Little Village Environmental Justice Org.
stopping coal plants + local community health
The Clean Power Campaign is dedicated to the elimination of harmful pollution in low income communities of color like Little Village. Through the promotion of energy efficiency and self-sustainability we can reduce our energy needs, lower our monthly bills, build self-sustainable communities and fight for the environment of the world. The main focus for the campaign is shutting down two outdated Coal Power Plants located within city limits of Chicago. These plants primarily sell electricity to the open market across the United States and are not contractually bound to the City of Chicago to provide electricity to the cities grid. However, they provide electricity during peak usage times when necessary in Chicago.
For over eight years LVEJO’s Clean Power Campaign has worked with community members and city wide supporters in educating the community on the deadly effect of these outdated coal power plants. This has lead to several successful campaigns such as the Mercury Campaign which educated the community on the pollution that falls from the smoke stacks and makes its way into the local fish we eat. As well as the creation of the Coalymics (Coal Olympics) this highlighted the quality of Air in Chicago during our Olympic Bid. Participants and spectators alike learned about the lifecycle of coal: the Coal Dig highlighted the destructive practices of Mountain Top Removal, to the Smoke Stack Hurdle. The two plants in Chicago (Crawford and Fisk) put out 17,000 tons of deadly toxins into the air annually. They also contribute to 40 deaths, 550 emergency room visits and 2,800 asthma attacks annually*.
The most active tool has been our Community Asset Toxic Tours, which highlight local struggles such as the Clean Power Campaign. Folks get to walk right by the Crawford plant and see the barges of coal that come up the river, the mountain of coal that is less than two blocks from people’s homes and feel the coal dust brush by their face. This allows folks to use all their senses in seeing this injustice up close and personal. The CATT is hosted by community trained tour guides, most of who are leaders within a campaign.
Not only do we educate our community on pollution, but we also teach and promote energy efficiency and self sustainability. We work with community members to apply for free weatherization services for renters and home owners regardless of immigration and language status. This allow community members to not only save money on their gas and electricity bills but it also makes us less dependent on our energy grid particularly during peak times. Many of our community residents are educated in carpentry, electrical, engineering, and urban agriculture. Unfortunately due to lack of documentation many of these degrees do not transfer over here in the US. These are skills and talents that many times are lost in communities like Little Village. LVEJO’s leadership gives space for individuals and families to share their skills and talents with others for the growth of our community. Local carpenters use recycled wood to build planting bed for the community garden sites. Local famers teach community members how to create a garden, how to seed, when to harvest, composting, worms, etc… This sharing of skills allows folks to not only grow their own food but learn to eat from the ground with traditional recipes and techniques. Many times we suggest local gardeners build raise beds and use store bought soil due to the high levels of lead and mercury from both the coal power plants and other local industry. This tie in allows for folks to understand how the coal plants have a daily effect on their lives both thru the air and land contamination they cause. Just as we grow tomatoes and chiles to add salsa to our meals, we grow organizers and leaders to fight for justice to our lives.
Little Village's Clean Power blog.
Medill video about the project by Ryan Craggs.
Chicago Reader article by Cecilia Donnelly.
Photos below by Armando Medina