August 20th, 2018
On September 8, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition will host its 3rd Environmental Justice Statewide Summit in Flint MI, seeking to bring 200 EJ Activists to testify, visualize and strategize for a just and equitable future. We’ve been through a lot over the last 8 years, and, it’s not over. It’s time to CHANGE THE NARRATIVE. As a new administration heads in Jan. 2019, we must define what it means for all living beings to have clean and affordable access to water, air, land and make a way to take decisions about our own future in the critical times of climate change. REGISTER
Thinking for Ourselves
Future Water Plans
Children working with the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) have been harvesting eggplant, tomatoes, greens, herbs and other vegetables at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. This is the second summer of the garden celebrating the agricultural expertise of African Americans and fostering skills needed for the burgeoning urban agricultural movement that shapes much of Detroit. Next summer the garden will be part of a visionary landscape, designed to emphasize water as a human right and a public trust.
In a recent article explaining why the Charles H. Wright Museum thought it important to include gardening on its plaza, Vice-President Charles Ferrell said, “The whole spiritual concept of planting something and removing the weeds and nurturing it and seeing it grow and then being able to eat, it’s a way for not only the children, but the parents to know that you have to have a place where you can grow your own food. You know it’s clean, it’s organic. There are multiple reasons why this sends a higher message to the community around self-determination.”
Mr. Ferrell’s understanding was echoed by recently retired CEO Juanita Moore who observed, “The broad need to educate these young people…not just about what they should learn in the classrooms, but the broader lessons about how to live complete lives; the health and wholeness of their bodies; the longevity and quality of their life and the lives of families and other people around them. A lot of that revolves around food, especially in our community and especially in Detroit.”
As this year’s harvest accelerates, plans for next year are taking shape. They include a much more ambitious partnership extending to the Michigan Science Center. The two museums, along with community partners like DIFS are envisioning a new outdoor space intended to provide a visible, tangible, model of sustainable, regenerative water practices.
The neighboring museums are joining forces to conserve water by using porous pavers, bioswales, plants and gardens designed to store storm water. By keeping rain water out of sewers, the new landscape will reduce the pressure on Detroit’s aging system and help reduce flooding.
In part, this vision emerged out of necessity. Museum complexes face the pressure of high sewerage rates for run off. Detroit is currently facing rates that are almost three times more than the water bills. These bills are already impossible for many to pay. Increased sewerage bills mean not only will home owners suffer, but businesses, churches, and meeting spaces are concerned about losing property to unpayable bills.
But this effort is more than about saving money. It is about helping people to think differently about the serious questions raised by the water crisis in our city.
People are recognizing that urban centers have intensified the global water crisis. And they are responding in visionary ways. Philadelphia, New York, Portland, Copenhagen and the “Sponge Cities” of China are all evolving imaginative ways to coordinate wetlands, tree planting, green and white roofs, and other green stormwater infrastructure to create resilient, coordinated, and sustainable approaches to water.
Here in Detroit a strong array of community organizations and some forward -thinking foundations are supporting these experiments. However, our current administration, locked into efforts to prevent a human, sensitive, and sustainable approach to ensure that water is affordable to all and cared for with an eye to the future, is holding us back. Hopefully, by next summer, the Mayor and his administration will learn from the children about what needs to be done to protect our water and our people.