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Top Environmental Development of 2010: EPA Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice
Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 01/06/2011 - 15:20.
In what I consider the most important positive environmental development in America in the 21st Century, on December 15, 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley convened the First White House Environmental Justice Forum, where leadership of the recently-reconvened Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) met with over 100 environmental justice leaders (typically long-suffering EJ victims), in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, at the White House complex, to develop new federal interagency strategies and interactions with citizens to right current EJ wrongs in America, in anticipation of worse to come as results of climate change.
This Forum was the public interface, and culmination of a year of expansive activity in the White House, throughout the Obama Administration, and nationwide, to advance EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priority to “expand the conversation on environmentalism and work for environmental justice” in America, in clear recognition of harm caused disadvantaged citizens by current Environmental Injustice (aka Environmental Racism... Environmental Genocide... from the mouths of victims), and showing clear US government concern over "Climate Gaps" (e.g. in Heat Islands), and over those worsening, causing more environmental injustices, to be exacerbated by future Climate Change and resulting Climate Injustices that will harm life on Earth, in this age of human-caused global warming.
Examples of climate change issues creating and/or contributing to climate gap issues include: major floods, like in New Orleans, Pakistan and Australia... major heat waves, islands and droughts, like in Russia and all over the world, in 2010... the hottest year on record - impacting the disadvantaged through scarcity and rising prices for staples like food, water and energy... increasing harm and burdens from exposure to air pollution made more harmful through climate change... increasing poverty from loss of jobs, income and real property value in disadvantaged areas most blighted by climate change, like in new flood-plains the size of France.
I attended the First White House Environmental Justice Forum as media... and as an environmental injustice victim of Cleveland, Ohio, which is a lead poisoning and air pollution toxic hot-spot of America.
As such, I can say first-hand this was an historic development for environmentalism in America, and thus worldwide, as a Federal shift of focus toward insuring minimum levels of environmental justice in America, including addressing climate gaps, shall help those most harmed by pollution, as we improve national and global environmental understanding, response and conditions for all... as we prepare for environmental catastrophes to come.
To succeed with that, Clevelanders, Americans and the world need to learn more about the EPA's expanding concerns about environmental justice and the Climate Gap...!
Strangely... besides me, for realNEO, the only media representatives who appear to have covered this important Forum were reporters from Greenwire, who were only picked up by the New York Times, that I can find... which I find beyond belief.
Where were AP and Reuters... the Washington Post, from down the street, at least?
About the Forum, from a NYTimes.com wire report via Greenwire: Environmental Justice Activist Urges EPA Chief 'to Roll Up Your Sleeves' at Tense W.H. Forum:
At this forum, some of America's highest-ranking Federal agency directors and staff expressed concerns about climate catastrophes and climate justice victims to come. So, it is safe to say the catalyst for this renewed EJ IWG initiative is as much preparation for future climate injustices as concern for environmental justice victims of today.
Our Federal government leadership clearly knows climate change is real, and is preparing for the worst. That is news.
That the mainstream media seem to be completely overlooking these developments is even bigger news.
Perhaps it is as Joe Romm writes, on Climate Progress: "it appears to me that today’s media simply can’t cover humanity’s self-destruction.
So, expect, as Romm continues: "When historians write about this time — very, very bitterly, no doubt, if we have forced them to suffer through Hell and High Water — the media will get assigned plenty of blame for sins of omission, though obviously not as much blame as those who were actively working to spread disinformation and block action."
My observation is the Obama White House is doing the opposite - "actively working to spread information and take action" - and the mainstream media is guilty "for sins of omission".
If I received a Press Release inviting me to cover the First White House Forum on Environmental Justice (albeit just the afternoon before the event), I'm sure all the environmental press in the world received the same.
If I could get to the White House on time - from Cleveland, Ohio, on my dime - the MSM fat-cats paid to cover Washington DC and the environment can get there too... some were asleep in the White House media briefing room throughout the forum.
Why the "media" did not cover this historic occassion - why they are not covering the Obama administration's intelligent and transformational shift in environmental focus to those least advantaged Americans most impacted by pollution - is a good question for the media.
Perhaps the Mainstream Media does not care about the least advantaged Americans most impacted by pollution!?!?
These Environmental Justice developments and related news and supporting documentation reported here are certainly well covered by the Federal Government, on-line.
Regarding the overall shift in strategy of the Obama White House toward addressing Environmental Justice, core to our future, is the following:
This is the introduction to U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY PLAN EJ 2014, released in DRAFT FOR PUBLIC COMMENT on JULY 27, 2010, to offer "an overarching strategy intended to advance EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priority to “expand the conversation on environmentalism and work for environmental justice.”"
What - you didn't learn about that "new priority" at EPA from your Mainstream Media... you weren't informed the EPA was seeking PUBLIC COMMENT on ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, just a few months ago... you didn't get to comment, as a result...!?!?
From the EPA Website, on Plan EJ2014:
Do you remember learning about the following related news, from your trusted news sources... as reported by the White House?:
Did you read about the study from the University of Southern California (USC) Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) - The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap - with the assessment "Most Americans now concur that climate change is real, and could pose devastating consequences for our nation and our children. A new report out today reveals that an equally real and urgent problem is the “Climate Gap,” the often hidden and unequal harm climate change will cause people of color and the poor in the United States."
I believe this May, 2009, report helped form the foundation of understanding, throughout the United States Government, about the criticality of climate change and "Climate Gaps" in America, that led to the development of PLAN EJ 2014, the reconvening of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG), and the organizing of the First White House Environmental Justice Forum.
This movement of US environmental policy toward interagency responsiveness to environmental justice, in recognition of "Climate gaps" and climate injustice, is about as big as anything in Washington, DC, may be.
You should know about these developments, America... WORLD.
The EJ IWG is the highest-level front-line demonstration ever that America is preparing organizationally and strategically for CLIMATE CHANGE, acknowledging certainty of CLIMATE INJUSTICE that is increasingly the number one concern of ELEVEN FEDERAL AGENCIES and SEVERAL WHITE HOUSE OFFICES ... including HOMELAND SECURITY and DEFENSE.
This story begins a new book in American environmental history - hopefully not the last - as ALL the US Federal government is mobilizing for the Age of Climate Injustice.
This first chapter is about how our Federal government is preparing to address coming climate injustice for all, at the highest level - big things like addressing rising tides displacing residents of entire cities, like New York City... providing Justice as Manhattan is becoming worth less than $24, forever.
You'd think that would make Page 1 of the New York Times, at least.
Increasing Climate Injustice shall certainly impact what current Environmental Injustice victims should expect of the Federal Government, now and in the future... which is not promising.
Worse CLIMATE injustices are ahead for many more Americans than ever suffered "recognized" environmental injustices in the past, as the rising tides and shifting winds shall carry more toxic waste and bad environmental outcomes to all. It is hard to say an old man dying with cancer from past uranium contamination on a blighted Reservation is living a less just life than 1,000,000s of Americans who shall lose their homes to flooding along the Atlantic coast, in the future... even though the future suffering along the coasts is avoidable, considering proper awareness of climate issues today (if the media in America were doing its job today).
Where do we draw the lines between Environmental Justice victims and CLIMATE FOOLS, and CLIMATE VILLAINS, in the future? That is for the EJ IWG to determine.
Who shall government bail-out, when Wall Street becomes a real disaster.
In the beginning, before those floods, the Federal government is reorganizing all relevant agencies to better address overall issues of ongoing environmental injustice in America, found largely among low-income families and minority communities.
In a press briefing announcing the reconvening of the EJ IWC, Jackson stated: “Environmental challenges in low-income and minority communities are barriers to opportunity. Dirty air, polluted water and contaminated lands degrade health and the environment while discouraging investments and economic growth. We believe that the burdens these communities face are best approached with collaborative efforts, built on the strengths brought by a team of different federal agencies. Revitalizing this workgroup creates an important chance to work together on environmental justice issues that have held back the prosperity of overburdened communities for far too long.”
Nancy Sutley stated: “This country was built on the promise of equal opportunity for all of us, yet low-income families and minority communities shoulder a disproportionate amount of pollution and environmental degradation. We cannot and will not ignore these disparities. As the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, I am committed to ensuring that environmental justice isn’t just an afterthought - it’s an integral part of our mission.”.
To insure this renewed initiative has truly high-level interagency buy-in, the first EF IWG meeting was attended by Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Justice; Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of Interior; Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation; Administrator Martha Johnson, General Services Administration; Carol Browner, senior advisor to the president on energy and climate change; John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Melody Barnes, director of the White House Office of Domestic Policy; and representatives from the following federal agencies: Labor, Health and Human Services, Energy, Education, Homeland Security, Commerce, Army, Agriculture and Defense, among others.
Overkill for traditional environmental concerns, perhaps... but just the right team to develop America's response to new global climate change injustice.
The reestablishment of the EJIWG is no small undertaking. The official website for this group points out that their first meeting was "attended by five cabinet members, demonstrates the federal government’s dedication to ensuring all Americans have strong federal protection from environmental and health hazards."
The First White House Environmental Justice Forum featured White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and brought together, as promised in the press release announcing the forum, "environmental justice and community leaders, cabinet members, and senior officials from federal, state, local and tribal governments for a discussion on creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all Americans".
This is a force that may relocate towns away from pollution hazards, and pollution hazards away from towns, if that is necessary.
In Nancy Sutley's personal coverage of the Forum - A Promise of Environmental Justice for All Americans - on HER White House Blog, she states:
As reported by Greenwire and Sutley, it is the Federal Government that EJ victims blame for allowing industry to harm their families... and EJ victims blame for harming their families directly, like with the Army Corp of Engineers causing flood-catastrophy in New Orleans.
And the Army Corp attended the First White House Environmental Justice Forum, to face their critics and plan better... and Katrina victims were there to express their rage over past government injustices, and to seek solutions to new environmental injustices being forced upon citizens of New Orleans today.
Which means, at the First White House Environmental Justice Forum, President Obama had the guts to put the top Administrators and staff of around half the departments of government in front of a firing squad of some of the greatest victims of government EVER... grass-roots leaders of communities of truly harmed people, from tragic toxic disaster zones most only people read-about in newspapers (when newspapers do cover the environment)... from post-Katrina New Orleans, to the oil and coal industry killing fields of Texas, to strip-mined and polluted Kentucky, to uranium-contaminated Navajo country... there was no shelter from this storm.
The media was welcome, and chose not to attend.
The leaders of the environmental justice movement in America are the victims of the worst pollution and toxins in the world... the worst injustices possible, IN OUR BACKYARDS!
WE are poisoned, mutated, dying and naturally and unnaturally pissed-off. I know, as I'm one of them, living in Cleveland, Ohio, with a little-known coal plant IN MY BACKYARD... a steel mill down the road... and lead poisoning in my family... all as results of failure by government to protect environmental justice there.
So I attended the First White House Environmental Justice Forum as a journalist, covering important news of White House environmental developments for my environmentally unjust community of Northeast Ohio - as I correctly suspected no other journalists from the area would bother to attend.
I wanted answers for myself and my family on why we are allowed to be poisoned excessively, when there is no need, and how the Federal government plans to help my family get the environmental justice we deserve.
I believe I was the only citizen for environmental justice in Northeast Ohio who showed-up to participate in this historic, landscape-changing Federal interagency engagement with victims.
Meaning, there is much knowledge to be shared, and work to be done, engaging citizens in environmental justice back home in Ohio and nation-wide.
I can't do all that in one article about one forum, so I introduce the background and some general concepts and developments of this renewed environmental justice movement here, now, and shall report deep analyses of the most important dynamics and developments as they are made more clear - this is a renewed effort in its infancy, despite the long time many victims have been fighting for justice.
Most important, in the ongoing coverage of environmental justice in America, under the Obama Administration, will be the stories of the victims of environmental injustice, explaining how and why they suffer today, becoming stories of how the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) of the Federal government finally leads to relief.
For some reason, the "media" has failed to notice and cover this WHITE HOUSE shift of SIGNIFICANT Federal leadership attention and interagency resources, from out of thin air, to focus on the most important social cause possible: environmental justice for all, including the most disadvantaged.
The "media" missed the greatest and most frightening development of their lives and careers. The EJ IWG is clearly focused far beyond current environmental injustices... like those poor slobs who are lead poisoned in Cleveland each day... to the increasing environmental catastrophes caused by global climate change, which shall cause unprecedented CLIMATE INJUSTICE for a huge percentage of Americans, nationwide.
When kicking-off the First White House Forum on Environmental Justice, Jackson promised attendees - comprised largely of environmental justice VICTIMS - "Folks, I am in no ways tired, and I know we have work to do".
She stated: "It's been my mission at EPA to expand our conversation to diversify the voices of those calling for change in the environmental sector. Since my first day as Administrator, we've reached out to communities that need our help - we've worked to make environmental justice part of everything we do."
I believe it was Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius who commented, in her opening remarks at this Forum, that it was unprecedented for so many Federal agencies - and cabinet-level leaders and senior White House staff - to work together. That they had came together for environmental justice - in a matter for months - was clear acknowledgement of their respect for the vision, impact and effectiveness of EPA Administrator Jackson, who convened them for this cause.... and the strength of their personal belief in the importance of the cause of environmental justice, to their core.
She acknowledged EJ has not historically been a focus of HHS - especially in recent years - but HHS realizes health is greatly impacted by environmental factors - the "social determinacy of health" - and appreciates there is environmental injustice to be addressed today. EJ efforts may have the greatest health paybacks of all. HHS is committed to developing EJ best practices benefiting public health one community at a time, knowing "an ounce of prevention can take a ton of work".
"Promote Health in all policies - Healthy communities are resilient communities - Our department is eager to work on these issues - with all of you - more broadly and inclusively - the change EJ leaders are seeking is best formulated at the community level" The words of Health and Human Services in America.
In the case of Homeland Security, Secretary Napolitano made clear threats to our environment - threats to the healthy well-being of Americans - are threats to our national security.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar - caretaker of our National Parks - expressed his commitment to equal access to environmental justice and resources, including access to abundant open public space to play and breathe, for all Americans.
Attorney General Eric Holder made clear environmental injustice is a crime, of concern to the Justice Department, and that he is committed to fighting the crime of environmental injustice in America.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stressed Americans must work their way to environmental justice, with GREEN JOBS, and the victims of environmental justice now must have access to those jobs created to make the world more just in the future - job creation is part of the environmental justice creation equation...
So much good insight offered by our leadership, that eventful day.
For those unable to attend, the First White House Forum on Environmental Justice was broadcast live online. An archived version (around 6 hours of video) can be viewed on the White House YouTube page:
• Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/whitehouse#p/u/3/c5Al1CK7O1g (1:39:42)
In addition, EPA Administrator Jackson and Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, took questions from students and Facebook participants during a live online chat. To watch, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2010/12/15/open-questions-environmental-justice
Perhaps all this action to address environmental injustice is an expression of EPA Administrator Jackson's intimate appreciation for the plight of environmental injustice victims of her town of New Orleans, that resulted from inept Government and natural disaster.
And, in fact, the bigger story and environmental development at play at the EPA, under Jackson, is what I'll call the "Green Wave Rising", as Jackson is a graduate of New Orleans' Tulane University (same class as myself), where the Green Wave is the mascot, and she has clearly brought to the EPA innovative new approaches to environmentalism that are sweeping over all government.
Another recent example of the Green Wave Rising I reported at the EPA is Study Will Recommend Ways to Strengthen Sustainability at EPA
There are many other examples of Jackson's unique excellence.
Despite disappointment in politicians and the media that do not yet recognize the importance of climate change and environmental justice for Americans, and the world, and the harm that caused the environment and people of the world, in 2010, I view Jackson as the Environmentalist of the Year - and consider 2010 the Year of the Green Wave Rising - in recognition of Jackson's significant strategic and organizational innovations at the EPA, driving greater interagency cooperation on environmental justice between the White House, EPA and around a dozen other agencies of the Federal Government.
Despite MANY, MANY well acknowledged environmental set-backs in 2010, I've got Lisa Jackson's back.
As an environmental injustice victim from environmentally unjust Cleveland, Ohio - with ties to environmentally unjust New Orleans - I especially value Jackson's focus on Environmental Justice for all, in all government decisions, which I consider the most important US environmental policy development of the first decade of the 21st Century (not recognized by any other media source I can find).
Coming from Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, it is little surprise Administrator Jackson is focused on environmental justice (EJ), which is increasingly intersecting with Climate Justice. Jackson's friends and family have lived through the worst EJ disaster nature and the US government have thrown at American citizens, since the days of lead in gasoline and paint.
And her job addressing the aftermath of Katrina is far from done, as recently made clear to her by Katrina-impacted Environmental Injustice victims who attended the First White House Forum on Environmental Justice.
Around the beginning of 2010, EPA Administrator Jackson issued a memorandum to her staff, below, outlining her vision for the EPA in the year ahead. Looking back at her performance, she seems to be fulfilling her mission.
Other leadership of the Federal government seem to see Jackson's vision, and clearly see value in following that, as well.
Leaders of the Environmental Justice movement - victims of Environmental Injustice today - see Jackson's vision, and are supporting America moving forward, despite the harm America has caused US.
Yet the American media is failing US - failing Administrator Jackson - failing their President - failing Americans and the world.
That is a fact.
What do they teach in Journalism School? What do they teach in the board rooms of American mainstream media?
Clearly not what people have learned from living in New Orleans.
Clearly not what the true leaders of this nation know and must know to lead America to greatness again, if possible.
If possible, Lisa Jackson will make it so.