Houston Environmental News Update May 20, 2020

State of the Air, Air Quality & Coronavirus, Commuting with Confidence webinar, Floral Fauna, Native Plants, Railroad Commission Candidates’ Forum, Green Roofs, Green Jobs, and more

Dcoumerica photo of burning batteries in Houston, 1972.

Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

On Monday, the Houston Chronicle included an article by Hirokoko Tabuchi of the New York Times: Next to smokestacks, virus is one more risk. Preliminary research, the article reports, indicates that “coronavirus patients in areas with historically heavy air pollution are more likely to die than patients elsewhere.” Low-income communities of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, the article explains, calling out a neighborhood in Houston “that is home not only to factories making plastics materials used in medical masks, but also incinerators that burn medical waste… ‘Hospitals need the masks, the gloves,’ said Yvette Arellano, [a research and policy liaison with t.e.j.a.s.] But the irony, she said, is that communities like this ‘are breathing in the toxins that industry says is necessary for the safety of other people.'”

If you think much about environmental justice, this is no surprise.

Allyn West, writing for One Breath Partnership, describes the local implications in more detail. “The communities in Houston that have been most devastated by COVID-19 so far have been characterized by David Persse, the city’s top health authority, as those living with “decades of disparities” in everything from food security to access to medical care and transportation to environmental exposure.” One Breath Partnership is a joint initiative of Air Alliance Houston, Environment Texas, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Integrity Project, Public Citizen, and Rice University, some of the region’s best champions for better air quality.

Ozone levels in Harris County, from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2020 Report

While air quality varies within the region, the American Lung Association provides an annual assessment of air quality in the Houston region as part of its national State of the Air report which was released with minimal fanfare on April 21–the day before the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Harris, Montgomery, and Galveston and other Counties in the region received grades of “F” for ozone levels. As you can see from the chart above, ozone levels have decreased over the past 20 years, but still do not meet federal standard. In fact, an #ozoneactionday was issued on Tuesday for the Houston region, and it was not the first of 2020.

Annual and 24-hour particle pollution are much better in comparison, but still not great. Ground-level ozone and particle matter are two of the “big six” common criteria pollutants identified in the Clean Air Act of 1970; the others are carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and lead. These four pollutants are not considered in the report and, in general, the Houston region meets the standards for these pollutants. However, as explained by Air Alliance Houston, while everyone is affected, most of the disease burden is borne by marginalized populations who tend to live near busy roads and industrial sites with higher air pollution levels.

The Clean Air Act also regulates 187 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). A hazardous air toxin is any air pollutant known to play a role in causing chronic disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular, and other serious health impacts.According to Air Alliance Houston, of the 187 regulated HAPs, 161 are present in varying concentrations at different locations in the Houston area, and, in 2017, nearly 17 million pounds of toxic air pollution were emitted by industrial sources in the Houston metropolitan area.

Interested in learning more about air quality in the Houston region? You are in luck! The following are some of our favorite resources right now, including some of the sources described above.

Please scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.


CEC NOTES

Superpowers Sessions for environmental educators

Join fellow environmental educators in Houston on Fridays for short, “superpowers” sessions, organized by the CEC. Network, learn and share resources, and walk away with new knowledge and new friends. Open to any educator. Ten-minute presentations on local topics, are followed by 15 minutes of Q&A and community-building time. The sessions are offered at two times on the same day (10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) to ensure smaller groups and more opportunity to connect with fellow environmental educators in Houston. May 22: “Microplastics in the Gulf,” hosted by Janice Walden of Friends of Greene; May 29: Tech Tools 2.0 used by Teachers,” hosted by Lisa Gianukos and Amanda Brown of Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation; June 5: “Beekeeping in the City,” hosted by Kevin Kohli of Alveole. Details and registration on this Google Form.


Join the movement to accelerate sustainability and environmental education programs for K-12 students! EcoRise’s Gen:Thrive is a collaborative initiative that has launched a statewide survey to identify and map every K-12 environmental education program in Texas.Through this robust community mapping process, Gen:Thrive aims to provide the information and insights needed to foster the next generation of resilient, sustainability leaders. Please participate in the survey by May 22: ecorise.org/genthrive-survey. Your organization’s information, alongside social, health and environmental data sets, will help us illuminate areas of greatest need, uncover opportunities for strategic collaborations and provide districts and partners a data-driven, systems-approach to deploy programs across the state. 

CEC Volunteer Info Session June 30 will be held online

CEC seeks individuals who might be interested in volunteering to help with our website and newsletter, plan events, design graphics, serve on one of our committees (programs, communications, finance, fundraising and development, membership, and governance) this year, or possibly joining our board of directors in January 2021. The next info sessions will be held June 30. For more information, please email [email protected], or join us online at Google Hangouts.


COALITION & COMMUNITY NOTES

We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts, particularly in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Mercer Botanic Gardens seeks Summer Interns, Volunteers

Harris County Precinct 4’s Mercer Botanic Gardens is seeking paid summer interns and volunteers. Learn how to maintain a herbarium or study conservation in the field under Mercer’s botanists and plant experts. Mercer has several opportunities available for students or volunteers who want to take their interest in plants to the next level.
Contact Suzzanne Chapman at [email protected] or call 713-274-4200 for more information.

Houston Environmental News Update May 13, 2020

Galveston Bay Foundation Annual Meeting, Virtual Bay Day Festival, Virtual Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Kinder Institute Virtual Lunch-Out, Green Jobs, and more

Need a little min-vacay for stress relief while you are stuck at home? Visit Galveston Bay–virtually!

In addition the the “Keep Your Stress at Bay” video series, Galveston Bayou Foundation is providing a wealth of opportunities to connect with our bay, including Thursday night’s online Annual Meeting with with Jack Davis, Ph.D., who will discuss his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea; and Saturday’s virtual Bay Day, featuring touch tanks, turtles, and terrapins, among the line-up of short videos and activities. Next week, you can learn about the new Galveston Bay Shoreline Protection Model. And if you have kids in the final weeks of school, go on on a virtual field trip with GBF to see oysters, wetlands, and microscopic ecosystems.


Please scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.


CEC NOTES

Superpowers Sessions for environmental educators

Join fellow environmental educators in Houston on Fridays in May for short, “superpowers” sessions, organized by the CEC. Network, learn and share resources, and walk away with new knowledge and new friends. Open to any educator. Ten-minute presentations on local topics, are followed by 15 minutes of Q&A and community-building time. The sessions are offered at two times on the same day (10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) to ensure smaller groups and more opportunity to connect with fellow environmental educators in Houston. May 15: “Nine Natives,” hosted by Della Barbato of Native Prairies Association of Texas; May 22: “Microplastics in the Gulf,” hosted by Janice Walden of Friends of Greene. Details and registration on this Google Form.

Greater Houston Environmental Summit – Call for Presenters

Share the story of your environmental work and inspire our community to take action! CEC is soliciting proposals for table talk hosts and presenters for the Greater Houston Environmental Summit on Friday, August 7, 2020. Learn more and submit your proposal using this Google Form. Proposals due May 15, 2020.

CEC Volunteer Info Session May 19 will be held online

CEC seeks individuals who might be interested in volunteering to help with our website and newsletter, plan events, design graphics, serve on one of our committees (programs, communications, finance, fundraising and development, membership, and governance) this year, or possibly joining our board of directors in January 2021. Upcoming info sessions include the evenings of May 19 (online) and June 30. For more information, please email [email protected], or join us online at Google Hangouts.

Gen:Thrive initiative survey

Join the movement to accelerate sustainability and environmental education programs for K-12 students! EcoRise’s Gen:Thrive is a collaborative initiative that has launched a statewide survey to identify and map every K-12 environmental education program in Texas.Through this robust community mapping process, Gen:Thrive aims to provide the information and insights needed to foster the next generation of resilient, sustainability leaders. Please participate in the survey by May 22: ecorise.org/genthrive-survey. Your organization’s information, alongside social, health and environmental data sets, will help us illuminate areas of greatest need, uncover opportunities for strategic collaborations and provide districts and partners a data-driven, systems-approach to deploy programs across the state. 


COALITION & COMMUNITY NOTES

We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts, particularly in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Continue reading