Tag Archives: Environmental Justice

Seattle’s Heating Oil Tax: A Missed Opportunity for Environmental Justice

by Tushar Khurana

In September 2019, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a law that would tax home heating oil sold within the city and could eventually require residents to upgrade or decommission their heating oil tanks by 2028. The legislation was introduced to meet the City’s climate goals by hastening the transition to cleaner electric home heating across the city. It was also lauded in a mayoral press release as a “bold and thoughtful approach” to environmental policy that “help[s] our most vulnerable residents move off heating oil.” Revenue from the tax is intended to fund rebates for homeowners and help provide 1,000 fully paid electric heat pump installations for low-income residents.

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Cascadia’s Climate Champions Learn They Can Win at the Local Level

by Peter Fairley

(This article was originally published on InvestigateWest and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

Acting on international calls to freeze fossil fuel infrastructure, citizen activists working with environmental justice groups and Indigenous nations are pushing local governments to rewrite the rules for building everything from airports and gas stations to industrial zones. 

“We were here before the airport was. They forget that,” says Rosario-Maria Medina, a community activist in the South Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown, just north of bustling Boeing Field. When Seattle’s first commercial airport opened in 1928, Georgetown had been a vibrant community for more than half a century.

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Seedcast: Storytelling Is Guardianship

by Tracy Rector

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 monthly column for media partner the South Seattle Emerald.

Many of us have known for quite a while that climate change, accelerated by human decisions and behaviors, is not only real but a direct threat to life as we know it. While the findings of the IPCC report released in August of 2021 might not have been a surprise, that didn’t make them less alarming. The report inspired urgent conversations not only at planet-focused nonprofits like the one I work at, Nia Tero, but on a global scale and in individual homes: What can we do to heal the planet? What role can we play? Where are the solutions?

The good news is that human decisions and behaviors can also heal the planet, as evidenced by the land guardianship carried out by Indigenous peoples around the world in the form of tending to the land with fire, seed saving, or not taking more than you need. Indigenous land stewardship shows us not only the ways of the past and present but also the ways of the future. As an extension of that work, Indigenous storytelling links a millennium of knowledge with current day action. This is why Indigenous storytelling is an integral part of climate justice today.

Nia Tero Storytelling Fellow Jonathan Luna (Huila) connects Indigenous land sovereignty and narrative sovereignty in this way: “As part of creating the world, a place with more justice and liberation for all, historically oppressed and marginalized people, which include Indigenous peoples, need to create our own narratives regarding our lived experiences, be it historical or contemporary. The role of storytelling in these struggles, in all of its multiple forms and media, is fundamental and necessary; there are no imitations, fast-forwards, or shortcuts. The narratives of the people who dedicate their lives on the frontlines of defending the most biodiverse, water-rich yet fragile ecosystems that contribute to help sustain the world’s climate are the stories that policymakers need to be seeing and hearing.” 

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The South End Guide to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Fighting Plastics

by Mark Van Streefkerk

Did you know that only 9% of plastic is actually recycled? That percentage even includes the wide range of plastics we put in the recycling bin. Plastic bottles are recycled consistently, but everything else — milk jugs, plastic wrappers, the clamshells that package your deli sandwich — ends up in landfills, incinerated, or shipped overseas to stagnate in heaps in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia or the Philippines. 

Worldwide, plastic invariably ends up in oceans and waterways, polluting the ecosystem, consumed by fish and other sea animals, which in turn are eaten by us. Even if you don’t eat seafood, plastics are everywhere. In fact, there is so much plastic in the world that we literally eat, drink, and breathe in microplastics. It’s estimated that we could be ingesting up to a credit card-size of microplastics a week. What that plastic consumption means for our bodies is still undetermined, although plastic chemicals can act as endocrine disruptors and could have harmful effects on hormones and reproductive systems. It’s a sobering reminder that we can’t outrun or outsource our waste. 

In this installment of our ongoing series on how to reduce our carbon footprint, we’ll take a look at what makes plastics so harmful, what the good news is, and how a group of South End youth are educating their neighbors on plastic waste. 

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After 10 Years, Jill Mangaliman’s Departure From Got Green Leaves a Lasting Legacy

by Ronnie Estoque

Last month, Got Green, a South Seattle-based grassroots organization that works towards environmental, racial, and economic justice made a big announcement. The organization’s executive director, Jill Mangaliman, transitioned out of their position after a decade. Mangaliman joined Got Green as a volunteer in 2009 and has left a lasting impact on the organization through their leadership on various campaigns and programs over the years.

“I definitely consider myself like, you know, I call it a late bloomer,” Mangaliman said regarding their long-time community organizing work. They had grown up in a Filipino household where the discussion of politics rarely occurred, so they consider their road to activism to have begun much later in their life.

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OPINION: National Products Inc. Pumps Environmental Hazards Into South Park Daily

by Cedar Bushue

(This article originally appeared on Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

I am a long-term resident of South Park. My family and I have had a home here for three generations. South Park is a small neighborhood in South Seattle, hemmed in by the Duwamish and a couple of highway spurs. It is a residential neighborhood but also home to many industries for Seattle and King County. Our life expectancy here is 8+ years less than Seattle as a whole, according to a 2013 study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. Because it is a small, minority-majority neighborhood without resources, we are home to a transfer station, many homeless encampments, and many industrial areas.

National Products Incorporated (NPI) is a local company that started in someone’s garage but has grown to overtake a great deal of land in the heart of the neighborhood, displacing many neighbors as well as several stately trees that provided wildlife habitat and shade for the human inhabitants. Incidentally, this facility is directly across from one of the main neighborhood parks.

Because South Park is small and its residents don’t make a fuss, companies like NPI can pretty much do whatever they want while the County willingly ignores or happily rubber stamps every expansion plan. 

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Incumbents Face Off With Social Justice-Minded Challengers for Port Commission

by Hannah Krieg

Paige Robertson is a young climate justice advocate who lives under the flight path of Sea-Tac International Airport. This means an aircraft could be over her head as often as every 45 seconds, said another concerned resident of the SeaTac area. 

According to a 96-page report by Public Health – Seattle & King County, more than 50% of the people in King County who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic, Latino, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander live within 10 miles of the Sea-Tac airport. This same radius also has the highest rating for negative health outcomes such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, premature birth, and cancer. 

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Social Justice Journalism From Mercer Middle School Students

by Mercer Middle School

(This article was previously published by International Examiner and has been reprinted with permission)

It is a pleasure to present essays from Mercer Middle School. These students took a journalism class and want to learn more about social justice causes and ways they can make a difference, which comes through in their writing. When they wrote these articles, they were learning about why journalism matters and why it’s important.

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Shape Our Water: Magdalena ‘Maggie’ Angel-Cano

by Ben Adlin

Shape Our Water is a community-centered project from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and KVRU 105.7 FM, a hyperlocal low power FM station in South Seattle, to plan the next 50 years of Seattle’s drainage and wastewater systems. Funded by SPU, the project spotlights members of local community-based organizations and asks them to share how water shapes their lives. Our latest conversation is with Maggie Angel-Cano, community engagement and communications specialist for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition. 

Growing up in South Park, Maggie Angel-Cano spent years without realizing Seattle’s only river ran through her neighborhood. 

“We had no idea there was a river in the community,” she said. “We just, you know, lived our daily life: work, school, back home.”

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OPINION: Clean Air Everywhere, for Everyone in Washington

by Paulina López and Troy D. Abel  

Recently, legislative debates turned from carbon pricing to the Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL) uplifting environmental justice (EJ). This is important legislation, but what we really need are bold solutions and different laws addressing a persistent form of unjust and ongoing pollution. Air toxic exposure disparities and their impacts on communities like the Duwamish Valley are still being ignored by politicians and industry. This inattention continues even as new research suggests that higher air pollution may increase COVID-19 vulnerability and deaths.

Many environmentalists in our region not only overlook decades of toxic air pollution injustice, some even gloss over the problem. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Seattle office announced that industrial toxic releases declined in the Northwest. Pollution dropped 12% in 2019 for 752 facilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. They further asserted “that U.S. companies that use and manage chemicals and metals continue to make progress in preventing pollution.” 

But we knew that regional averages likely obscured trends in our heavily polluted Duwamish River Valley neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park — often first documented by our community. EPA analysts lumped air, water, and land pollution together. When viewed separately, air and water pollution went up in the Northwest. Surface-water discharges increased by 1.17 million pounds and air pollution by 610 thousand pounds between 2018 and 2019. 

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