MetroFocus: September 22, 2021

CLIMATE WEEK PERIL & PROMISE SPECIAL

When the remnants of Hurricane Ida tore through our region, more than 40 people were killed by the devastating floods. Entire neighborhoods, roads, and subways were flooded and submerged. The widespread destruction highlighted the urgent threat that extreme weather, and in turn climate change, poses to New York City. That threat is the subject of a fascinating new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York called “Rising Tide: Visualizing the Human Costs of the Climate Crisis” that illustrates the dramatic consequences of rising sea levels in New York City and across the world through photographs, video, drone images and sound. Tonight as part of our ongoing Peril and Promise initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change and its solutions, Dutch documentary photographer Kadir van Lohuizen takes us inside the exhibit along with Chief Curator and Deputy Director at the Museum of the City of New York, Sarah Henry. For more information on the exhibit, click here.

As a part of our Peril and Promise and Chasing the Dream initiatives, we also take a look at the climate and racial justice movement in New York with WE ACT for Environmental Justice Co-founder Peggy Shepard. Tonight she joins us to discuss the program’s efforts to protect communities of color, indigenous communities and low-income communities harmed by pollution.

Peril and Promise is an ongoing series of reports on the human impact of, and solutions for, climate change. Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III. 

CtD-Logo2


Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

DR. P. ROY AND, THE MARK HASSE FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING, I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

WHEN THE REMNANTS OF HURRICANE IDA TORE THROUGH OUR REGION, MORE THAN 40 PEOPLE WERE KILLED.

ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS, ROADS AND SUBWAYS WERE SUBMERGED IN WATER AND THE WIDESPREAD FLOODING HIGHLIGHTED THE URGENT THREAT THAT EXTREME WEATHER AND CLIMATE CHANGE POSES TO OUR AREA AND THE WORLD.

THAT THREAT IS THE SUBJECT OF A FASCINATING EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK CALL EED 'RISING TIDE: VISUALIZG THE HUMAN COST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.'

THE WORK IS OF KADIR VAN LOH LOHUIZEN, WITH PHOTOGRAPHS, VIDEO, AS WELL AS DRONE IMAGES AND SOUND.

JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS EXHIBIT AS PART OF YOUR ONGOING 'PERIL AND PROMISE' INITIATIVE, REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS SOLUTIONS ARE KADIR VAN LOHUIZEN.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY SARAH HENRY.

SARAH IS THE CHIEF CURATOR AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

SARAH, WELCOME.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING US HERE.

SO, KADIR, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND JUST SORT OF ASK, WHEN DID YOU START THIS PROJECT AND WHERE WAS IT THAT YOU WENT, BECAUSE IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT NEW YORK.

IT'S DEFINITELY NOT JUST ABOUT NEW YORK AND I THINK I STARTED THE PROJECT, IT WAS 2011 WHEN I WAS WORKING ON A DIFFERENT STORY, WHICH WAS ABOUT MIGRATION IN THE AMERICAS AND I WAS TRAVELING FROM THE VERY SOUTH OF LATIN AMERICA TO THE VERY NORTH OF ALASKA, BASICALLY, TO TELL THE STORY ABOUT CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION AND I WAS IN -- ABOUT HALFWAY, IN PANAMA, I CAME TO THESE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND S AND I WAS INTERVIEWING PEOPLE THERE, ON THE CARIBBEAN SIDE, THESE BEAUTIFUL POSTCARD ISLANDS AND PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT THEY WERE BEING EVACUATED AND WHEN I ASKED THEM WHY, THEY SAID, THE SEA IS COMING.

SO, ALTHOUGH I'M SPEAKING TO YOU FROM AMSTERDAM AND I LIVE BELOW THE SEA LEVEL AND WE KNOW LOTS ABOUT THE ISSUES WITH THE SEA IN THE NETHERLANDS, I WAS NEVER AWARE THAT THIS WAS ALREADY AN ISSUE WHICH WAS HAPPENING TODAY.

I THOUGHT, LIKE MANY OF US, THAT THIS WAS -- WOULD HAPPEN IN THE NEXT FEW GENERATIONS.

SO, THAT WAS BASICALLY THE START OF THE PROJECT AND WHERE I STARTED TO RESEARCH, BECAUSE I THOUGHT, IF IT'S HAPPENING THERE, IT MUST BE HAPPENING ELSEWHERE.

AND THAT'S HOW IT BECAME A GLOBAL PROJECT.

AND SARAH, WHY WAS THIS AN EXHIBIT THAT THE MUSEUM WAS ATTRACTED TO AND WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT AS MANY NEW YORKERS GOT A CHANCE TO SEE IT?

WELL, FIRST OF ALL, KADIR'S IMAGES ARE ABSOLUTELY STUNNING.

THEY ARE HAUNTING.

THEY GET INTO YOUR BRAIN, THEY GIVE YOU A VISCERAL FEELING OF THE HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS LIKE NOTHING WE'VE SEEN BEFORE.

AND WE REALLY -- YOU REALLY HAVE TO SEE IT TO EXPERIENCE THAT.

AND SECONDARILY, VERY IMPORTANT TO US AS A MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK IS A COASTAL CITY.

THAT HAS BEEN OUR STRENGTH SINCE THE FOUNDING OF NEW YORK.

OUR WATERWAYS, BUT IT ALSO MEANS WE'RE INCREDIBLY VULNERABLE TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS.

WE HAVE 520 MILES OF COASTLAND IN NEW YORK CITY.

JUST IN THE FIVE BURROWS.

AND SO THINK ABOUT LOW-LYING AREAS LIKE THE ROCKAWAYS OR HUNT'S POINT OR THE SHORE OF STATEN ISLAND, THERE IS AN INCREDIBLE VULNERABILITY FOR SO MANY NEW YORKERS AND IT'S CRITICAL FOR US TO THINK AS NEW YORKERS AND AS THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, HOW TO FACE THIS CHANGE, HOW TO MITIGATE IT AS BEST AS POSSIBLE, TO THINK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY AND ALSO WHAT IT MEANS TO BE RESILIENT.

AS THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, WE CONNECT PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE AND THERE'S NOTHING MORE THAT'S GOING TO SHAPE OUR FUTURE THAN THIS QUESTION.

KADIR, I WONDER WHAT IT WAS YOU WERE SORT OF SETTING OUT TO ACCOMPLISH OR DID YOU HAVE A GOAL IN MIND WHEN YOU BEGAN THIS PROJECT?

AND I ASKED THAT BECAUSE, WHAT YOU'RE REALLY SORT OF ATTEMPTING TO DO, AT LEAST AS I CAN SEE IT, IS DOCUMENT SOMETHING THAT ISN'T NECESSARILY VISUAL TO PEOPLE.

AND THE FACT THAT IT ISN'T NECESSARILY VISUAL YET TO SOME PEOPLE STILL LEAVES SOME ROOM FOR PERHAPS DENIALISM.

SO, WHAT WAS YOUR INTENTION GOING INTO THIS?

WELL, MY INTENTION STARTED, OBVIOUSLY, WITH THE RESEARCH AND I THINK IT -- THE IMAGES PROVE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WE ASSUME -- I THINK MOST OF US KNOW THAT THE SEA LEVEL IS RISING, NO MATTER IF WE CUT OUR EMISSIONS TODAY, IT WILL RISE ANYWAY.

BUT I WANTED TO SHOW AND I THINK THAT THAT WAS THE CHALLENGE FROM THE START, A WAY FOR THE WATER TO BE PERMANENTLY IN YOUR HOUSE, YOU KNOW, IT STARTS WITH FREQUENT FLOODS, IT STARTS WHEN THE WATER DOESN'T RECEDE THAT PEOPLE -- THE SOIL GETS --

KADIR, I THINK HE MIGHT HAVE FROZEN FOR A SECOND, SO, SARAH, I'LL GO BACK TO YOU --

YES.

AND ASK, HOW DOES, AT LEAST IN YOUR OPINION, THE IMAGES OF THE FLOODING AND THE FIRES ARE THINGS THAT WE HAVE SEEN WHEN HURRICANES HAPPEN, BUT HOW DO YOU THINK THAT VISITORS TO THE MUSEUM WILL EXPERIENCE THIS WHEN THEY ACTUALLY VISIT THE EXHIBIT?

SURE.

WELL, THE EXHIBITION WAS ORIGINALLY ON VIEW AT THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM IN AMSTERDAM, WHO IS ONE OF OR PARTNERS ON THIS PROJECT, ALONG WITH THE OCEAN GRAPHIC INSTITUTION.

THE MUSEUM IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A SENSORY PLACE, SO, THIS IS SOMETHING WE HEAR ABOUT, BUT NOT NECESSARILY SOMETHING THAT WE CAN EXPERIENCE WITH OUR OWN EYES, THOUGH EVENTS LIKE HURRICANES, SUPERSTORM SANDY OR IDA RECENTLY CERTAINLY DROVE IT HOME IN THE FIVE BOROUGHS.

SO, THAT IS ONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS OF WALKING INTO THAT STRIKING ROOM AND BEING SURROUNDED BY THESE VIDEOS AND IMAGES.

WE ALSO HAVE A SECTION OF THE EXHIBITION ABOUT SPECIFICALLY WHAT NEW YORK IS TOGETHER TO F DOING TO FACE CLIMATE CHANGE AND GET PEOPLE TO THINK WHAT ACTIONS WE CAN TAKE INDIVIDUALLY AND WHAT WE CAN TAKE COLLECTIVELY TO MAKE OURSELVES A MORE RESILIENT CITY.

AND SO, WE GIVE PEOPLE A LITTLE CHANCE TO THINK POSITIVELY ABOUT THE FUTURE, EVEN WHILE FACING THE E NORTY OF THE REALITY THAT WE'RE ALL FACED WITH AND, IN FACT, COMING UP IN THE MID-OCTOBER, OCTOBER 17th, WE'RE HAVING A GREEN ACTIVIST NEW YORK SORT OF ECO-FEST, WHERE PEOPLE CAN COME AND HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY BEING ACTIVE IN THIS AREA, WHETHER IT'S ON THE VENDOR SIDE, PERFORMANCES, YOUNG PEOPLE SPEAKING UP.

REALLY DRIVING HOME THE WAYS IN WHICH WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND I'LL SAY, AMONG THE PLEDGES THAT YOU CAN TAKE IN THE EXHIBITION, THERE'S A WHOLE ARRAY OF THEM, ONE OF THEM IS JUST TO TALK ABOUT THE CLIMATE.

AS WE LEARNED FROM OUR FRIENDS AT THE CLIMATE MUSEUM, BREAKING THE CLIMATE SCIENCE IS AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF THIS, AND I THINK KADIR'S WORK DOES THAT IN SUCH A PROFOUND SENSORY AND VISUAL WAY.

WELL, KADIR, I KNOW THAT WE LOST YOU VERY BRIEFLY FOR A MOMENT, BUT -- SO, I WANTED TO GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO FINISH OUT A THOUGHT THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN IN THE PROCESS OF DELIVERING BEFORE WE LOST YOUR CONNECTION.

KADIR, I THINK YOU ARE MUTED AGAIN.

OKAY.

YEAH.

SHOULD I START OVER?

YEAH, NO, JUST -- BECAUSE I KNOW THAT WE LOST YOU AND I WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO FULLY SHARE WHATEVER THOUGHT IT WAS THAT YOU WERE IN THE PROCESS OF GIVING US BEFORE WE HAD TO RECONNECT.

WELL, I THINK WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO -- WHAT WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME TO LEARN AND I THINK THAT'S ALSO IMPORTANT, WHAT THE IMAGES EXPRESS IS THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE WATER TO BE PERMANENTLY IN YOUR HOUSE.

THE ISSUE STARTS MUCH EARLIER, IT STARTS WITH SEA WATER COMING IN BECAUSE OF MORE FREQUENT HEAVIER STORMS, BECAUSE OF FLOODS, SEA WATER DOESN'T RECEDE AND PEOPLE CAN'T GROW THEIR CROPS ANYMORE BECAUSE THEIR LAND BEC BECOMES.

THERE'S NO SAFE DRINKING WATER.

THERE'S MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ALREADY WHO ARE RELOCATING MOST OFTEN BY THEMSELVES TO HIGHER GROUND.

SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK, I HOPE THAT IT SENDS AN URGENCY THAT WE REALLY HAVE TO ACT TODAY AND I THINK MANY OF US HAVE SEEN THE REPORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE PANEL, WHICH JUST CAME OUT, WHICH WAS VERY ALARMING.

VERY ALARMING FOR ANY COASTAL REGION, FOR ANY COASTAL CITIES.

AND --

WELL, I DO WANT TO ASK THEN, BECAUSE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW PEOPLE IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD ARE ALREADY STARTING TO RELOCATE, THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE, AT LEAST A CLIMATE CHANGE DRIVEN MIGRATION HAPPENING AS MUCH IN AMERICA AND THERE CAN BE ALL SORTS OF REASONS BEHIND THAT, BUT CONSIDERING THAT THIS PROJECT TOOK YOU ALL OVER THE WORLD, I'M WONDERING, WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES THAT YOU SAW IN OTHER COUNTRIES THAT PERHAPS AMERICANS WOULDN'T CONSIDER THEMSELVES HAVING ANYTHING IN COMMON WITH THAT YOU ALSO WERE SEEING HERE?

WELL, I THINK EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS ARE STILL OFTEN CONSIDERED BY TOO MANY PEOPLE AS BEING NORMALITY.

AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, IF YOU LOOK AT THE FIRES IN THE U.S., IF YOU LOOK WHAT HAPPENED WITH HURRICANE IDA, IF YOU LOOK AT THE FREQUENCY OF THE TORNADOES, THE FREQUENCY AND THE STRENGTHS OF HURRICANES, IT'S ALL AN INDICATION THAT WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.

AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE OWE TO OUR NEXT GENERATIONS THAT WE ACT, YOU KNOW?

WE -- WE CAN'T DENY IT ANYMORE.

I MEAN, THERE'S SO MUCH PROOF THAT THIS IS THE CASE AND THAT THIS IS HAPPENING AND THE ONLY WAY TO -- AT LEAST TO SLOW IT DOWN IS THAT WE CUT OUR EMISSIONS AND THAT WE TRY TO STABILIZE THE WARMING UP OF THIS PLANET.

AND OTHERWISE, IT'S GOING TO BE VERY CATASTROPHIC FOR THE NEXT GENERATIONS AND I THINK IT'S OUR RESPONSIBILITY.

WE ARE THE GENERATION WHO REALLY FLOURISHED, YOU KNOW?

WE HAD EVERYTHING WE WANTED AND WE HAD IT BETTER THAN OUR PARENTS, WE HAD IT BETTER THAN OUR GRANDPARENTS AND I THINK FOR THE NEXT GENERATIONS TO COME, THE LIFE IS GOING TO BE -- IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT.

AND WE SHOULD BE READY TO DO A STEP BACK.

OF COURSE.

SARAH, WE HAVE ABOUT TEN SECONDS LEFT, SO JUST, ONE MORE TIME, YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT IT IS THAT PEOPLE SHOULD EXPECT OR WHY WOULD PEOPLE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY SEE THIS EXHIBIT?

WELL, FIRST OF ALL, TO EXPERIENCE THE KINSHIP WITH PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD, THE WAYS THAT WE DO SHARE THESE OCEANS TOGETHER AND IT IS VERY MOVING AND REALLY BEAUTIFUL, EVEN THOUGH IT'S A TROUBLING -- A TROUBLING -- DEEPLY TROUBLING STORY, BUT ALSO TO EXPERIENCE A LITTLE BIT OF HOPE.

AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU AND I AND ALL OF US TOGETHER CAN DO.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, I WANT TO THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS, KADIR, I HOPE I'M PRONOUNCING YOUR NAME CLOSE TO CORRECT, WHO OF COURSE IS THE ARTIST BEHIND THIS AMAZING EXHIBIT TITLED 'RISING TIDE: VISUALIZING THE HUMAN COST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.'

AND OF COURSE, THANK YOU TO SARAH HENRY, THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THIS WEEK, NEW YORK CITY IS HOSTING CLIMATE WEEK NYC, THE LARGEST INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE SUMMIT OF THE YEAR.

THE EVENT COMES AT A TIME WHEN RAGING WILDFIRES ACROSS THE WEST COAST HAVE HIGHLIGHTED THE CATASTROPHIC EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

IT ALSO COMES AS A TIME AMID HEIGHTENED AWARENESS OF HOW ENVIRONMENTAL DANGERS CAN EXACERBATE WIDESPREAD RACIAL INEQUALITY, OFTEN WITH DEADLY CONSEQUENCES.

A FACT MADE CLEAR THIS YEAR BY THE DISPROPROFESSION GNAT IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON LOW INCOME AND COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

OUR NEXT GUEST HAS BEEN WORKING ON THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN SOCIAL JUSTICE AND ENVIRONMENTALISM FOR 30 YEARS.

IT ALL BEGAN WITH HER WITH A FIGHT OVER A SEWAGE PLANT THAT WAS POLLUTING HER WEST HARLEM NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE 1980s AND SHE'S BEEN AT IT EVER SINCE.

PEGGY SHEPHERD IS THE COFOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WE ACT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, A COMMUNITY-BASED ADVOCACY GROUP THAT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS IN THE STATE TO BE CREATED BY AND RUN BY PEOPLE OF COLOR.

SHE JOINS US NOW AS PART OF OUR 'CHASING THE DREAM' INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

AND PEGGY, I'M SO PROUD TO WELCOME YOU TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

GLAD TO TALK WITH YOU TODAY.

OH, THANK YOU.

SO, FIRST, I DO WANT TO SORT OF MAYBE DEMYSTIFY, BECAUSE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, I MEAN, WE ALL LIVE ON THIS PLANET, WE ALL EXPERIENCE THE ENVIRONMENT TOGETHER, SO, WE'RE ALL QUOTE UNQUOTE IN THE SAME BOAT, SOMETHING WE KEEP HEARING.

AND I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD SORT OF TALK ABOUT HOW ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND RACIAL JUSTICE, WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN AND HOW DO THEY INTERSECT, ESPECIALLY IN NEW YORK?

CERTAINLY.

YOU KNOW, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ACHIEVING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, WE'RE WORKING TOGETHER FIGHT ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM.

WHAT IS THAT?

THAT IS THE INTENTIONAL TARGETING OF POLLUTION AND POLLUTING FACILITIES IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS.

BECAUSE THEY ARE LESS INFORMED ABOUT THESE ISSUES, THEY MAY VOTE LESS, HAVE LESS POLITICAL POWER, OFTEN LAND OR PROPERTY IN THOSE COMMUNITIES MAY BE CHEAPER THAN IN OTHERS.

SO FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, POLLUTION IS TARGETED FOR THOSE COMMUNITIES AND A STUDY FROM 1986 CALLED TOXIC WASTE AND RACE WAS THE FIRST DOCUMENT THAT THE PRIMARY PREDICTOR OF WHERE TOXIC WASTE SITE WILL BE LOCATED IS A COMMUNITY OF COLOR AND THEN SECONDARILY, A POOR COMMUNITY.

AND OVER THE DECADES, THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS STUDIES THAT CONTINUE TO DOCUMENT AND CONFIRM THAT DYNAMIC.

WE ALSO KNOW, FOR INSTANCE, THAT OVER 80% OF LATINOS LIVE IN A COMMUNITY THAT DOES NOT -- THAT IS NOT IN ATTAINMENT OF CLEAN AIR STANDARDS AND OVER 70% OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS LIVE IN A COMMUNITY WITH HIGH AIR POLLUTION.

AND, OF COURSE, AS YOU SAID IN YOUR OPENING, WE NOW UNDERSTAND FROM THE HARVARD STUDIES THAT BEING EXPOSED TO HIGH LEVELS OF AIR POLLUTION HAVE INCREASED THE RISK OF DEATH FROM COVID, ESPECIALLY FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS.

OF COURSE.

OF COURSE.

AND ALSO, I WAS WONDERING, I MEAN, I TOUCHED ON IT A LITTLE BIT IN THE INTRO, BUT IF YOU COULD SORT OF TELL US ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION AND WHAT IS THE NEED THAT IT IS AIMING TO FILL?

YOU SORT OF EXPLAINED IT A LITTLE BIT, BUT I JUST WANT PEOPLE TO BE REALLY, REALLY CLEAR ON THIS.

WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT, I FOUND, YOU KNOW, I GOT STARTED WORKING IN THE JESSE JACKSON CAMPAIGN, HIS FIRST CAMPAIGN FOR PRESIDENT AND I DID PUBLIC RELATIONS IN MANHATTAN AND IT REALLY GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS AND WORK WITH LEADERS THERE AND TO UNDERSTAND THE NEIGHBORHOODS THAT HAD MORE BENEFITS, LIKE GREENWICH VILLAGE, AND THE NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE HARLEM, WHO HAD FEWER OF THOSE BENEFITS.

AND, OF COURSE, MORE OF THE CHALLENGING ISSUES.

AND SO, WHEN I BECAME THE DEMOCRATIC DISTRICT LEADER IN WEST HARLEM, VOLUNTEERS CAME TO ME AND SAID, YOU KNOW, THERE'S THIS SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT AND NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT THAT ENTAILED, WE WERE TOLD, ARE YOU GOING TO GET US JOBS THERE?

SO I SET OUT TO GET PEOPLE JOBS THERE, WE GOT 30 PEOPLE HIRED AND THEN WHEN THE PLANT BEGAN OPERATING, WE REALIZED THAT THE EMISSIONS AND THE ODORS WERE MAKING PEOPLE SICK.

NOW, THIS PLANT IS ALONG RIVERSIDE DRIVE ON THE HUDSON RIVER BETWEEN 138th AND 145th STREETS AND IT'S LITERALLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM PEOPLE'S HOMES.

AND WE BEGAN AN EIGHT-YEAR ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN AS VOLUNTEERS TO HOLD THE CITY ACCOUNTABLE.

BACK THEN, IT WAS MAYOR KOCH.

HE HAD A TERRIBLE RELATIONSHIP WITH UPTOWN COMMUNITIES, HE SAID WE WERE IMAGINING IT, MAKING IT UP.

AND OF COURSE WHEN DAVID DINKINS, WHO LIVED UPTOWN, BECAME BOROUGH PRESIDENT AND THEN MAYOR, HE SAID, THERE'S A PROBLEM AND WE'RE GOING TO FIX IT.

AND HE THEN THROUGH OUR ORGANIZATIONING HE GAVE MONEY TO A SCIENTIST TO DO A REPORT ON THE OPERATIONS OF THE PLANT, WHICH REALLY GAVE US FACTS TO BEGIN TO TALK TO THE MEDIA AND POLICYMAKERS ABOUT.

IT ALSO GAVE US AN OPPORTUNITY TO EDUCATE THE COMMUNITY ON THIS ISSUE.

AND SO WE WERE ABLE TO GET THE MAYOR TO COMMIT $55 MILLION TO FIX THE PLANT.

WE WERE ABLE TO GET A $1.1 MILLION ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT SETTLEMENT FOR THE WEST HARLEM COMMUNITY TO USE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS.

AND WE WERE KIND OF OFF AND RUNNING, BECAUSE WHEN YOU SEE ONE PROBLEM, YOUR EYES ARE OPEN TO ALL OF THE OTHER ISSUES GOING ON IN THE COMMUNITY AND SO THAT'S WHEN WE REALIZED THAT WE WERE HOME TO OVER ONE-THIRD OF THE ENTIRE DIESEL BUS FLEET IN NEW YORK CITY.

WOW.

YOU KNOW, NEW YORK, MANHATTAN IS A SMALL AREA IN TERMS OF --

YES, IT IS.

SQUARE MILES, BUT WE HOUSED OVER ONE-THIRD OF THE LARGEST DIESEL BUS FLEET IN THE COUNTRY.

IN THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS.

AND DIESEL FUMES ARE CARCINOGENS, SO, THEN WE BEGAN A CAMPAIGN THAT TOOK ABOUT 18 YEARS, BUT BY WORKING WITH THE COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND TRANSLATING THE RESEARCH THEY WERE DOING ON THE IMPACT OF DIESEL ON PREGNANT WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN, WE WERE ABLE TO BEGIN TO USE THAT RESEARCH TO ADVOCATE THROUGH THE MEDIA, TO THE GOVERNOR AND THROUGH TO THE MTA ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND THEN WE NOW TURNED UP AND TAKE A LOOK AND EVERY BUS HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED TO HYBRID.

AND NOW THEY'RE TRANSFORMING TO ELECTRIC BUSES.

SO, THAT'S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF NOT ONLY, FIRST OF ALL, THE HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION, BUT ALSO HOW IT ACTUALLY PUTS ENVIRONMENTALISM INTO ACTION IN A CITY LIKE NEW YORK.

GIVEN THAT THIS CONFERENCE, THIS IS GOING TO BE HAPPENING THIS WEEK, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY, FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE FACING NEW YORK AND ARE THERE ANY OBSTACLES TO FIXING IT?

SO, I'D SAY SOME OF THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES, CERTAINLY AN IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES AND ALL OF NEW YORK CITY IS POOR AIR QUALITY.

A LOT OF THAT'S DUE TO MOBILE SOURCES, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE WHAT, I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY BRIDGES, MAYBE SIX OR SEVEN BRIDGES COMING -- THAT ARE BRINGING TRAFFIC AND TRUCKS INTO NEW YORK CITY USING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD STREETS AS, YOU KNOW, THOROUGHFARES, SO, THAT BECOMES A BIG ISSUE.

BUT YOU KNOW, A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE IS WHETHER OR NOT THE MOST EFFECTED COMMUNITIES HAVE A VOICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION-MAKING.

AND SO, THE THEORY OF CHANGE FOR MY ORGANIZATION, WE ACT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, IS THAT WE MUST ENGAGE AND ORGANIZE COMMUNITY RESIDENTS TO BE INVOLVED IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION-MAKING.

YOU MUST HAVE THE MOST AFFECTED PEOPLE REALLY IN THOSE DECISIONS.

I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK.

THIS IS CLIMATE WEEK AND SO WE'RE THINKING ABOUT CLIMATE ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, THE WILDFIRES, THE HURRICANES IN THE GULF COAST.

WHEN WE THINK ABOUT KATRINA, HURRICANE KATRINA, THAT REALLY RAVAGED THE GULF COAST AND NEW ORLEANS, WHEN THAT CITY WAS, YOU KNOW, THINKING ABOUT EVACUATION AND THINKING ABOUT EMERGENCY RESPONSE, OBVIOUSLY, THEY DIDN'T HAVE LOWER INCOME COMMUNITIES REPRESENTED IN THOSE MEETINGS, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SEEM TO KNOW THAT THE LOW INCOME COMMUNITY DIDN'T HAVE A CAR TO EVACUATE, THEY DIDN'T HAVE A CREDIT CARD TO GO TO A HOTEL.

SO THOSE WERE THE PEOPLE WE SAW SITTING ON THE ROOF HOLDING UP A SIGN SAYING 'HELP.'

THEY WERE THE PEOPLE IN THE COLISEUM, OR, THE SPORTS STADIUM, YOU KNOW, SLEEPING ON COTS FOR WEEKS.

SO, AGAIN, WE REALLY HAVE TO ENGAGE FOLKS.

AND HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, WE'RE REALLY LOOKING AT A TRANSITION FROM FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY TO RENEWABLES.

OUR COMMUNITIES ARE GOING TO BENEFIT FROM THAT TRANSITION.

THAT BECOMES AN IMPORTANT ISSUE AND YES, THERE ARE OBSTACLES.

SOME OF THE OBSTACLES ARE THE INFLEXIBILITY OF OUR UTILITY COMPANY.

SOME OF THE OBSTACLES ARE THE FACT THAT IN THAT TRANSITION, OUR ENERGY BILLS MAY INCREASE, BUT WE ALREADY HAVE 30 MILLION HOUSEHOLDS IN THIS COUNTRY WHO ARE ENERGY INSECURE.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR ENERGY BILLS DO BEGIN TO INCREASE DUE TO SOME OF THIS TRANSITION AND THOSE PEOPLE ALREADY CANNOT -- CANNOT AFFORD AN INCREASE?

WELL, WE'RE COMING UP ON THE END OF OUR TIME TOGETHER, BUT ACTUALLY MENTIONING ENERGY BILLS AND OUR ENERGY USAGE, I UNDERSTAND THAT IS A PROJECT YOUR ORGANIZATION IS WORKING ON, PARTICULARLY IN HARLEM.

THAT'S RIGHT.

WE HAVE A PROGRAM CALLED S.O.N.

SOLAR UPTOWN NOW.

WHERE WE HAVE TRAINED UNDEREMPLOYED YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITY TO DO SOLAR INSTALLATIONS.

WE HAVE CONTRACTED WITH SOLAR INSTALLATION COMPANY AND THEY HAVE AGREED TO HIRE THE PEOPLE WE'VE TRAINED.

AND SO WE'RE WORKING TO KEEP HOUSING AFFORDABLE, WHICH HELPS TO FIGHT GENTRIFICATION, BY PUTTING SOLAR ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HDFCs, TENANT-OWNED COOPERATIVES, TO HELP KEEP THEIR ENERGY BILLS LOWER, WHICH KEEPS HOUSING MORE SUSTAINABLE AND FIGHTS GENTRIFICATION.

OF COURSE.

OF COURSE.

AND ALSO, JUST VERY QUICKLY, GOING BACK TO THE ISSUE OF AIR QUALITY, FOR SOME PEOPLE, THEY MIGHT SAY, WELL, BUT WE'VE -- HOW DOES NEW YORK ADDRESS THIS, WE, YOU KNOW, MADE IDLING ILLEGAL AND WE'VE REALLY CHANGED SOME OF THE TAX SIIS BEING GREE TAXIS.

HASN'T THE CITY MADE SOME STEPS FORWARD?

THE CITY HAS MADE SOME STEPS FORWARD, BUT WHEN YOU HAVE A CRITICAL PROBLEM, THOSE STEPS FORWARD AREN'T QUITE ENOUGH.

FOR INSTANCE, WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT TRUCK ROUTES.

THEY CAN BE REROUTED SO THAT THEY'RE NOT GOING THROUGH NEIGHBORHOODS OR GOING PAST SCHOOLS.

WE COULD HAVE DELIVERIES IN THE EVENING, WE COULD DO A WHOLE VARIETY OF OTHER KINDS OF THINGS THAT REDUCE SOME OF THE IMPACT OF AIR QUALITY.

AND THEN WE CAN ALSO WORK TOWARD TIGHTER REGULATIONS AROUND AIR QUALITY AND AROUND FACILITIES THAT EMIT POLLUTION.

WELL, UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE.

BUT I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

PEGGY SHEPHERD, COFOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WE ACT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

ABSOLUTELY.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

THE JPB FOUNDATION.

©2021 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489