Living Downstream

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Living Downstream Podcast: Season 2 Preview

Season 2 of Living Downstream: The Environmental Justice Podcast premieres Earth Day (4/22/21). Producers are checking in from around the country, from California to North Carolina. And we'll talk with EJ warrior Catherine Coleman Flowers. Here's a preview.
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'Living Downstream' Exposes Agent Orange Plight in Florida

Last year we brought you the story of civilian workers at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, who tested the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Today these workers are in their 70s and 80s and suffer from the same diseases that Vietnam veterans have shown were caused by their exposure to the herbicide. While surviving veterans receive disability benefits as a result of their exposure, these civilian workers do not. Earlier this year NPR’s mid-day show, Here & Now, featured our story of the civilian workers at Eglin. That broadcast has prompted more individuals to come forward who say they too are suffering medical problems caused by exposure to Agent Orange at Eglin. The story also sparked interest by law firms in a potential class action on behalf of those affected. Jon Kalish reports… Read more about the class action lawsuit…
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Environmental Justice for Non-Recognized Tribes

Non-Federally Recognized Tribes Struggle to Protect Environmental and Cultural Assets By Debra Utacia Krol and Allison Herrera Read more about federally non-recognized tribes. Valentin Lopez was handed a dilemma: how to honor his elders’ admonition to fulfill an ancestral directive to guard and protect the ancestral lands of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, a small tribe along California’s Central Coast and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. “In 2006 the tribal elders came to a council meeting,” says Lopez, who’s served as chairman of the 600-member tribe since 2003. “They said our creation story tells us the Creator gave us the responsibility to take care of Mother Earth and all living things, and Creator has never taken away or rescinded that obligation. We have to find a way to do that.” Lopez left that meeting “just shaking my head…
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Firing Forests to Save Them: Could Native Traditions Save Lives?

When we imagined a podcast about environmental justice – it was before the Tubbs fire here in Sonoma County – and the deadly fire seasons of 2017 and 2018. Even so, we wouldn’t have thought of Indians and their relationship to fire as a matter of environmental justice. But producers Allison Herrera and Debra Utacia Krol have a different viewpoint. They’re members of a Western tribe – and see the increasingly destructive fires in Northern California as a matter of the Anglo society forgetting lessons that Native Americans have known for millennia. Fire, they say, can be an important – even necessary – part of the landscape. Fire helps clear habitat for animals and space for plants. And smaller fires can allow us to avoid the cataclysmic fires that leveled neighborhoods in Santa Rosa and the surrounding communities – especially in the past…
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Living Downstream: The Klamath Water Wars

This is the story of a 15-year conflict over what would be the biggest dam removal ever, a modern cowboys and Indians tale that shows how victories for Native American rights still come with fits of racism and armed conflict, and how rural folks learned to make peace (and collaborate on an 1800-page Congressional bill). It’s a complex story about a fight over shared (and limited) water, with both sides fearing the disappearance of traditional lifestyles. Written and produced by Emrys Eller and his brother Greg Eller. Language alert: some salty language courtesy of real folks who lived this story. Read more about the Klamath River Dam removal. (Image: John C. Boyle Dam on the Klamath River in southern Oregon. This is one of the dams scheduled for demolition within the next few years. Credit: Wikipedia/Bobjgalindo) Editor's Note: This…
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Living Downstream Visits Birthplace of Environmental Justice

This story comes from Warren County, North Carolina. In the early 1980s, Warren County became a flash point in the fight for something that didn’t have a commonly used name at the time: environmental justice. These days, members of this small, “majority-minority” community are taking new approaches to raising environmental consciousness. Jereann King Johnson and Joe O’Connell have teamed up to tell the story of local environmentalism in the present day. Jereann has been involved in social justice work in the county since the 1970s. She knows Warren County intimately. Joe, on the other hand, was drawn to this story through his work as a folklorist. He lives in Durham, about an hours drive to the south of where our story takes place. Learn more about PCBs and global environmental justice conflicts. (Image: Anti-PCB demonstration 1982.…
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Fire and Rain: Living Downstream Reports from Borneo

The peat swamp forests of Borneo are the site of a failed agricultural experiment. Planners believed that rice should grow in the swamps, but it couldn't. Even today, experiments with growing oil palms and other trees are changing the forests, with little positive to show for these efforts. As indigenous people lost their livelihood, carbon poured into the atmosphere from uncontrolled fires. Daniel Grossman reports: Learn more about peat fires in Indonesia. Read an article by The New York Times on the same region of Indonesia. (Image: Smog and smoke over Borneo and Indonesia, 1997. Credit: NASA)
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Trailer Park Activists of Coachella Valley Fight for Health

You may be familiar with Coachella from hearing about the annual music festival there. But for 10 years, journalist Ruxandra Guidi has been visiting farmworkers in the area, learning about the deplorable conditions in which they live. There’s now some hope that community health workers are making a significant difference in the lives of workers. Here’s Ruxandra with the story – and stay tuned afterwards for a conversation with her detailing how she gains the trust of folks whose lives she’s documenting. Learn more about Coachella Valley trailer park activists. READ: Amid California's Toxic Dumps, Local Activists Go It Alone, by Ruxandra Guidi (In this historic photo by Dorothea Lange, migrant farmworkers pull carrots in the Coachella Valley. Credit: Library of Congress) Ruxandra Guidi reported and produced this episode of Living…
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Uranium: A Toxic Legacy at Red Water Pond Road

For the Navajo people Mother Earth is sacred. She places her mineral riches below ground. That’s where they’re meant to stay. If the Earth’s elements are hauled up to the surface, Navajos believe they can turn monstrous -- or they can unleash the monsters in humankind. Uranium mining produces radionuclides and other toxic wastes full of heavy-metals. Transformed for weaponry and fuel, uranium can affect human genes, according to the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. To get at uranium deep underground requires scouring the earth with chemicals to extract the raw ore and its poisonous bedfellows. What’s left are soils that blow contaminants through the air as dust, and wastewater that seeps deep into underground aquifers and pollutes groundwater. The residents of the Red Water Pond Road community in New Mexico have lived with uranium…
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Smackdown: City Hall vs. Big Oil

"Smackdown" tells the story of Richmond California, a working class town that grew up in the shadow of a massive Chevron refinery. The refinery emits a toxic soup of chemicals and residents suffer an asthma rate that is double the national average. Explosions and fires have periodically shaken the refinery since 1989. But Chevron is also the biggest employer in town and its taxes supply tens of millions of dollars for city services. Can Richmond maintain a healthy economy while transitioning away from fossil fuels and lessening its reliance on Chevron? And what role does electoral politics play in the mix? In October, 2018, Chevron settled a suit brought by the U.S. EPA, requiring it to pay nearly $3 million in damages, and spend about $160 million dollars upgrading refineries around the United States, including the facility in Richmond,…

Forgotten Civilians of Eglin Air Force Base

During the Vietnam War the U.S. military defoliated large swaths of Vietnam with Agent Orange to deprive enemy forces of jungle cover. In the process it exposed American soldiers to this toxic chemical as well. Our own civilians back in the U.S. were also exposed to Agent Orange, along with other…

Preview: Living Downstream Addresses Environmental Justice

Here's a preview of our 12-part podcast, featuring stories from California and the rest of the country (and the world). We're doing a deep dive on environmental justice issues. The timing couldn't be better, as the media is now turning its attention to this issue with full force. Most recently, the…

Living with Lead: Public Housing on a Superfund Site

In East Chicago, Indiana, authorities built a public housing project on land once occupied by a lead smelting operation. The area has been declared a Superfund site, and residents of the housing project, but not the surrounding area, have been moved. After we produced this episode of our podcast,…
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