Environmental Justice

Tying the Green New Deal to Environmental Justice on the South Side

At a meeting in Brighton Park, the growing youth-led national Sunrise Movement made a case to local organizers

Ellen Hao

In 2018, a report from the International Panel on Climate Change warned that averting catastrophic climate change would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” This February, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced into Congress the Green New Deal, a bold proposal to slash emissions to net zero by 2030, keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), guarantee a job for every American, and “counteract systemic injustices” by ensuring all Americans have access to clean water, air, and healthy food.

Chatham | Environment | Housing Issue 2019

Urban Flooding by the Numbers

Chicago has an urban flooding problem, and Chatham sits at its heart

Sofie Lie

Chicago has an urban flooding problem. The latest report on this issue, released by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in March, found that climate change in the Great Lakes will result in an increase in “extreme precipitation,” heavy rainfalls that are more likely to lead to flooding. This report is only the latest in a series that have sought to quantify the problem of urban flooding in Chicago, and its disproportionate impact on the South Side. In the wake of this report’s release, the Weekly went through literature on urban flooding, and pulled out the most important numbers that describe the problem.

Environmental Justice | Interviews

Life in the Doughnut

Cheryl Johnson talks about growing up in Altgeld Gardens and the future of environmental justice

Quinn Myers

Altgeld Gardens and Phillip Murray Homes sit about as far south as you can go in Chicago. Wedged between Lake Calumet, West Pullman, and South Deering, the almost 1,600-unit CHA-owned development is notably isolated, removed from business districts and most public transportation options. Altgeld also lies in what has become known as the “toxic doughnut”; emissions and lingering waste from former refineries and steel mills in the area have been linked to widespread public health issues in the community, including, historically, some of the highest cancer rates in Chicago.

Development | Environmental Justice | Little Village

Tax Breaks for Hilco, Diesel Trucks for Little Village

Aldermen vote to save an industrial developer some $20 million

Eric Allix Rogers

Last Friday, City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development voted to recommend that industrial developer Hilco receive a $19.7 million tax break from the Cook County Assessor’s Office for its controversial redevelopment plan for the former Crawford Generating Station in Little Village. The meeting was hastily scheduled—chairman Proco Joe Moreno didn’t file an agenda with the City Clerk’s office until after business hours on Wednesday. (Moreno was ousted by his 1st Ward constituents in last week’s election; his office did not respond to a request for comment about how the meeting was scheduled.)

Environment | Visual Arts | Woodlawn

Concerning the Environment

A month-long showcase of installations and interactive events in and around Woodlawn provokes questions of our place in nature and its place in our communities

Patric McCoy and Kahari Black discuss environmentalism, art, and Woodlawn's history (Matthew Searle / Experimental Station)

In his art gallery, which inhabits a small brick house at 64th and Dorchester, originally purchased by his grandfather in 1946, artist William Hill, a co-curator of the Experimental Station showcase “Environmental Concerns,” explained the project’s concept.

Activism | Development | Environment

Dumping Dirty Industry

Across the South Side, neighborhood groups fight for environmental justice

Katie Hill

A new coalition of community and environmental activists met for the first time last Thursday to discuss their effort to fight pollution on the South Side. Members of four groups from McKinley Park, Little Village, Pilsen, and the Southeast Side convened in a crowded gymnasium at the Rauner Family YMCA. The impromptu meeting space was organized after attendees quickly overcrowded the small side room originally intended for the gathering.

Development | Environment | Far Southeast Side | Nature

Shoreline Abnormality

An industrial corridor’s past and future, as seen from the waters of the Calumet

Piles of salt on city-owned land on the Calumet River (Courtesy Ders Anderson)

Down the Calumet River from a former petcoke storage site, several acres of early growth trees rustle gently in the breeze. It’s one of a few areas with sustained natural growth on the northern part of the river, which snakes through the Southeast Side’s industrial corridor. Tom Shepherd, an environmental activist and longtime Southeast Side resident—and, on a recent overcast morning, the guide of a boat tour down the river—singles that parcel out as we pass by. “It’s really amazing on that property to see how nature makes its comeback,” he says.

Development | Environment | Far Southeast Side | Politics

Planning Beyond Pollution

After manganese regulations, Southeast Side residents push to reconsider the neighborhood’s manufacturing zoning

Lizzie Smith

Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.  

Environment | Nature | Pilsen | Politics

Find, Remove, Repeat

The campaign to rid Pilsen of lead contamination

Zoe Kauder Nalebuff

“The city’s done a good job on playing down [lead contamination] as not being a problem, while at the same time they recognize it is a problem and are doing things to mitigate it.” Troy Hernandez