Fighting for a More Just Environment
Throughout 2019, the Women’s Environmental Institute worked closely with the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute’s fight for environmental justice in Minneapolis’ South Side Green Zone. A multi-racial coalition, EPNI’s community based proposal to convert the empty former “Roof Depot” site into an indoor urban farm with green jobs and job training, affordable housing, entrepreneurial space for food and cultural markets, bike shop, youth-run café etc. challenged Minneapolis Public Work’s plan to convert the same site to storage for water/sewer pipes, hydrants, man-hole covers, snow/sand, and to greatly increase car and heavy truck traffic. WEI helped unearth a publicly funded Health Impact Analysis on the area, which was previously unpublished. This research recommended strong restraints on any increases in pollution in this neighborhood, which is already over-burdened with toxic exposures that create severe racial health disparities. With strong leadership from Little Earth of United Tribes, we’re fighting for an official Environmental Impact Study. WEI was funded to publish the Health Impact study and help hold officials accountable to its environmental justice recommendations.
Sharing the Power of Minnesota’s Environment with our Young People
“During last year’s Adventures in the City (credit recovery) program, I was walking along Minnehaha Creek with three students, enjoying a ‘brain break’ after a lesson on watersheds. As we were walking, each student described their frustration with school and having to learning things that didn’t feel useful in their lives. As they continued, one of the students interrupted, saying, ‘Whoa, there are so many trees around here. I wonder why there are so many that are different in the same place…’ One of the other students responded, ‘I think it’s because each one plays a different role in the ecosystem. Like maybe the tall ones are good at doing something that the short ones aren’t.’ They continued talking about the trees for minutes, forgetting all about the previous conversation. When we got to the river, they were joking and laughing with one another even though they had only met the day before. It struck me how interested these students were in their environment and how open they were to learning and bonding together even though they considered the school experience to be such an unpleasant one. It goes to show that ‘school’ can happen in so many places outside of four-walled rooms!” – Courtney Antone, English Teacher at Minneapolis Public Schools, Outdoor Leader at Wilderness Inquiry
Protecting Minnesota’s Wetlands, Lakes, and Rivers
In 2019, Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance hosted our first ever mud picnic to help our members experience the extent of siltation at the upper end of Lake Pepin by ferrying attendees across the navigation channel to picnic tables in ankle-deep water where we offered educational stations. This year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources joined us to lead a mussel search, but participants only found empty shells – an indicator of poor water quality in the area. Back on the beach, attendees watched a boat grounding occur right in the area they were just occupying. While the navigation channel is dredged for commercial navigation, the rest of Lake Pepin continues to fill with sediment at a rate 10x above normal. Every moment of the picnic stressed the urgency for upstream changes to protect Lake Pepin and the rest of the Mississippi River.
Protecting our Night Skies
In 2020, Voyageurs National Park and Voyageurs National Park Association, its charitable partner, will launch a dark sky preservation initiative. Many who come to Voyageurs in Northern Minnesota are inspired by the stars they can’t see back home, especially our Teen Ambassadors. One Teen Ambassador commented, “The landscape is absolutely beautiful, like something off a postcard, and the water feels amazing when swimming. At night the moon shines clearly and you can see the stars. My highlight would be seeing the beautiful night sky at night with my fellow Ambassador friends.” We recognize our dark skies are just as precious as our waters and forests and will work to preserve the quality of our region’s starry nights and nocturnal environment for its scientific, natural, and educational values; our cultural heritage; and for public enjoyment.
Preserving and Caring for Natural Places Close to Home in Cities:
In St. Paul, The Trust for Public Land worked with community leaders and members to acquire a 5.5-acre site along the Green Line LRT that is becoming Midway Peace Park. The new park is designed to meet diverse community needs across ages and ethnicities, and will be accessible to over 6,000 local residents within a 10-minute walk. In the fall of 2019, The Trust for Public Land celebrated the start of construction with local high school students, community leaders and residents. The unwavering excitement and enthusiasm of everyone involved is truly inspiring and illustrates the impact of making land publicly accessible.
Clean Water and Nature for People in Northern Minnesota:
The clean water and wild lands in the Boundary Waters draw people from all over the world, and provide critical habitat for eagles, moose, other wildlife and native plants. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness advocates year-round to protect this cherished area from the threat of proposed sulfide mines on the edge of the wilderness and the St Louis River. If permitted, these mines could drastically impact the water quality of the Boundary Waters, Lake Superior, and drinking water in communities throughout Northeast Minnesota.