The Root and Branch Revue, Downwinders at Risk’s multi-day floating conference for green activists is scheduled for the week of January 23rd through 28th and includes the first trip to Texas of two of the Flint, Michigan women who blew the top off that town’s lead-contaminated drinking water scandal.
Melissa Mays and Nayyirah Shariff will be the featured speakers at a free public forum on environmental justice and citizen science titled “Flint Comes to Dallas – Or Is It Already Here?” at the Mountain View College Performance Hall on Thursday, January 26th from 7 to 9pm.
Co-sponsored by Mountain View, the event also includes a panel discussion with West Dallas and Frisco residents, who also had to use their own citizen science to uncover lead pollution contaminating their communities.
After Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014, Mays, her husband and her three sons began suffering from unexplained rashes, hair loss and muscle pain. Other Flint residents had similar problems. Since the switch, the water coming out of the taps was discolored, tasted bad and smelled foul.
After months of inquiries from residents, the city sent out a notice in January 2015 that Flint was in violation of the federal Safe Water Drinking Act due to elevated levels of the chlorine byproduct TTHM in the water. TTHM is linked to cancer and to liver, kidney and central nervous system disorders. But city officials insisted the water remained safe.
Mays was unconvinced. After receiving the notice, she co-launched the group Water You Fighting For with a water-safety website where residents could share information.
Water You Fighting For and the Flint Democracy Defense League, staffed by Shariff, who is also the Black Lives Matter advisor in Flint, joined forces with several other groups to form the Coalition for Clean Water. They partnered with Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards to conduct their own water-quality tests. In August 2015, volunteers distributed 300 test kits and received 277 back. The results showed dangerous levels of lead.
It was this round of independent, citizen-sponsored water testing that finally convinced Flint officials to quit using the Flint River for the city’s water supply.
Joining Mays and Shariff on stage at Mountain View will be Luis Sepulveda from nearby West Dallas and Colette McCadden from Frisco, both of whom successfully fought lead smelter pollution in their North Texas neighborhoods using their own tests and local expertise. Moderating the forum will be Randy Lee Loftis, Texas Climate News reporter, and former Dallas Morning News Environmental Reporter who has written about the lead pollution in all three communities over the last 25 years.
Although the Thursday Flint forum is the headlining event of this year’s Root and Branch, Downwinders announced two other scheduled events, with the possibility of more being added after Christmas.
On Tuesday, January 24th, from 7 to 9 a FREE public film screening and panel discussion at the Angelika@Mockingbird will pose the question, “When is Civil Disobedience Effective?”
“Above All Else” is an award-winning firsthand account of the dramatic 2012 East Texas Keystone XL Pipeline Blockade. What begins as a stand by one landowner becomes a frontline action for the nationwide climate change movement. Protesters are resourceful in building a blockade 20 feet in the air, but is it enough to stop a pipeline that has so much momentum?
The film raises questions about the use and effectiveness of civil disobedience as a tactic. Pursuing those questions after the film screening will be a panel of distinguished lawbreakers, including Mavis Belisle, veteran peace and nuclear activist, Peter Johnson, veteran civil rights activist, Corey Troiani, East Texas Keystone Blockader, and more to be announced. Facilitating the discussion is Downwinders at Risk’s own misdemeanor recidivist Jim Schermbeck.
On Saturday, January 28th, from 9 am to 5 pm, it’s the popular “University of Change,” a full day of skills and information workshops happening at the Bluebonnet Ballroom inside UTA’s University Center – and we even throw in lunch.
This year’s emphasis is on publicizing the local technical tools and expertise DFW residents have access to in their own backyard. Workshops titles include: “Fighting Permits in Texas, “Citizen Science Tools For Citizens,” “Health Survey Dos and Don’ts” and DIY environmental testing. Scientists from UTA and UTD will be explaining what resources they can offer to citizens, and both Melissa Mays and Shariff Nayyirah will be there as well. If the weather is good, there’ll be a live drone-air sampling demonstration.
SPECIAL 12-1 pm LUNCHTIME FORUM ON SATURDAY at UTA : How Do Local Governments Protect Their Quality of Life in the Trump Era?”
When both the state and federal governments deny climate change and the harm of smog, what’s a city or county to do? Join a roundtable of local elected officials commenting on how best to respond to an unprecedented threat to the goals of a modern American city. Featuring Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel and Dallas City Council Member Sandy Greyson, plus more to come.