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True (environmental) crime: Follow the money 💰
Sounds Like Impact: A newsletter for audio and action – Vol. 4
Welcome to Volume 4 of Sounds Like Impact!
There is a lot happening in May. This week is the National Week of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), yesterday was World Tuna Day, May 1st was May Day / International Worker’s Day, it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m sure there is some other week, day or month that I am leaving off.
The great thing about this newsletter is there doesn’t need to be a specific date for me to turn attention to an issue. For instance, this edition focuses on climate / environmental-related crimes, and it’s no longer Earth Month.
I vow to keep raising issues outside of prescribed dates, but I would also like for you to share what is important to you so I can learn about it and share with others. Take this short survey, leave a comment, send an email; I want to hear from you.
Announcements: Grist and the Center for Rural Strategies announced grants for freelancers and newsrooms to do reporting in rural areas. Apply by June 1!
Also, last week I asked, and you all delivered: this newsletter has surpassed 200 subscribers! Thank you :-)
🙌 Keeping the faith: The Writers Guild of America (East and West) authorized a strike! While it is unfortunate that major streamers have not yet recognized the importance of living wages and other assurances for writers, it’s great that the writers are organized. Unions are still essential!
🎧 #AudioForAction Theme of the Week
Tales of profits chosen over people and planet
I’ll get straight to the point: It’s imperative that we remind industry leaders, our governments and ourselves that it’s unacceptable to choose profits over people and the planet. Yes, some of these stories serve as a reminder that things we demand can perpetuate systems of injustice and environmental exploitation.
The curation below is just a sampling of stories where the fossil fuel industry or illicit trades fueled by consumer demand have had dire consequences. Fortunately, there are always people on the frontlines to address, and some things we can do to help.
Content Warning: Some of these podcast series mention violence or murder, particularly The Crisis in the selected episode. Please take care when listening.
Bad Seeds, Episode 1: Unscrupulous Collection
…and the other aspect is consumer demand at the end of the supply chain that really drives the whole thing because consumer demand for these high value consumer wildlife commodities; if people are willing to pay these high prices for these things, criminal networks are willing to supply them…
There’s estimated to be a 20 billion dollar a year plant industry, it’s estimated to be the fourth largest illegal trade in the world.
The Crisis, CHAPTER 1: The Union*
They want the company to pay for their children’s education, they want assurances of safer working conditions, and they want better food.
*This podcast is available in English and Spanish.
In April 2020 when San Luis Obispo announced a plan to become the first city in Southern California to ban gas in new buildings, the region's utility SoCal Gas--the largest gas utility in the country--sprung into action, threatening among other things to bus in large numbers of protestors to crowd the town and city hall, refusing to mask or social distance just as the pandemic was taking hold in the U.S.
The Catch, Season 2 - Part 2: A Complex Web*
Today the illegal trafficking of totoaba is done by a transnational network that buys totoaba bladders directly from fishers in the upper Gulf of California and takes them to large border cities…from there they cross into the US and then it’s on to Asia….where the bladders will sell for a lot of money.
…A kilo of [totoaba] bladders is worth more than a kilo of cocaine, and that’s an incredible profit that can enrich anyone over night.
*This podcast is available in English and Spanish. Also, if you missed our interview with The Catch creator, Ruxandra Guidi, you can check it out here.
Bribe, Swindle or Steal, Wildlife Crime
…there’s been a real recognition and transition towards identifying corruption as a key element and willingness to take it on. And that’s through doing parallel corruption investigations when you look at wildlife crimes, and also financial investigations, which are key to identifying financial flows that support wildlife crime and also the individuals that are involved.
Get the podcast playlist on Spotify or Podchaser for wherever you may listen.
🚨 Calls to Action
Protect: Journalists and activists! Helping the environment with donations to conservation orgs is important, but it must be in tandem with supporting the people on the ground and reporting about issues. Organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Global Witness are some places to start.
Read: Independent journalism, such as Heated, that holds the fossil fuel industry accountable.
Host: If you love plants, share that love with others. Consider hosting a plant swap, a free and legal way to get plant life into your home. And remember that it is illegal and potentially ecologically damaging to traffic plants, so only leave with admiration for species you (or someone else) encounter abroad.
Follow: The Goldman Environmental Prize to learn about extraordinary activists, many whom have quite literally put their lives on the line. And The Wildlife Justice Commission, which conducts investigations into wildlife crimes.
Consume: Ethically and sustainably caught seafood if you eat seafood. The Monterey Bay Aquarium (one of my faves; you should go!) has consumer guides you can use to help make decisions about what to purchase or eat out.
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I previously mentioned a guide that Lemonada Media and Only One put together about plastic pollution, but didn’t say much at the time about the podcast that inspired the guide—Discarded.
This is the story of a modern-day Erin Brockovich, set on the Mississippi River in an area known as “Cancer Alley.” Her name is Sharon Lavigne, her community is St. James Parish in Louisiana, and her fight is to keep out one of the largest plastic manufacturing companies in the world.
Before gaining education on and experience with environmental issues, I was inspired by the true story of Erin Brockovich, interpreted by Julia Roberts in the biographical film. I saw the movie as a high schooler and for a time Erin’s story made me want to study environmental law. While I didn’t go on to become an environmental lawyer, I continue to be inspired by those who stand up for what is right.
When Lemonada Media framed Discarded as the tale of another Erin Brockovich-like figure, I knew I had to listen. The show, hosted by Emmy-award winning journalist Gloria Riviera, is 4 episodes and does not disappoint. I recommend starting from the beginning, as Riviera shares her personal connection to the story.
If you’ve already listened to this podcast, or want more environmental justice stories, check out Broken Ground by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
⏭ Coming Up
Next week we will talk more about mental health. If you missed our first foray into the topic via a focus on weight stigma, click here.
🤗 An act of joy: Okay, nothing particularly joyful has happened in the past week as I’ve been isolating with COVID (shoutout to vaccines though!). However, I’m looking forward to reemerging to take visiting friends to Pilot–a sustainable oyster bar on a boat in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Crew NY, the restaurant group that owns Pilot, also has some other outdoor, waterfront dining options (including one on Governor’s Island!).
Take care of yourselves! And if you listen or take any actions, be sure to let me know in the comments or via email soundslikeimpact [at] unofficialsocialchair [dot] com.