The Ecology Center’s Clean Air Luncheon was hosted today at Colors Restaurant in downtown Detroit. After copious planning, it was a privilege to attend the event sponsoring the work of incinerator alternatives in metro Detroit, the nation, and around the globe.
Detroit is home to the second-largest trash incinerator in the nation, and the health consequences for local residents are despicable. Toxins released in the process of incinerating waste are to blame for asthma-related illnesses in young children and increased rates of cancer seen among other residents. The physical health of the community impacts individual lifestyles negatively; for example, many students and adults suffer health-related absences from work and school.
The injustice of the local incinerator is worsened by the content of the waste. Surrounding areas, including suburbs like Grosse Pointe, send their waste to the Detroit incinerator to be burned. Only 18% of the trash burned comes from Wayne county. No community deserves to shoulder the physical ailments of tending to another community’s trash. The movement of waste to the Detroit incinerator is horribly unjust to Detroit residents now burdened with health consequences from the elimination of trash that they are not responsible for creating. The incinerator thus speaks broadly to the injustices faced by the Detroit community, and serves as a grander symbol of the widespread apathy toward the consequences of our own actions.
These reasons, among others, made this event important to me personally. The Detroit incinerator has violated the Clean Air Act more than 370 times since January alone, and continues to unfairly harm its community. The event hosted Detroit-native Ahmina Maxey, who serves on the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, where she advocates for better methods of waste removal. The event also featured Will Copeland, a local spoken-word artist advocating for community change. Blending the emotive understanding of the consequences from poetic word artist and Detroit-native Will Copeland with the factual evidence of dangerous incineration effects from Ahmina Maxey made the event meaningfully resonant.
The event aligned directly with the Ecology Center’s mission of supporting work for healthy people and a healthy planet. At a time when the national government actively undermines efforts for the earth’s betterment, local action for positive change is imperative. The emphasis on improving the environment intersects with the improvement of individuals’ lives. This work continues to inspire me, and funnels my energy to serving the planet and its people.