The words “climate activism” stir different feelings in different people in a town like Seattle. Known around the world for being a city that isn’t afraid to “shut it down” for a cause, Seattleites have seen their share of climate activists shut down streets, banks, railroad tracks, and even the Port of Seattle. For some, images of Greta Thunburg speaking to world leaders might be the peak of climate activism; for others, it’s the grassroots community building and support for those most affected by global climate change that motivates their determination.
(This article is jointly published between Ground Zero Radio, an initiative of the Vera Project, and the South Seattle Emerald.)
On Friday, May 19, a coalition of climate justice student activists, local community organizations, and student groups gathered at the University of Washington (UW) campus to call on the university — specifically UW President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost Mark Richards — to make a written commitment to a “95% by 2035” decarbonization goal in the campus’s direct energy portfolio and to use construction as an opportunity to increase campus accessibility. The protest included a march and speeches. According to UW Sustainability and UW Facilities articles, 93% of campus emissions derive from the methane gas plant, which produces steam to heat and cool the university’s buildings.
On May 4, the Land Use Committee voted to pass amendments to CB 120534, which is an ordinance that pertains to tree protection. According to District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales, who serves as the Vice Chair of the Land Use Committee, CB 120534 will be up for a vote by the full Council on May 23.
“The Beacon Hill Pause” is the moment when you have to temporarily stop your conversation because it was interrupted by the thundering sound of an airplane flying over your South Seattle neighborhood. These moments exemplify the continued impacts of environmental racism that BIPOC communities, like Beacon Hill, face as they bear the brunt of noise and air pollution.
As environmental justice goes mainstream, environmental justice advocates and practitioners must remain grounded in our political history and steadfast in our commitments to advancing outcomes and solutions, not just improving processes.
Clouds couldn’t keep the crowd away. Over four less-than-sunny hours on April 22, an estimated 400 people flowed through Yes Farm — the one-and-a-half-acre urban farm on Yesler Terrace stewarded by the Black Farmers Collective — to celebrate Seattle’s second annual Black Earth Day with food, music, and good old-fashioned gardening. The event was co-organized by the Black Farmers Collective and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle to celebrate Black people’s contributions to the environmental movement, provide a green space that’s welcoming for Black people who feel disconnected from the land, and encourage more people to get involved in the environmental justice movement.
Seattle residents and environmental activist groups are putting Waste Management’s (WM) new garbage truck slogans, which claim their trucks to be fully powered by renewable gas, to the test.
“You know the signs, ‘Breath Clean, Seattle: Powered By Renewable Natural Gas,’” said Pat Harris, a downtown resident speaking at the Seattle City Council’s Transportation and Public Utilities Committee last month. “The suggestion that Seattle residents are breathing clean around Waste Management on methane gas-powered vehicles isn’t accurate.”
According to a 2022 NASA report, the global sea level is rising due to human-influenced climate change, and by 2050 is expected to rise by as much as 12 inches. According to many in city, state, and federal leadership positions, that was clearly demonstrated by the flooding in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood on Dec. 27, 2022. Since a consensus is forming that the water is rising, the funding needs for short-term and long-term resilience plans are being prioritized.
Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have celebrated storytelling as a way to connect the present to past lessons and future dreaming. Narrative sovereignty is a form of land guardianship, and Nia Tero supports this work through its storytelling initiatives, including the Seedcast podcast, as well as in this column for media partner the South Seattle Emerald.
Indigenous peoples often share that throughout the world, storytelling is a foundational part of culture and kinship, a way to express and share knowledge across generations and communities. Indigenous stories are also a form of environmental justice work. Stories are culturally and bioregionally rooted parts of knowledge-bearing systems that tell us about ourselves, each other, where we’ve been, who we are, and even where we may be going, as seen in a number of “futurism” movements. Stories can also shine a spotlight on histories and lineages, draw us into each other’s ways of being, and provide a guide for treating the Earth with respect.
Last month, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released an updated “Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map” for the state. It calculates the environmental risks for communities throughout the state, in terms of the potential negative impacts to their health.