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We Live Here: Environmental Racism

In the last two seasons of the show, we have covered the COVID-19 pandemic and the current uprising for Black lives, both of which continue to shape society today.

The pandemic and the uprising also raise two major questions, which we are addressing in our season on environmental racism: How do we achieve a healthy life? And what kind of world do we want to leave for the next generation? These are profound questions for a region that boasts some of the most prestigious hospitals in the nation and is home to residents with some of the worst health outcomes.

So in this season, we trace the connection between systemic racism, housing conditions, and health outcomes. But we also highlight the organizers, tenants' rights advocates, and urban farmers who work to improve conditions in their communities.

  • Throughout this season, we’ve shared stories of those living in unhealthy environments, how those environments came to be, and what we can do to create a better environment for the future. But in order to complete this series on the environment, we had to discuss land, the people who originated from that land and the movements to restore and give back to Indigenous people. In this episode, we hear from a PhD student working on a research project to combat Indigenous people's invisibility in the St. Louis region and a Director providing a space for students to learn about American Indian history and culture.
  • Throughout this season, we have introduced you to urban farmers, people working on the ground to change their environment, politicians working to pass environmental legislation, and more. But there are also many environmental scholars working to provide a space for Black environmentalists to thrive. That’s why we are introducing you to Dr. Dorceta Taylor, an author and professor at the Yale School for the Environment. In this episode, we hear about Dr. Taylor’s work in environmental studies, the contributions Black folks have made to the environmental justice movement, and the power community leaders have to transform the environments where they live.
  • We wanted to share a follow-up conversation with Myisha Johnson, one of the three working members of State Street Tenant Resistance and the founder of Community First Plus, a new housing and environmental justice organization. She’s been connecting the dots between health problems and pollution from facilities like Kinder Morgan for over a decade. In this episode, we hear how Myisha felt when residents like her were asked to sign onto an administrative complaint to the EPA about the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Then, attorneys Sarah Rubenstein and Bob Menees of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center will share about what happened when they filed the administrative complaint to the EPA on behalf of the Missouri and St. Louis City NAACP and Dutchtown South Community Corporation.--This is Part II of a two-part series on how tenants are organizing to hold problem landlords accountable, and what happens when large companies and the state need to be held accountable too. If you haven’t listened to Part I: Tenant Rights and Resistance, listen to it now!
  • The pandemic triggered a major housing crisis, resulting in millions of renters and unhoused people across the country becoming at risk for being evicted or displaced. Meanwhile, those living in apartments with mold or pests have been stuck with environmental conditions that exacerbate asthma and COVID-19. Locally, tenants and housing advocates are pushing back by advocating for eviction moratoriums, holding landlords accountable, and working to create a tenants bill of rights. In this episode, we hear from the three working members of State Street Tenants Resistance about what motivates them to advocate for a tenants bill of rights, and the Community Empowerment Organizer of a local community development corporation will explain how to hold problem landlords accountable and what’s at stake when large companies and the state need to be held accountable, too.
  • Democratic Representative Cori Bush made history when she became the first Black Congresswoman for Missouri, unseating the Clay political dynasty. She brought her background as a nurse, activist, organizer, single mom and pastor to her new role and has jumped headfirst into advocating for issues ranging from reparations for Black Americans to taxing billionaires to Medicare for All. She teamed up with Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth to introduce a bill that would bring together federal agencies and create a mapping tool to help allocate environmental funding from the Biden administration. Just last week, she also joined forces with New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to introduce a $1 trillion dollar bill to fund environmental justice projects for the next four years. In this episode, we’ll hear from Senator Tammy Duckworth and Congresswoman Cori Bush about three major environmental justice bills: the Environmental Justice for All Act, the Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act, and the Green New Deal for Cities Act.—This episode was a collaboration with Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio political correspondent and co-host of the Politically Speaking podcast. You can listen to the Politically Speaking episodes with Senator Duckworth and Congresswoman Bush at stlpr.org or anywhere you get podcasts.
  • We wanted to share the stories of the people who are at the heart of the environmental justice movement: urban farmers. In St. Louis, urban farmers have made great strides and continue to educate the next generation about the importance of growing their own food. In this bonus episode, we visit an urban farm, then hear from a food justice director advocating for a healthier environment and the founder of a nonprofit that provides equitable access to food, education, and employment.
  • The We Live Here team balances deep dives into systemic issues with inspiring stories about people working to make a difference in their own communities. So when a listener reached out and introduced us to the work of Jeffrey “JD” Dixon, an activist organizing cleanups and coalitions in East St. Louis, a predominantly Black city in Illinois, we knew that we’d have to drive across the river to share his story. In this episode, we’ll learn about JD’s demand for legislative reform, hear from a political science professor about the legacy of industrial suburbs, and talk to a reporter about how JD is one of many Black residents in the Metro East area of Illinois who are pushing back against environmental racism.
  • We wanted to know how environmental issues affect babies and birthing people during childbirth, one of the most delicate life processes. In the U.S., Black babies are two times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies, and Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications then white women. So in this episode, we hear from a documentary filmmaker about humanizing Black birthing people, a neonatal hospitalist about the effects the environment has on newborns and mothers and an executive director of an Equal Access Midwifery Clinic about supporting people of color through the birthing process.
  • St. Louis is consistently listed as one of the worst “Asthma Capitals” in the country by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. During the pandemic, environmental issues such as dust from demolitions and housing conditions make it even harder for people to breathe. In this episode, we hear from a chronic disease epidemiologist and health education coordinator about an initiative to create healthier homes, an educator who collects racial and ethnic data to help us understand environmental issues in our region, and a reverend putting matters into his own hands to help his community live in a healthier environment.
  • In St. Louis, there are many stories about how environmental racism impacts everyday people and their health, housing, and daily lives. So in this season, we’ll use the Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Law Clinic’s 2019 report on Environmental Racism in St. Louis to guide us through conversations about the top environmental issues facing the most vulnerable communities in St. Louis. In this episode, we look back at how St. Louis’ history of systemic racism has impacted the living environments of low-income and Black residents, how the report featured stories of everyday people, and what type of environment the report’s recommendations could create for the next generation.