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.”
The lush green vines billow in the city breeze, muffled by the quiet roar of stamping feet and tourists’ conversations. The neat slices of sidewalk meld with the garden beds, tracing a line to the half-finished skyscrapers. The elevated walkway peers over the manicured streets, with glitzy shops and storefronts lighting up the avenue.
Twenty years ago, this place was sketchy during the day, and extremely dangerous at night. This is New York City’s Meatpacking District. This is the High Line.
It’s been a busy week here in Palau, and we’ve been doing a lot of science and cultural immersion over these last few days. I’m in Palau as part of a 3-week research seminar on coral reefs, and you can see my first post about it here if you missed it. My research project is about tourism pressure on coral reefs, mainly in the form of physical damage to the reefs caused by snorkelers. My group has been hard at work this week visiting popular snorkel sites and sampling for evidence of physical damage to corals. Continue reading “Palau Part II: Quadrats, Taro, and Monoliths”
Greetings from Palau! After Stanford at Sea, I spent one week in Kauai with my family, and now I am onto my next adventure: a 3-week field seminar in the beautiful island nation of Palau. Palau is located at 7˚ N, to the east of the Philippines and Indonesia:
Palau is the definition of a tropical paradise: hundreds of gumdrop-shaped islands completely covered with lush green jungle, clear warm water that looks to be a million different colors at once, and intricately mesmerizing coral reef communities. One of the really special things about Palau is that it contains a huge variety of different ecosystems. In one country, there are volcanic islands, limestone islands, and coral atolls, as well as four different kinds of reefs. Continue reading “Plunging Into a Palauan Paradise”
I’ve been visiting national parks like Crater Lake and Yellowstone since I was a toddler. Something about setting aside a specific area of land for the pure purpose of preserving its wildlife, ecology, landscapes, and beauty for future generations seemed so right to me. Like we had already found the solution to our rampant environmental degradation when Ulysses S. Grant signed Yellowstone National Park into existence in 1872. Continue reading “The Tanzanian Balancing Act (or, How Two Weeks In East Africa Made Me Question Everything I Thought I Knew About Conservation)”