way she writes about processes like transpiration and decomposition: "The logic of nature is no secret; it is laid bare in every streambed, every handful of living soil, every spiderweb, if we bother to take a look. Its tale is told through accrual or retrenchment of biomass, biodiversity, and soil organic matter: the stuff of life."</p><p>She has a particular soft spot for soil health, sustainable grazing, and water retention—subjects on which she has written entire books. These pop up throughout The Reindeer Chronicles as she attends Ecosystem Restoration Camp in Spain and Cowgirl Camp in Eastern Washington. (Yes, it's a thing).</p><p>While I find the name off-putting, Schwartz uses her Cowgirl Camp experience as a springboard to discuss the critical role of women in agriculture. The word "farmer" often conjures an image of a man on a tractor, but she writes that a third of American farmers are women, and in the Midwest, it's closer to half. </p><p>"It's our cultural myths. It's our myth of the cowboy. It's our myth of what a farm is," Schwartz says. "There might be women involved, but you think about them as the supporting cast. We tend to look for heroes before we look for heroines."</p><p>By perpetuating the myth of the male farmer, Schwartz says, "We miss half of the imagination, insight, problem solving, intuition that's out there." And when it comes to climate change, we're going to need all we can get.</p>
Naturalizing the Economy<p>Schwartz's writing is lyrical in its descriptions of systems normally not given such linguistic fanfare. When talking about the economy, she writes, "Its theme music—the vicissitudes of the market, job numbers, profits and losses—sets both melody and tone for newscasts and public debate, the inadvertent soundscape of contemporary life." She calls the disconnect between limitless growth and a finite planet "a society-wide exercise in fooling ourselves."</p><p>But rather than try to force the complexity of nature into existing financial structures—by giving value to resources and ecosystem services, for example—she writes of naturalizing the economy instead. This requires rethinking basic concepts we take for granted, like productivity, jobs, and meaningful work.</p><p>"There is no natural law that says profit must supersede other types of reward," she writes. "The truth is, we are what we measure—or at least our actions are largely determined by how we gauge success. What if environmental healing, social engagement, and a commitment to the future governed our companies and institutions, and therefore our work lives?"</p><p>A lot of the solutions in the book talk about connecting with the land. In some communities that access is collective, but I press her on the fact that access to land is incredibly inequitable. In the U.S., a lot of that has to do with historic and systemic racism. What role does justice have to play here, and how can that be factored into the conversation about ecological restoration?</p><p>"It plays a huge role," Schwartz says. "The people who are most at risk of losing work in this time are people of color and young people." Rather than try to shoehorn everybody back into a service economy that refuses to provide a living wage and requires working two or three jobs, she tells me, we can start investing in restoration.</p><p>She describes the magnitude of the potential benefits with enthusiasm: not just a wage, but tools that are going to be needed throughout the world—the capacity to grow food, manage landscapes, design dwellings. Not to mention the impacts on mental and physical health of being in natural spaces and eating healthy food.</p><p>Schwartz describes these as short-term signposts that give positive feedback on the long road to restoring ecosystems. Biodiversity inevitably bounces back, she says, and soil health, too. While she doesn't tackle the issue of racism head-on, she makes clear that healthy communities include people and the land.</p><p>"What can be more healing than to heal land?" she asks me.</p>
A Local Land Ethic<p>The book is somewhat meandering in its quest for resilience. Schwartz's willingness to entertain a wide range of ideas and approaches is central to her message: "Once ideas on how to achieve what's assumed to be impossible are articulated, that goal is no longer impossible."</p><p>She describes different communal land management traditions—the Himma that long sustained shared grazing lands for Bedouin shepherds in Saudi Arabia, and ahupua'a, whereby each self-sustaining unit of shared land in Hawai'i included functional ecosystems that stretched from the mountains to the sea.</p><p>"I was very humbled by Indigenous knowledge, understanding myself as a newcomer on that land," she says. She admits she has a lot to learn but is excited about the prospect. I ask her how she views the relationship between Western science and traditional ecological knowledge.</p><p>"They can serve as reality checks for each other," she says. She goes on to explain how in Western culture, scientific inquiry is about breaking things apart to look at them in greater detail. But this reductive approach misses the way things fit into systems. In this way, she says science can disconnect people from the very nature they are trying to understand.</p><p>"Originally science was based on keen observation," she says. "That is part of getting us to knowledge." Ancient knowledge systems emphasize the connections between humans and nature—and see humans as part of larger whole. She says science today seems to be bearing that out more and more.</p><p>Still, that doesn't preclude the need for ancient knowledge as the climate rapidly changes. "Who better to be able to keenly observe those changes than people who have known what it has been?" she asks me. "To have a baseline and to know the various factors that will be changing?"</p>
Centering Community<p>Alongside the understanding of place, Schwartz emphasizes the equally important respect for community. Her writing recognizes that climate change is not so much an environmental problem as a human problem.</p><p>"Running in the back of my mind, like the hum of those hovering bees, was the dawning realization that all the knowledge and technology needed to shift to a regenerative future—one marked by agriculture that builds soil carbon, retains water, produces nutrient-dense food, and revives land and communities—is already available," she writes. "It's only people that get in the way."</p><p>To come at it from another angle, as one of her sources puts it, "There is nothing wrong with the Earth."</p><p>In reporting the book, Schwartz reckons with the notion of imperialism and comes to realize the limits of information. Knowing more doesn't necessarily change minds, but feeling heard can. Building trust can. Overcoming fear can. She witnesses the power of consensus when decades-old feuds among ranchers in New Mexico dissipate with the formation of a collective vision for their future.</p><p>"Worst-case-scenario perseverating keeps everyone pumping stress hormones. This leaves us at once frozen and overwhelmed, unable to act or seek alternatives," she writes. "In short, we stuff our heads with worst possible outcomes and wonder why we get them."</p><p>In my favorite example from the book, from which the title is derived, Schwartz explores what some local Indigenous leaders have called "green colonialism" in northern Norway. She follows the efforts of an Indigenous reindeer herder to prevent the government from culling his animals. While Norway's government is considered among the most progressive in the world, it doesn't recognize the value of the grazing animals in climate change mitigation, instead investing in wind turbines on those very same lands. The herder's family considers reindeer herding a cultural bank for traditional language, handicraft, knowledge of the environment, and ecology. So the loss is far greater than the animals themselves. (<a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/09/02/norway-reindeer-herding-sami-culture/" target="_blank">Read an excerpt here.</a>)</p>
Homebound<p>"This was not an easy book to write," Schwartz admits, and the world looks very different today than when she was writing it. Schwartz says the pandemic has given her permission to fall in love with the place where she is. She describes her home in southern Vermont as beautiful, though somewhat dismissively, saying that she always viewed the action as taking place somewhere else. Home was just the place she returned to after each of her reporting trips to write without distractions.</p><p>Now, though, she says she's experiencing a newfound presence and grounding right where she is, and realizing there's far more to discover than she previously acknowledged. "What was in the background has become foreground." I would venture a guess that her shifted perspective is not unique in these uncertain times, and that's just what she thinks we need.</p><p>Even in the small town of Bennington, Vermont, where she lives, she's seeing the effects. A "grow your own food" webinar was offered in June. While a successful local event might usually attract five people, 100 people signed up. She says this is evidence that people are aware of the need for local resilience.</p><p>"We've all got places," she says. "Places have their own ecological logic. Let's do what we can where we are and learn from each other." That idea of connecting with place and community is central to her worldview. "The 'we' who can address climate change is everybody," she says.</p><p>"There is no one size fits all for climate action." Schwartz says we need to protest oil companies and make art and grow healthy food and feed one another and, in her case, write—all using our respective skills to imagine a more resilient world.</p><p>Her argument, reinforced by 2020's stay-at-home orders, is to focus on restoring the functions of whatever ecosystem you call home. Rhetorically, she writes, "How many microclimates does it take to make a new climate?"</p>
Tipping Points<p>In her concluding chapter, Schwartz asks what people would do if restoring ecosystems was achievable. She then lists possible answers, among them: keeping water in the ground, jettisoning the cynicism, and dancing.</p><p>I can't help but push back on this. After all, if our planet is at a tipping point, don't we need to do more and at larger scales to actually achieve meaningful ecological restoration?</p><p>Her answer is perfect in its simplicity: "Tipping points go both ways." We may be on the brink of disaster, if we choose to dwell on the worst-case scenarios. But maybe, just maybe, if we focus on the best possible outcomes, we can tip the scales to bring best-case scenarios into being.</p>
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When Cosimo Di Biasi, 66, decides it's the right day to fish, he begins at 5 p.m. He drives 4 miles to the port of Torre Santa Sabina, boards Nonno Ugo, his 21-foot fiberglass boat, and navigates south for a half-hour to reach a marine reserve in Puglia, in southern Italy.
Historic Exploitation<p>Alessandro Ciccolella, the director of Consorzio di Gestione Torre Guaceto, the management entity of the natural reserve, says that before they took over in 2001, this stretch of coast was a no-man's-land. Organized crime had a stronghold in the area, using the shores of Torre Guaceto as a port for tobacco and drug smuggling.</p><p>"Ciccolella would tell us that one day Torre Guaceto would be a reserve. But we didn't believe him, and we didn't care," Di Biasi says.</p><p>Fishers would detonate homemade bombs underwater, harvesting the dead fish that floated to the surface. In the process, though, they were killing marine life, destroying the reef, and risking their lives. Plus most of the kill went to the seafloor, while clouds of dust filled the waters. According to Ciccolella, fishers thought they were plowing the sea for good.</p><p>The area was so worn out that in 2001 the Consorzio, formed by World Wildlife Fund and the nearby cities of Brindisi and Carovigno, decided to close the waters of the reserve for five years to let it recover from the past exploitation.</p><p>"They took away a piece of the sea from us. We used to keep our boats there, and the tower was the place where we cooked and hung out," De Biasi says. "From one day to the other, we couldn't fish anymore."</p><p>Friction arose between the fishers and the management of the reserve escalating to slashed tires and broken car windows. The local fishers kept fishing illegally at night, to make a point, even if they still had the rest of the sea to fish. The coast guard occasionally caught them, confiscated their boats, and gave hefty fines.</p><p>"We needed to know what was underwater and let it recover," Ciccolella says, explaining the fishing ban. "We were able to do it because the area was not too big, and it was easier to reason with fewer people. But the benefits of a small reserve are way larger than you can think of."</p>
Restoring Abundance<p>Paolo Guidetti, a professor of Ecology at Nice University in France, played a crucial role in developing the reserve's sustainable fishing model. He says it wasn't easy to start a dialogue with the fishers, but it turned out to be crucial to the reserve's success. In 2005, after five years of the fishing ban, the fishers were allowed in for a fishing trial.</p><p>"We met God's abundance," Di Biasi says. Catches were fivefold compared to the outside area, and fish were bigger and of higher value.</p><p>The Consorzio teamed up with Guidetti and Marcello Longo, president of <a href="https://www.slowfood.com/" target="_blank">Slow Food</a><a href="https://www.slowfood.com/" target="_blank"> </a><a href="https://www.slowfood.com/" target="_blank">Puglia</a>, a local chapter of an international movement that fights the disappearance of local food cultures around the world. They organized meetings with the bewildered fishers to create a protocol to start fishing again while preserving the biodiversity of the area.</p><p>"The fishers themselves proposed to fish just once a week," Guidetti says with excitement. Fishers would also use shorter nets—0.75 miles long instead of 2.5 miles—and larger mesh size to free smaller and juvenile fish.</p>
Expanding Protections<p>The biggest problem for a Marine Protected Area seems to be control and management. Many projects similar to Torre Guaceto fail because of the absence of precise control of the territory. Now, after years of struggling, Torre Guaceto can count on the rigorous vigilance of the Italian Coast Guard and of the fishers. But even with such control, some illegal fishing still happens at night.</p><p>Today an unlikely event is happening: Fishers are the ones asking for the protection for the sea. "We requested the director to enlarge the marine reserve," Di Biasi says. The request is now under examination by the Ministry of Environment. In the meantime, 10 other fishers from nearby towns have already started fishing with shorter nets and wider mesh sizes, hoping the reserve will be extended to include their coastlines soon.</p><p>Now Di Biasi goes to elementary schools to explain the importance of sustainable fishing. He also goes to fishing communities in other Mediterranean countries to tell incredulous fishers that it is possible to make more money while preserving the sea.</p><p>"We hope they will follow our example and create a marine reserve," Di Biasi says. "It took us time to learn this, but now we hope that others will do [it] too."</p>
By Ray Levy-Uyeda
A farmer for most of his life, Sam Stewart bought farmland in Montana about 35 years ago. Since then, he's planted and harvested his wheat and other crops around 16 open oil wells on this land, which he estimates were dug in the 1920s.
Abandoned Wells<p>The first oil wells in Montana were drilled at the turn of the century, and the industry <a href="https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6881&context=etd" target="_blank">experienced its first boom</a> in the 1920s. <a href="https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6881&context=etd" target="_blank">Energy demands of World War II</a> spurred a second boom; between 1942 and 1945, <a href="https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6881&context=etd" target="_blank">oil production in the Elk Basin region</a> increased from 16,000 to 940,000 barrels annually. When those wells no longer produced oil, companies could just leave. The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission of Montana, tasked with identifying and plugging abandoned wells, wasn't created until 1954, and by that time an untold number of wells had already been drilled, produced, and abandoned. </p><p>As more companies moved into Montana, oil and gas production grew into an increasingly important part of local and state economies; by 2015, it<a href="https://montanapetroleum.org/about-us/economic-impact/" target="_blank"> made up 5.6%</a> of the state's general fund. But the industry that once was a cornerstone of Montana's economy is now in a nosedive: a yearslong decline in global oil production and demand compounded by the <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063049965" target="_blank">pandemic-induced economic slowdown</a> has produced some of the worst oil <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-07/oil-companies-warn-kansas-city-fed-of-widespread-insolvencies" target="_blank">production conditions in recent years</a>.</p><p>In 2016, the most recent year for which he was able to provide data, 4,713 oil and gas wells were in operation in the state and 204 had been abandoned, according to Allen Olson, executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association, a trade organization that works on behalf of the businesses. But that's a <a href="https://montanapetroleum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/MPA-Booklet.pdf" target="_blank">fraction of the tens of thousands</a> that have been drilled in Montana in the past century. </p><p>Data on abandoned wells remain incomplete, which further complicates cleanup efforts. Plus, state legislatures have drastically different policies on how to address abandoned wells. One thing remains certain: The issue is enormous and far-reaching. A 2018 report from the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-06/documents/6.22.17_ghgi_stakeholder_workshop_2018_ghgi_revision_-_abandoned_wells.pdf" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency </a>estimated that the country has 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells. </p><p>Abandoned wells in Montana—left by companies that filed for bankruptcy, for example, default to the state. Theoretically, a state-run fund pays for well adoption and closure, but even under state control, the wells often lay unplugged, because plugging abandoned wells and restoring the surface land is expensive. Olson believes that the "state regulatory agency here is doing an excellent job staying on top" of plugging wells. But the <a href="http://www.mtrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?RN=36%2E22%2E1308" target="_blank">state's plugging plan</a> doesn't explicitly address the issue of abandoned oil wells, and also neglects to lay out a time-bound plan for plugging wells. </p><p>It's not just that states like Montana don't have a legislative apparatus to hold corporations accountable, says Mitch Jones, the climate and energy program director at Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit that pushes for corporate and government accountability. He says that the lack of governmental action is by design. When wells are abandoned, Jones says, "the costs of doing business are passed on to the public instead of being paid by the shareholders in the industry."</p>
A Boost or a Burden?<p>Kirk Panasuk, a lifelong Montanan, farmer, and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council's Oil and Gas Task Force, remembers growing up with oil wells on his grandparents' farm. Panasuk says "once you've leased the land you've lost control." An oil company would lease the mineral rights—not the surface land but the profitable oil below. That lease might expire, the company would leave, and another company would come in to start the process again.</p><p>Agriculture is a difficult industry, and Panasuk says what seems like "free money" at the outset can lead to problems down the road. Water systems are connected, which means that an oil leak in Montana has the potential to leach chemicals into bodies of water such as the Yellowstone River that flows into other states through the Missouri River, a <a href="https://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/" target="_blank">river crucial</a> to municipal, industrial, and agricultural function. </p><p>Panasuk now volunteers with the NPRC to lobby state legislators on practices that would hold resource extraction companies accountable by mandating water testing and treatment. He admits that he's made money off of these companies by leasing mineral rights to oil producers who then sell the oil at market. Despite the environmental fallout, Panasuk believes that oil companies' leasing of land actually "saved a lot of small farms from failure [and] bankruptcy."</p><p>Olson of the Montana Petroleum Association says that in 2019, when oil was $60 per barrel, a company might produce 100 barrels per day and pay a royalty fee of 12.5%, which could garner a farmer $750 per day for leasing their land. Today, with prices and production down, the payoffs look different. In April, oil prices went into the <a href="https://billingsgazette.com/news/local/oil-price-collapse-hits-billings-area-businesses-hard/article_df10e954-3e0c-5b6c-9641-135208d4ad2c.html" target="_blank">negative</a>, and in August, they're <a href="https://www.oilmonster.com/crude-oil-prices/central-montana-price/159/228" target="_blank">hovering around $30 per barrel</a>. </p><p>While an oil lease might benefit a farmer initially, Jones says that oil companies are well-versed in this practice. "The oil and gas industry takes advantage of the inequities in our agriculture system to prey upon farmers and get them to sign leases for drilling on their land," Jones says, which can "undermine agricultural activity that's taking place."</p><p>In other farming communities around the country, where oil and gas companies produce natural gas through <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/poor-communities-bear-greatest-burden-from-fracking/" target="_blank">hydraulic fracturing</a>, farmers and members of the local community often bear the brunt of water pollution. Not to mention that farming is dependent on a predictable and healthy climate, which is being threatened by resource extraction. </p>
A Foundation Is Formed<p>In early 2019, Curtis Shuck was in the northern town of Shelby, about 15 miles south of the Canadian border, meeting with farmers about agricultural transportation. More than three decades in the oil and gas industry hadn't prepared him for what he saw—abandoned, methane-leaking, unplugged oil wells.</p><p>He walked the area with the farmers and learned how they worked around the wells, most of which had stopped producing oil decades earlier. What was left were remnant pipes strewn across the fields and a sulfuric stench like rotten eggs. </p><p>On his journey home to Bozeman, Shuck couldn't stop thinking about what he had seen, knowing that each open well was responsible for tons of emissions. On that drive, the idea for the Well Done Foundation was born. </p><p>Just over a year after that first trip north, the Well Done Foundation plugged its first three wells and expanded beyond the Montana pilot program into dozens of other states. Shuck says that he hopes the foundation can also gather the concrete data that the government lacks, such as the number of orphaned wells and their emissions, which makes it difficult to develop solutions.</p><p>Shuck says he can acknowledge the state's shortcomings in their cleanup efforts while building relationships with those who make regulatory decisions. The "state fund is grossly underfunded," Shuck says, but "why should the public bear the burden of this orphaned well issue?"</p><p>The Well Done team identifies abandoned oil wells around the state, and then posts a financial bond to the state's Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, a way for the state to track and partially fund the plugging. In doing so, the state is holding up its end of the bargain, but without this push from Well Done, it might take the state years to accomplish what the Foundation does in months. </p><p>The foundation researches individual well emissions for about nine months as well as studying the construction of a well, how deep it goes, and the materials that are required to plug it. Shuck says it's important that the foundation does its due diligence to identify wells that have collapsed in on themselves or have an obstruction that needs to be addressed before plugging. </p><p>Then the foundation works with county commissions, private entities, and those who own the surface land to develop and execute a "plugging plan," which so far has been funded by private or anonymous donors. The actual plugging of the well takes only a few days, and then the Foundation works to restore the surface land to its "pre-drilling condition," which allows a farmer to seed the land and grow crops. </p>
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By David Korten
Our present course puts humans on track to be among the species that expire in Earth's ongoing sixth mass extinction. In my conversations with thoughtful people, I am finding increasing acceptance of this horrific premise.
By Isabella Garcia
On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.
Grassroots Resistance<p>The plant that would threaten Laur's health and home was awaiting the approval of an air permit by the North Carolina Department of Air Quality which, if approved, would basically greenlight the project. "This made me get out and go door to door," Laur says. One by one, she alerted her neighbors to the prospect of the asphalt plant. "I got to meet some of my neighbors I never knew before," she says. "There's no secret that there has always been a pretty strong line between the White community and the Black community here." In the end, three neighbors joined her efforts—the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, Anita Foust, and Bill Compton. Together, they formed the Anderson Community Group to advocate for environmental justice in their community.</p><p>"We are all the four corners of the community," Laur says with a laugh. "You've got a sick old White lady, Rev. Shoffner is a disabled vet, you've got Anita, who is a Black woman, and you've got a White, old country farmer. We all come from different faiths, but we've all come together as one."</p><p>Suddenly thrust into activism, the group contacted the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, a coalition that provides resources and connections with other groups. "We advocate, we organize, and we assist communities with whatever actions they are thinking of trying to protect themselves," says Naeema Muhammad, the network's co-director. Muhammad met with the activists from Anderson and recognized their need for legal advice, so she connected them with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The legal resources were key when the group determined that the data from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality's environmental justice report wasn't adding up.</p><p>The report—a requirement for all DEQ permit requests—stated that the Anderson community was 33% minority. That seemed far too low to the residents, so the Anderson Community Group did a census of each house within a 1-mile radius of the proposed plant—the same radius considered in the DEQ's environmental justice report.</p><p>"Rev. Shoffner went out into the community and did his own survey and found out that it was more than 70% minority," Laur says. "That was huge, because that changed the situation to a Title VI matter." Title VI is a federal civil rights law that prevents people from being discriminated against on the grounds of race, color, or national origin. Title VI cases require a more rigorous and comprehensive environmental justice report, so recognizing the Anderson community as a Title VI matter increases the strength of their request for a more in-depth report.</p><p>The massive difference in race demographics comes down to census data, Laur says. The DEQ was using race data from the 2010 census, which was only <a href="https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/?latlng=35.77385,-78.73807&z=7&query=coordinates::36.44038,-79.36343&promotedfeaturetype=states&arp=arpRaceEthnicity&baselayerstate=4&rtrYear=sR2010&infotab=info-rtrselfresponse&filterQuery=false" target="_blank">completed by about 64% of the population of Caswell County</a>—the county where Anderson is located. Laur says the Anderson population response rate could be even lower because the community is considered <a href="https://www.nccensus.org/about-the-census#hard-to-count-communities" target="_blank">"hard-to-count" by the U.S. Census Bureau</a>.</p><p>"The people who don't fill it out are rural people who want to keep their land and don't want zoning and minorities," Laur says, which creates skewed race demographics. The Anderson Community Group said that when they brought up this issue with the director of North Carolina DEQ, he said he was aware of the problem.</p><p>"So that tells me that all the EJ reports in North Carolina that have been done may not even be valid, just like ours," Laur says. "We were told that we are the first [community members] who have ever doubted it and checked it out."</p>
Elevating Voices<p>Determined to have new data collected, the Anderson Community Group rallied in early 2020. After learning from the state Department of Air Quality, the department responsible for approving or rejecting the asphalt air permit, that 100 statements of concern from community members would be sufficient to trigger a public hearing, the Anderson group gathered letters of concern from their community. They submitted more than 108.</p><p>"Then we were told there wasn't enough concern to have a public hearing," Laur says. "So, we started inundating the [Department of Air Quality director with emails and phone calls from the community."</p><p>Finally, in February 2020, the DEQ declared a public comment period for the issue, effectively placing the air permit for the asphalt plant on hold until a public hearing August 3. The public hearing will be held online because of COVID-19, but Laur says most people in Anderson don't own computers, and won't be able to attend. When the community group filed a complaint regarding accessibility, the DEQ then allowed public comments to be submitted via voicemail.</p><p>"Well, we don't have a cell tower out here," Laur says. She has personally never been able to use her cellphone in her home, and even her landline phone drops calls frequently. Even being able to afford a landline is a luxury in Anderson, Laur says.</p>
By Bill McKibben
The upcoming election looks to be an apocalyptic turning point for our democracy—and our planet. In Turnout! Mobilizing Voters in an Emergency, political visionaries and movement leaders such as Bill McKibben define the urgency of this moment and provide a manual for turning out voters in an age of extreme inequality, climate change, and pandemic.
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By Inés M. Pousadela
In early 2020, as millions went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the environment experienced temporary relief from the impacts of human activity. As skies cleared and birds and animals claimed city spaces, it became apparent that the young people who had mobilized for the climate across the world in 2019 were right: Much environmental damage is the result of human action, and as such, can also be reversed through human initiative.
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Georgia's mid-June primary was the latest example of pandemic-induced voter suppression. Long lines at polling stations stretched for blocks and blocks as socially distanced voters waited for several hours to vote in person. In Fulton County, which includes Atlanta and is the state's most populated county, some voters waited past midnight to cast their ballot.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
High up in the southern sierra of Mexico's state of Oaxaca, an innovative nonprofit business inspired by Mohandas Gandhi is helping Indigenous Zapotec families to weather the economic storm that COVID-19 has brought to the Mexican countryside.
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun does not use email or text. In the Coastal Salish communities from which he hails, he has been known as a painter and a dancer since the 1980s. Yet, he has been exploring the "virtual reality renaissance"—the technology that allows you to figuratively step into a computer-generated 3D world—since it made its soft debut in the '90s.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f44fc9a12d287e773a01dc2e4cfa635a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cNxnSaVO3VU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> Virtual reality, Yuxweluptun says, is another medium for someone like him to express his ideas in more ways than just on a one-dimensional canvas. "Not everybody can do it, because you have to be able to think in a certain way," he says. "It's a different way, other than painting or making a sculpture."</p><p>Here are the stories of four other groups of Indigenous artists using technology and art to tell their communities' stories.</p>
The Condor and the Eagle<p>Bryan Parras has been working in radio in the Houston market since the early 2000s and, as time passed, saw how social media made storytelling more accessible to everyone—including those in marginalized communities.</p><p>In 2014, Parras met a European couple, Sophie and Clément Guerra, who had come to the United States to support the climate movement and who quickly became entangled in the Indigenous movement as well. Eventually, they began work on <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7757874/" target="_blank">The Condor and The Eagle,</a> an independent documentary about four Indigenous leaders on a transcontinental adventure. Journeying from the Canadian plains, through the U.S and deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle, they battled Big Energy while working to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of "Climate Justice."</p><p>Parras, himself of mixed Indigenous descent, is no stranger to filmmakers and reporters who come into Indigenous communities to observe, but without getting their actual input. "It's another form of extraction, right? Cultural extraction," he says.</p><p>It's why Parras, was the documentary's campaign producer, acted as a bridge between the filmmakers and his community, so that Indigenous communities portrayed in the film would be included in the editing process as well. "What may not be written in the history books are now archived in this story," he said.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7e42f930bcbabcc50e96fe72da091581"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YSMutzSW7gQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Since its premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival in October 2019, The Condor and the Eagle has been selected by more than <a href="https://thecondorandtheeagle.com/" target="_blank">50 film festivals and won 12 awards</a>. The most notable one is Best Environmental Documentary at the 2019 Red Nation International Film Festival in Beverly Hills, California.</p>
Wenazìi K’egoke; See Visions<p>Casey Koyczan is Tlicho Dene from the Northwest Territories of Canada. When he collaborates on virtual reality exhibits, he brings what he calls a "Northern aesthetic"—visuals of the remote landscape of the Northwest Territories of Canada. His latest project is <u><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_-rHnn-YZ8" target="_blank">Wenazìi K'egoke; See Visions</a></u>, a three-chapter virtual reality experience that takes you into a dreamlike interpretation of encounters with animal spirits of the North.</p><p>See Visions uses stark colors to evoke the feeling of walking through the snow under an aurora borealis. Koyczan considers the animals depicted in this atmosphere-heavy video to be its most important features. "It's all about being involved in the North," he says. "It reinforces the subtle notion that we are on their territory."</p><p>See Visions debuted in a prototype version in 2019 at the annual ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, a global hub for Indigenous-made media art. Koyczan and his partner on the project, Travis Mercredi, are now developing it for length and interactivity.</p>
Three Sisters<p>In 2019, the Dundas West Art Museum in Toronto hosted an art exchange that allowed one Canadian artist to travel to Chile to paint a mural, while Chilean artist, Paula Tikay, went to paint in Canada.</p><p>"At the end of [painting] a mural, one leaves and leaves [their] work for the people who transit those places," says Tikay, who is Mapuche, the largest Indigenous group in Chile. "They are like small messages that can identify and rescue stories from places. They are like gifts that appear for the inhabitants of that space."</p><p>Dundas West Art Museum is Toronto's <a href="https://www.kickstartbia.ca/innovation-stories/dundaswest" target="_blank">first open-air street art museum</a>. The neighborhood of Dundas West has long been connected with Chile since Chileans began moving there as refugees of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in the 1970s.</p><p>Tikay's contribution to the museum is a Three Sisters mural, depicting three Indigenous women who represent the three main agricultural crops of Indigenous groups in the Americas.</p><p>Three Sisters is the name given to climbing beans, maize, and squash that are/were grown together in an agricultural strategy called companion planting. It's a historical reminder that European settlers learned to plant crops on American soil from its Indigenous people.</p><p>Tikay calls it an honor to use her art to remind people of that, especially because it was also practiced in her ancestral southern Chile. </p>
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My Louisiana Love<p>The Houma Nation sits on the Mississippi Delta; the wetlands there were struck by both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill five years later. These disasters, both natural and manmade, slowly chip away at the way of life of the Houma people, making them less able to hunt, trap, and fish.</p><p>In 2015, Monique Verdin co-produced the documentary, <u><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2290531/fullcredits/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm" target="_blank">My Louisiana Love,</a></u> which traces her journey back to her home in the Houma nation and focuses on her community's struggle with decades of environmental degradation.</p><p>It has recently been made available on PBS again.</p><p>Verdin herself expressed surprise at its rerelease. "I didn't think it would be relevant at the time," she says, "but it's even more relevant now."</p>
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