Author: Shannon M.D. Smith

Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret out November 17th

November 17, 2020 – Official Release Date

Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret by Catherine Coleman Flowers

About

The MacArthur grant–winning “Erin Brockovich of Sewage” tells the riveting story of the environmental justice movement that is firing up rural America, with a foreword by the renowned author of Just Mercy

“Catherine [Flowers] is a shining example of the power individuals have to make a measurable difference by educating, advocating, and acting on environmental issues . . . [and a] firm advocate for the poor, who recognizes that the climate crisis disproportionately affects the least wealthy and powerful among us.” —Al Gore

MacArthur “genius” Catherine Coleman Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that’s been called “Bloody Lowndes” because of its violent, racist history. Once the epicenter of the voting rights struggle, today it’s Ground Zero for a new movement that is Flowers’s life’s work. It’s a fight to ensure human dignity through a right most Americans take for granted: basic sanitation. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable means of disposing cleanly of the waste from their toilets, and, as a consequence, live amid filth.

Flowers calls this America’s dirty secret. In this powerful book she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West.

Flowers’s book is the inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative. It shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards, and not only those of poor minorities.

– The New Press

Reviews – Order Your Copy 

World Bank invested over $10.5 billion in fossil fuels since Paris Agreement

Big Shift Global – Research Papers

Calling for an end to public financing of fossil fuels and a shift to investing in sustainable, renewable energy to provide energy access for all

  • World Bank provides assistance and finance for fossils despite climate pledge
  • Energy transition too slow to avert climate crisis
  • Ongoing fossil fuel investments push world past 1.5°C global warming

Berlin, Washington D.C. | October 12th 2020


As the World Bank conducts its digital Annual Meeting, civil society groups criticize the bank’s ongoing investments in the fossil fuel industry. Research conducted by Urgewald reveals that the World Bank Group has invested over $12 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, $10.5 billion of which were new direct fossil fuel project finance.

In order to arrest the escalating climate crisis, the world needs an urgent and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Data shows that the energy transition is happening far too slowly. Researchers from several expert organizations, including the UN Environment Program, determined the world is currently on track to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than is compatible with a 1.5°C pathway. [1] Thus, we are already on track to miss the Paris Climate Agreement goal. In addition, according to the Economist, annual investments in wind and solar capacity need to reach about $750 billion, which requires a tripling of current investment levels. [2]

Simply put, there is far too much invested in fossil fuel production and not enough in renewable energy. Actions that slow down the energy transition result in more destabilizing climate-related consequences. The World Bank states that without urgent action, climate change will push more than 100 million people into poverty by 2030. [3]

View the Full Report 


The Big Shift Global is a multi-stakeholder, global campaign coordinated by organisations from the Global North and South. Together, we aim to make the people’s views on energy finance known to Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), their Executive Directors, as well as the Heads of State and Finance Ministers of the members countries. Learn More…

MacArthur ‘Genius’ Brings National Attention To Local Fight Against Sewage Failures

If Catherine Flowers ever received a calling to take on a career in environmental activism, it likely came in the form of mosquito bites.

In 2009, Flowers was doing economic development work in her hometown of Lowndes County, Ala., where raw sewage leaked into the yards of poor residents who lacked access to a municipal sewer system.

On one visit, she met a pregnant woman whose toilet waste flowed into a pit right outside her mobile home. The mosquitoes swarming the pit attacked Flowers.

Days later, her body had broken out in mysterious red blotches.

“I didn’t think anything of it until I broke out in a rash,” she said in an interview with Morning Edition host Noel King.

Flowers went to the doctor, who ran blood tests for infections and other diseases, which came back negative.

“I asked her, ‘Is it possible that I have something that American doctors are not trained to look for?’ Because they don’t even acknowledge that there’s a raw sewage problem in this country,” she recalled.

Lowndes is one of the poorest counties in the U.S. Its weak sewage infrastructure, combined with poor soil drainage, has left the rural area’s predominantly Black community vulnerable to diseases and infections like hookworm.

At the time, Alabama’s public health department threatened 37 families with eviction or arrests because they couldn’t afford septic tanks. Since then, Flowers has been raising the alarm bell on the largely overlooked issue.

She negotiated with state politicians, working with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, to end such prosecutorial policies, and collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency help secure funding for septic systems.

This month, Flowers won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship – also known as a Genius Grant — for her work by “bringing attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas and its role in perpetuating health and socioeconomic disparities.” (Note: The MacArthur Foundation is a financial supporter of NPR.)

Read on…

Climate Underground – Interview with Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman hosted by CEE Director, Karenna Gore

About

Sean Sherman is one half of the founding duo that is The Sioux Chef behind Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis, MN.

Indigenous Food Lab is an education and training center that will serve as the heart of NATIFS’ work establishing a new Indigenous food system that reintegrates native foods and Indigenous-focused education into tribal communities across North America. We envision a future of developing and supporting Indigenous kitchens and food enterprises in tribal communities, bringing cultural, nutritional, and economic revitalization across North America! Learn More at www.natifs.org.

 

Karenna Gore is the founder and director at the Center for Earth Ethics.

The Center for Earth Ethics is a forum for education, public discourse and movement building that draws on faith and wisdom traditions to address our ecological crisis and its root causes at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Learn More at www.centerforearthethics.org.

 

With many thanks to Climate Underground 2020!

What’s at stake in the U.S. election: Catherine Flowers for The Globe and Mail

What’s at stake in the U.S. election: The Globe and Mail has asked a group of writers to offer their opinions. Scroll to the bottom for links to the full series.

Most of the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march went through rural Lowndes County, Ala. The area was once steeped with racial terror because of the desire to control Black labour – that had once been free to plantation owners owing to slavery – and stymie their right to vote. Because of the violence used on Black and white citizens, it earned the name “Bloody Lowndes.” Today, it is the epicentre of the wastewater crisis and a poster child for policies fostering inequality in rural communities. The county residents have not received adequate funding for wastewater infrastructure, and the infrastructure in place is failing or has failed. It is also where poverty, environmental justice and climate change intersects with the lack health care access.

The population of Lowndes County is 72 per cent African-American. It has a per capita income of US$19,491, where more than a fourth of the residents live below the poverty line. Many of the residents are essential workers, employed in plants or in other jobs that have high workplace COVID-19 infection rates. It is also a food desert in a place where many people are victimized by high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory issues. There is only one doctor to provide medical services within the entire county. It also has the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate in the state of Alabama and one of the highest death rates per capita as well, in a county of approximately 10,000 residents.

Policies supporting infrastructure funding and development – whether on the state or federal level – have long excluded places such as Lowndes County. The wealthiest populations can qualify for loans or grants, while the poor are penalized through the denial of access to funding for sanitation infrastructure. With climate change becoming even more evident through higher temperatures for longer periods of time, higher water tables and wastewater treatment failures, the pandemic has made the population of Lowndes County and many others in the United States vulnerable for illness and death. This is compounded by the discovery that COVID-19 is shed in feces.

Read on…

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the author of the forthcoming book Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret. She is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, a member of the board of directors for the Climate Reality Project and serves as a senior fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

2020 Virtual Faith-in-Action Awards: Karenna Gore Keynote Address

On October 22, 2020, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) hosted its first ever Virtual Faith-in-Action Awards. Honoring Karenna Gore, Founder and Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, the event highlighted the important intersection of faith, climate, and stability. Watch ICRD President and CEO, James Patton, introduce the award and Karenna’s acceptance here!

 

About ICRD:

Empowering Peaceful Religious Communities

While not itself a religious organization, ICRD builds the skills, capacity, and ranks of women and men peacebuilders of all faiths to address the root causes of identity-based conflict and violent extremism in their communities.

Our approach works. After two decades of direct engagement, ICRD is a preferred partner among government, civil society, and grassroots organizations for conducting trainings, developing local networks, and facilitating multi-track initiatives to resolve many of the critical crises affecting the globe today.

Learn More…

CEE Update and Vote the Earth!

The Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University are launching Vote the Earth, an interactive poetry project connecting place and voice. Expanding on the Earth Stanzas community poem project launched in honor of 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Vote the Earth draws on the inspiration of George Ella Lyons’ poem “Where I Am From,” and invites visitors to view the short videos and poems on the map and to share their own poetic voice.

Participate

As the election approaches, we invite you to help inspire voters to put their love for the Earth behind the power of their vote – to #VotefortheEarth! In a time when wildfires burn out west, tropical storms flood the Gulf Coast, and we remain in the grips of a global pandemic, many of us seek the healing experiences offered to us by the land. There is no more important time to come together for the climate, ethics, voting and justice. Let’s make our vote count for the places we love – to consider the question of positionality through an ecological lens, giving poetic voice to our forests and our watersheds, invoking their political agency through Ecological Citizenship.In the lead up to the U.S. elections on November 3rd, we offer this platform to map the creative voices of the Earth and ask your networks to help us spread the word.

Full link:  www.vote.earthstanzas.com or click below:

The Center for Earth Ethics is a forum for education, public discourse and movement building that draws on faith and wisdom traditions to address our ecological crisis and its root causes at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

The Wick Poetry Center, in Kent State University’s College of Arts & Sciences, is home to the award-winning Traveling Stanzas project, and is one of the premier university poetry centers in the country. It is a national leader for the range, quality, and innovative outreach in the community.

For more information please contact:

Email David Hassler, Director, WPC

Email Shannon M.D. Smith, Communications Manager, CEE


Center for Earth Ethics Director, Karenna Gore was honored to speak at the Global Vision Summit lifting up the teachings of the Dalai Lama on five concepts as keys to overcoming the climate crisis: karma, inter-dependence, universal responsibility, happiness and compassion. Listen Now.


Join CEE and the Big Shift Global Campaign in telling the World Bank to stop using public money to fund fossil fuel development projects. 



Sign the Petition here:
https://bigshiftglobal.org/world-bank


Send us a Message to receive CEE Updates and Seasonal Newsletters

Support the Center for Earth Ethics

Faith Rally – Election Day Home Stretch!

WHAT TO WATCH:

Feeling bruised, battered, or fatigued by this election season? Looking for a source of uplift down the home stretch to election day? Then, this webinar is for you. Three speakers rally our energy and direct our focus during a moment with so many profound implications for those who care about the climate crisis and the many interconnected issues of justice that we face today. The speakers include the Rev. Gerald Durley of Interfaith Power & Light, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Karenna Gore, founder and director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. The webinar is co-hosted by the Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt of the United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Ministry and the Rev. Michael Malcom of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light and the People’s Justice Council.

Catherine Flowers among those participating in “Your Vote, Your World” on October 24th

 

What’s at stake in the 2020 election?

EVERYTHING.

 

With just 10 days to go before the most important election in generations, Your Vote, Your World brings together activists, artists, musicians, and cultural icons for a LIVE digital rally to explore what’s at stake and how we will make our voices heard this election.

We want a country that faces up to racism and inequality. A country where all voices count, no matter who we are or where we come from. A country that promises clean air and water for everyone. A country with a strong economy that protects our environment and creates a just and healthy future of opportunity for all. And together, we can make it a reality.  Learn More…

PRESENTED BY


HIP HOP CAUCUS

THE CLIMATE REALITY PROJECT

EARTHDAY.ORG

with

AL GORE

Founder and Chairman, The Climate Reality Project


REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD, JR.

President and Founder, Hip Hop Caucus


STACEY ABRAMS

Founder, Fair Fight Action


DR. MUSTAFA SANTIAGO ALI

Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization, National Wildlife Federation


SAAD AMER

Founder and Director, Plus1Vote


BISHOP WILLIAM J. BARBER II

President, Repairers of the Breach; and Co-Chair, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival


DR. ROBERT D. BULLARD

Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Texas Southern University


CHARLIE BONNER

Communications Director, MOVE Texas


CATHERINE COLEMAN FLOWERS

2020 MacArthur Fellow


PHILIPPE COUSTEAU JR.

Filmmaker and Conservationist


ASHLAN COUSTEAU

Journalist and Conservationist

 

And many more…

 

Portland General Electric to close only coal-fired power plant in Oregon

Congratulations to the state of Oregon on the announcement of closing its only coal-fired plant! Gratitude to all the community members who worked diligently towards this result. Many thanks to the Sierra Club and it’s Oregon Chapter for their dedication towards this important win. 

 

Portland General Electric announced it has closed its power plant in Boardman, the only coal-fired plant in the state.

Portland General Electric on Thursday announced it has closed its eastern Oregon coal-fired power plant 20 years ahead of schedule as the utility pushes to use more sustainable forms of energy.

The closure of the Boardman plant comes as the result of an agreement between the utility, consumers and regulators reached in 2010 to curb air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions in the state. In exchange for closing the plant, the utility was allowed to make smaller investments in pollution controls.

The Morrow County plant, which opened in 1977, is the youngest U.S. coal plant closed for environmental reasons, the utility said when the agreement was reached.

Read on at The Oregonian…

 

Learn More from their journey…

Oregon’s Lone Coal-Fired Power Plant Slated to Close, December 10, 2010