This blog post was written by JennaLee and Devani, who interned with The Alliance Center this summer through the Girls Inc. Eureka! program. The Alliance Center recently hosted the Colorado Emergence Series to develop solutions to some of the biggest issues in Colorado, and the interns conducted interviews with Fatuma Emmad, a series participant, and Hunter Lovins, who helped lead the series. To implement the series’ proposed solutions, The Alliance Center is leading the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. Learn more and find out how you can be part of the solution here

On the farm with Fatuma Emmad

With many world issues such as human rights violations, racism and sexism, local leader Fatuma Ammad, co-founder of Front Line Farming, takes on farming as a path to building a better Colorado. 

Front Line Farming is a community that runs a multi-plot farm and is committed to growing and providing healthy food and food education to all people no matter their income level. Fatuma is always pushing for change and bringing attention to farmers and food security. Front Line Farming is currently based in the Denver metro area, but they’re always looking for opportunities to expand throughout Colorado. 

During our time with Fatuma, we asked her about being the co-founder of Front Line Farming and the many other organizations she leads. We asked, “as a leader of so many organizations, does it ever become really stressful, if so how do you manage?” Fatuma said that it all comes down to how she and her team work together and love each other. She pointed something out that really stood out to us, “there’s a lot of different types of racism you have to deal with, even when you get to the top… I knew this before I started my organization…so I’ve really built my team and our organization with resiliency.” We weren’t aware that racism can still take place at high levels of leadership, like the position she’s in. She also explained that her team doesn’t operate with white supremacy either. Fatuma’s really broad and outside of the box perspectives on these topics were amazing! 

Fatuma also talked about the working environment for farmers. To continue to make change and make sure her workers are in the best care, she brings safety supplies, money, and policy work to communities. She describes, “the environment for farmers is crucial, farming labour is done by immigrant and undocumented people in conditions that are completely unacceptable, and it’s not about justice issues but human rights issues.” These hard workers are called illegal and aren’t welcomed, yet they are still essential workers during this time, risking their own safety. She wants people to recognize all the hard labor that people of color are doing for this country.

With the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, one of Fatuma’s strongest opinions that stood out to us was when she talked about the Black community in farming. She says, “Black people owned more land in the United States in the 20th century than they do now.” This issue has been going on for so long that people choose to ignore the issue because it serves them. The government wants to act like they’re not in the wrong, that we have solved the problem and it’s gone. That is why Fatuma chooses to use her voice in policy and legislation spaces. She wants to represent young people, people of color and women.

Another major topic that Fatuma talked about was women in the field and women empowerment, one of the main focuses of Girls Inc. and Eureka. She started the conversation by saying, “you know I’m a woman and I farm, I’m not like some big strong guy.” Many believe that women aren’t strong enough for farm work and hard labor. Over the years, female operated farm percentages haven’t really gone up, although in many countries women are the ones in the field doing all the hard labor. This is a problem that stands out to us because women need to work twice as hard to get recognized in a leadership role. That is what Fatuma tries to advocate for change and why she is such a great role model. 

Having Fatuma as our second interview was a great experience! This opportunity was definitely a success for developing our skills, and it was so great to hear the amazing thoughts and opinions that take place in Fatuma Emmad’s mind. 

Economic Sustainability Mission with Hunter Lovins

Hunter Lovins is a major influence in the field of sustainability in Colorado. She is the founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS). NCS has only the best in class sustainability professionals who work together to help develop pragmatic ways to bring efficiency and sustainability to government and corporate clients. Ms. Lovins has over forty years of experience with change management and sustainability. 

We asked Ms. Lovins where sustainability is needed most, and she answered, “everywhere.” She explains that in the U.S, the measure of success is dependent on wealth and that this is the reason why the world is crashing. Hunter sees our current world as having the greatest amount of inequality due to the false narrative that was made to believe true. She states, “…economists like Thomas Piketty, who wrote the book Capital In the Twenty-First Century, show that high levels of inequality is causative of collapse.” Ms. Lovins has a very passionate and broad perspective on changing that narrative in order to create sustainability. 

Ms. Lovins goes more into depth about inequality in the world, when she speaks about people who have always been discriminated against. She recognizes that being white, having plenty to eat, living on a beautiful ranch, doing well for herself, are all a great privilege. She even went into depth about police brutality, saying it’s just not right, “If I were black and stopped by a policeman, my life would be at risk. I’m white, I’m elderly, if I get stopped by a policeman, I’ll hear “Ma’am how can I be of service to you?” She has committed her life to ensuring that everyone on the planet has the same privilege. She wants to have conversations about institutionalized racism, empowerment and giving voice to people who have not had one. 

Hunter’s perfect vision of a sustainable world was so wide, with so many ideas. In her book, A Finer Future, the narrative was that it’s 2050 and we made it, we have solved the problems facing humanity. Ideas such as a sustainable palm oil that stops the loss of rainforest or a cohousing community in Indonesia that has cleaned the air, and even that the main street of Broadway, New York, is now a massive urban garden, all things that would make the world a better place. Hunter said, “We have the technologies that we need to solve the problems, and the question now…is will we do it, will we do it on time?” 

There is no doubt that Ms. Lovins has great expectations for change and sustainability in the world. Since she was a child her whole life has similarly evolved around the field she is in now. From our interview or from getting the amazing opportunity to talk with Hunter, you will see how knowledgeable, inspirational and passionate she is about her life’s work. 

Written by: Devani Dominguez and Jennalee Casias

A firestorm of protests has swept the United States. In their wake, government leaders have implemented curfews and law enforcement has carried out riot control efforts. The widespread use of tear gas as a crowd-control tactic has raised significant health and safety concerns–not only for those protesting but for the environment as well.

Effects on Individuals

Tear gas quells riots by temporarily making people unable to function by irritating their eyes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that those exposed to tear gas may experience excessive tearing, burning sensations, blurred vision, a runny nose, difficulty swallowing, coughing, rashes, vomiting and redness in the eyes. These symptoms will usually disappear within a short time if the exposure to tear gas ceases. Long-lasting exposure or exposure to a large dose, especially in a closed setting, may result in more severe health effects, such as blindness, glaucoma, chemical burns to the throat and lungs or respiratory failure.

Using tear gas during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially worrisome because it increases a person’s susceptibility to the virus. A study conducted in 2014 found that US military recruits who were exposed to tear gas as part of a training exercise were more likely to develop respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and the flu. One of the immediate health effects of exposure to tear gas is coughing, which facilitates the spread of COVID by increasing the number of infectious droplets in the air. Moreover, tear gas can compromise the body’s ability to fight off the infection by causing injury and inflammation to the lining of the airways.

Effects on the Environment

Tear gas is actually not a gas. It is a chemical powder that is mixed with liquid in order to be dispersed as a spray. Because of its powdered nature, chemical residue is left behind after every spray. In addition tear gas may contain silicon, which allows it to last longer in the environment and not disintegrate as quickly.

Studies about tear gas tend to focus on its health effects on humans, so the environmental impact on wildlife, plants and water, is not well known. However, because its residue settles on surfaces and stays there for days before breaking down, tear gas can contaminate agriculture, local wildlife and groundwater. This puts Black and Latinx communities who live in urban or poor areas especially at risk since they face disproportionately high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses because of their proximity to factories and industrial sites. The air quality in these communities is often low; therefore, there is a legitimate concern about the potential of tear gas as a harmful contaminant. 

The question, then, is how do we ensure a more discriminate use of tear gas and other chemical weapons, especially during a respiratory illness pandemic? Other cities such as Seattle have temporarily halted its use, but many have yet to reconsider. 
To accelerate reform, individual actions can be taken, such as calling local police departments and demanding a review of their rules and norms regarding tear gas usage or attending city council meetings and raising community awareness of the issue. House Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Takano and Chuy Garcia have announced that they will be introducing a bill that forces local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to dispose of all chemical weapons. We must call our local elected officials to amass support for bans on tear gas at the city level. Banning chemical weapons is one of the many steps we must take in this moment to prevent a new wave of COVID-19 and any unforeseen environmental impacts that may disproportionately affect communities of color.

Written by Maria Reyes, Programs Intern