10:30 am on August 14th Syracuse residents gathered at MLK Steam school to vocalize local needs regarding the I-81 viaduct project. The New York Civil Liberties Union also known as NYCLU and Urban Jobs Task Force organized this March. The leaders included Deka Dancil and Lanessa Chaplin who both have been instrumental in the process to involve residents in the plans for the viaduct. Interstate I-81 Viaduct is notoriously known for its environmentally damaging proximity to black working-class residents in Syracuse. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released to the public by the New York Department of Transportation on July 16, 2021. Residents and city leaders are requesting racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice. During the 19th century, African Americans in Syracuse, New York were negatively impacted by Jim Crow Laws and the Urban Renewal Program. This African American population resided in the east side of Syracuse by East Genesee. That population grew from 4,000 to 11,210 residents. With the construction of the I-81, residents were forced to move south with fewer resources. Residents nearest to the viaduct suffer tremendous health issues such as asthma due to the proximity of air pollution. By leaving a comment with NYCLU you can help to prevent further damage to the African American population that resides near the viaduct currently.

Below are images from the March on August 14th 2021.

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

So let us begin talking about this “Eye of Fire” which essentially is an underwater fire in the Gulf of Mexico. In this episode, we are going to uncover where this problem arose. Then talk about the culprit. Lastly, I plan to discuss some scientific research related to oceanography and potential damages to the biodiversity in the ocean.

West Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula experienced the backlash of a bursting underwater pipe. The gas rising caused the water to catch flame, and it is now known as the eye of fire. So, what are underwater pipes and why are they laid on the ocean bed, which is at the bottom of the ocean. The answer is that these underwater pipes are used to transport the fossil fuels we use every day in America and all around the world. Companies like Pemex, transport fossil fuels which have a negative environmental impact and are mostly run by companies that put profit over our environmental health.

Pemex is a state-owned monopoly petroleum company, because it is the only one in Mexico. So according to the company, the fire was caused by a gas leak rising to the surface. Pemex reported that there were electrical storms and heavy showers. There is no known environmental damage currently that they reported. We do know that the fire took five hours to put out.

The real concern is the fact that there is no known amount of how much gas that could have leaked. With potential high doses of methane, I did some research and I found that higher exposure to methane could lead to ocean acidification. Ocean acidification refers to the reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time.

When CO2 is absorbed, a series of chemical reactions occur resulting in the increased concentration of hydrogen ions. With an increase, carbonate ions are less abundant. The environmentally damaging results of this is making it difficult for structures like seashells and coral skeletons to maintain. This change in ocean chemistry affects behavior of non-calcifying organisms as well. With more acidic water, fish’s senses to detect predators decrease. With these organ

isms at risk, so is the entire ecosystem and food web. Ocean acidification affects our economy, our environment, and us as people. Sustainability within our energy system and avoiding fossil fuels is the only way towards a sustainable future.

Upcycling is commonly mistaken as a craft. Upcycling is an art and science which requires patience, methods, trials and errors, and true imagination and creativity.

In 2018, I realized my lifelong gadgets and tools for everyday living were the science and art of upcycling.

Growing up more disadvantaged in the west side of Cleveland, I had to make do with anything I could find. Since my youth, I was exposed to science and art through programs that allowed me to be creative, practical, and resourceful. Utilizing any free gifts or street find became a natural part of my everyday living and my parent's frustration with "trash" in our home.

From turning tire wheels into raised garden beds to using street beer bottles from Cleveland's neighborhoods for flower vases, I was always attempting to enhance the quality of my life. Some may wonder how upcycling improve your life quality but as an old saying

"One man's trash is another man's treasure."

To understand the meaning of upcycling, there is one misconception in black culture that I would like to clarify: to educate black people on upcycling. Since the digital age is expanding and social media and infographics are becoming more common, digital communications are missing huge links to culture.

For example, black and brown communities have always upcycled. Being from backgrounds in which our roots are connected to struggle and generational misrepresentation in media, we have always found creative ways to utilize our resources beyond the intended purpose.

There are many BIPOC household traditions and upcycling habits. Whether it be from an old cookie tin now serving as button and pin storage. Or turning old fabrics into quilts that can be passed down generationally. Or commonly turning old containers from purchased meals into food storage. Most recently, from one of my followers, I learned that different cultures have used yogurt containers in the same way. Lastly, to even some of my new styles of upcycling, which includes turning beer and wine bottles into organic beeswax aromatherapy or lasting and sustainable home decor. (Image below)

As an upcycle scientist, I recognize there is a gap in upcycling between where different backgrounds meet. This gap is primarily due to media showing up cycling as an expensive art form or high fashion brand when, upcycling can be both. For communities to truly collaborate and coexist, recognizing different cultural definitions for the term upcycling is needed. There is a lack of accepting what can be upcycled which can hinder the progress towards a more sustainable future.

©2021 by Donnie Monk | Black Environmentalist + Environmentalist + Upcycle + Scientist + Community Advocate