Hazel Johnson is now known as the “mother of the environmental justice movement,” but back in 1979 she was a mother of seven children with respiratory and skin problems, and the widow of a husband who died from lung cancer a decade prior. Living in Altgeld Gardens on the South Side of Chicago, in a housing project that was surrounded by factories, landfills, industrial buildings, and sewage treatment plants, Johnson began to investigate the chronic health impacts on her community from surrounding air and water pollution. She learned that her family and her neighbors had been exposed to toxic fumes, asbestos, and contaminated drinking water, and that her community had the highest cancer rate in the city – leading her to call Altgeld Gardens “The Toxic Donut.”
I moved to Chicago almost seven months ago, and I’ve found many Midwest stereotypes to be true – the people are very friendly, the winters are very cold, the food is crazy good, and the beer is even better. But one stereotype – that the Midwest won’t suffer any severe consequences of climate change – is completely false. While we don’t have hurricanes, and live right next to the largest body of fresh water in America, the Midwest is not exempt from climate impacts – and has plenty to worry about as Earth warms.
Temperatures in the Midwest increased by 1.5 °F from 1895 to 2012, and they are rising more rapidly as time goes on. As it warms, Chicago and the rest of the region will likely experience milder winters, earlier springs, and an increase in extreme weather events like heatwaves, drought, and flooding. Continue reading “Chicago Series #1: The Midwest is Not Exempt from Climate Change”
It’s May 2015, and I’m snorkeling off an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. A massive sloping reef stretches as far as I can see, forming a continuous rainbow blanket. The coral grows extraordinarily well here, covering over 90% of the reef. Neon-colored guppies dart in and out of the coral, and a school of silver trumpet fish surrounds my body, catching the sun’s rays through the ocean’s surface. As I descend, my ears are blasted by a deafening roar. It’s the sound of thousands of snapping shrimp, making the underwater world sound like a 4th of July firework show. I’ve been to many reefs before, but I’ve never heard anything like this. Everywhere I look, there is life. When I return to the surface, someone grabs my shoulder. It’s our ship’s Chief Scientist, who points out a small patch of coral that doesn’t look like the others. Instead of eye-popping color, it’s white. Bleached white. I didn’t notice it before, but now I start seeing little patches of white popping into view across the entire reef. My stomach instantly does a sickening somersault. Continue reading “Moving Beyond Climate Depression”
Even though it’s now been two months since my trip to Chile (sorry for the blogging hiatus – moving to Chicago and starting a new job took over my life), I am still immensely grateful for my six-week adventure there. My last big adventure in Chile was to the Atacama Desert, which is the most arid place in the world (besides the poles), and receives the highest radiation and celestial exposure – which means it is very dry, the sun is extremely strong, and the stars are incredible. Even though I was there during a full moon, I could still see the Milky Way and thousands of stars filling every corner of the night sky. Continue reading “Chile Part 4: One Week North”
During the second half of July, I headed to Chile’s beautiful southern lake region, about halfway between Santiago and Punta Arenas. An inspiring landscape of volcanoes covered in snow, rushing turquoise rivers, green coastal cliffs, and deep blue lakes, it was my first taste of a very different Chilean landscape. I’ve been learning and talking a lot about how many different ecosystems Chile has along its 4,000-km length, but it was amazing to experience it first hand. In my two weeks south, I explored the outdoors, learned about the history of the region, discovered more about my family heritage, and got a taste of the culture of the south. Continue reading “Chile Part 3: Two Weeks South”
I´ve very quickly reached the halfway point of my time in Chile, and while I´ve been mostly focused on spending time with family and seeing the sites, my third goal was to learn and write about the state of environmental problems and policy in Chile. Since my last blog post, I´ve visited my grandparents´hometowns of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, spent a relaxing weekend at the beach, and embarked on a 2 week exploration of the southern lakes region – I´m writing this post from Valdivia. But I´ll save my summaries of these beautiful places for a later post. For now, I´d like to share what I´ve learned about the history of energy resources in Chile from my own research, conversations with locals, and meetings with government officials and industry leaders. Continue reading “Chile Part 2: Meeting Energy Demand in the Skinniest Country on Earth”
After an unintentional break from blogging, during which I graduated from college, I embarked on a six week trip to Chile. My mom and her family are Chilean, and since I´ve only been here once, I decided that now was the right time to rediscover my roots and explore the country for a few weeks. I´m now one week in, and wanted to share some of the things I´ve done and my overall impressions of this beautiful place so far.
Almost immediately after getting off the plane, I joined a huge family lunch of 15 people in total. We had a beautiful meal with food from Chiloe, cooked by my amazing aunt. It was such a gift to be surrounded by family who welcomed me to Chile, and to reunite with people I hadn´t seen since I was six years old! We spent the afternoon in typical Sunday style, eating, talking, and relaxing together. Continue reading “Chile Part 1: Family and Exploring the Big City”
President Trump is on the verge of a monumental decision to withdraw or keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. Signed by 194 nations in December 2015, the Paris Agreement establishes the first global goal to limit warming to 2°C above preindustrial levels. But now, the new U.S. administration plans to roll back a suite of environmental measures, and the Paris Agreement is potentially on the chopping block. While this might seem like a distant, bureaucratic matter, the Paris Agreement has immediate, tangible benefits on a local scale. Here in Silicon Valley, the agreement will help create jobs, incentivize innovation, and spur growth in the clean energy sector today – while reducing costly climate impacts tomorrow. We must remind the Trump administration that the Paris Agreement will help, not hinder, our critical slice of the American economy. Continue reading “Why Silicon Valley Should Support the Paris Agreement”
Then Puerto Rico is the place to be! Bryant and I traveled there last week for spring break, and while we only drank one piña colada and got caught in the rain just once, it was a fantastic trip. We were there for six days and experienced a wide variety of settings in such a short amount of time, experiencing the urban history of San Juan, examining the Caribbean reef ecosystem up close while scuba diving, beach-hopping in remote Vieques, and hiking through the dense jungle of El Yunque. Continue reading “If You Like Piña Colada(s) and Getting Caught in the Rain…”