Category Archives: Environment

West Side youth learn media production

There’s lots of talk about a longer school day for CPS, but little attention on how it actually looks to students and teachers on the ground.

That’s the subject of a new video by Tiara Nelson of the Westside Writers Project.  It’s one of several produced so far by students in WWP’s Summer Digital Workshop.

Others deal with longtime community development advocate Bill Howard; the new Richard M. Daley Library; a community planning process to create gateways to West Humboldt Park; air pollution – and particularly the effects of two nearby coal-powered plants; and the new gymnasium at Rowe-Clark Noble Charter School, with highlights from the annual student-staff basketball game.

Started in 2006 as an after-school writing project focused on producing The Ave., a community newsletter, WWP has expanded to summer and in-school programming while branching out to video podcasts.  The summer workshop – led by two students, with assistance from adults – allowed a lot more kids to get trained and experienced in new media technology.

Students chose and research subjects, developed scripts including locations, camera angles and interview questions, shot interviews, and edited their podcasts, learning about transitions, overlays, and use of text.

Still to come is a podcast on the issue of food deserts, so stay tuned!

El Cilantro: Little Village Youth Speak Out

A young Little Village activist blogs about her experience at an environmental justice conference last month on an Indian reservation in North Dakota at El Cilantro, the blog of Young Activists Organizing as Today’s Leaders.

“As a Chicana I realized that our culture’s youth are less and less connected to their roots,” writes Brenda.  “Everything I learned that weekend inspired me to look into my family background and to feel more proud of my culture.  This weekend words like land, culture and nature had more meaning than ever before.”

Brenda was part of group of YAOTL members who attended the Protecting Mother Earth Conference sponsored by the Indigenous Environmental Network and hosted by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations at Four Bears Park in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Along with workshops and cultural events, including a pow-wow and a water ceremony, participants learned about the Three Nations’ struggles with the oil industry.

Other posts on El Cilantro include a report on a field trip to the City Farm near Cabrini-Green, the Lincoln Park Green City Market, and the Waters School’s community garden; an analyis of the treatment of women in fashion magazines and the patriarchal ideology it reveals; a report on the Power Shift conference in Washington, D.C., in April; and a poem criticizing “mainstream hip hop” (which “is not hip hop!”):

“Does he try to fool you by telling you he has all these honeys chasing after his money?…

“Hip hope was not made so you can brag about your fame!”

YAOTL is a project of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization which seeks out creative ways to educate and organize young people on environmental justice issues in the community.  An example:  working with LVEJO’s open space campaign to get a park built in Little Village, YAOTL is organizing youth to push for a skateboard park within the park.

Toward this end, the group is holding a Skate Jam on August 27 at Albany Park and 31st Street.  They’ve gotten a block party permit and will be setting up ramps for a skateboard competition, along with a stage for local performers and a skate galley displaying skateboard art by young artists.

Competing visions for the southeast side

Businesses and environmentalists square off on the Southeast Side over new industrial developments, including a coal gasification plant, a cement plant, and an asphalt storage facility, Kari Lydersen reports.

Environmentalists worry about emissions and other issues, while companies promise emissions controls — and jobs.

The area once had one of the nation’s largest concentrations of heavy industry, spewing toxic pollution; it also features Chicago’s greatest expanse of wetlands and open spaces. Environmentalists would like to focus on those natural assets to drive the community’s economic future — and they point out that about 250 jobs at the three new facilities is nothing near the tens of thousands formerly employed at steel mills.

“As much as jobs are needed, some residents worry the area will again become the place where Chicago’s dirty work is done,” Lydersen reports

Cement plant for Southeast Side?

The Sun Times reports on a $250 million cement plant proposed for the Southeast Side, a prospect which Newstips noted in January.

Peggy Salazar of the Southeast Environmental Task Force tells us the group is opposed to the plant, citing concerns about plans to power it by burning tires.

She said the company has said it will employ new technology to capture those emissions but hasn’t provided details.  She adds that emissions from increased truck traffic – already quite heavy in the area – also need to be taken into account.

Along with a new bill providing ratepayer subsidies for a new coal-gasification plant in the area, it’s another setback for residents who would like to see protection of wetlands and more green industry, Salazar said


On the Southeast Side, fighting for fishermen

Media coverage of the Asian carp controversy has tended to focus on environmentalists and commercial interests, along with politicians and government officials.  But Chicago’s waterways have lots of “stakeholders.”

At Chicago News Cooperative, Kari Lydersen talks with a couple of old working-class fishermen from the Southeast Side.  Eddie Landmichl is a retired steelworker who was one of the first to sound the alarm about Asian carp – marching around the Thompson Center one day several years ago with two dead Asian carp strapped to his walker to protest inaction by the Army Corps of Engineers.

With his buddy, bait shop owner Jack Vadas, Landmichl has been out front on the threat of invasion by round gobies, on over-fishing of perch, and on the need to regulate ballast water.  Vadas habitually makes sure his customers are in touch with their elected officials on these kinds of issues.

It’s a level of grassroots activism that we don’t often hear about.

Politicians “treat him like garbage, like the court jester,” says Daily Herald outdoors editor Mike Jackson of Landmichl.  “But on these issues he’s the most serious guy in the state.”

And when they start hearing from his friends – voters who fish – politicians have been known to become more respectful.