Picturing prison abolition
Prison abolition is a big dream, and some communities are finding small ways to realize it — or at least reflect it — as friend-of-RTBC publication Scalawag details.
In Atlanta, a group founded and run by formerly incarcerated women has been instrumental in the process of shutting down an Atlanta jail. In May 2019 they helped get the city to set a closing date for the facility. “We came together and we strategized for specific goals for our community,” one of the group’s community organizers said. In North Carolina, a former prison has been turned into a farm run by at-risk teenagers, and some 95 percent of the youth involved with the program have avoided recidivism. Finally, in New Orleans, an artist is working with incarcerated folks, having them design gardens that could fit exactly within the parameters of their cells. She then plants these gardens outside the prison walls to symbolize the idea that growth can only happen in a place of freedom.
Scalawag ties together all three of these projects as examples of a movement that is finding its footing as it steps into the mainstream. “I would argue that abolition, much like growing a plant, requires daily attention and care,” said the New Orleans artist, jackie sumell. “Much like love, hope and compassion, social equity, like a garden, needs practice, time and nurturing to fully blossom.”
The coast is clear
A group of scientists has discovered that a simple tweak to the way we restore coastal areas could dramatically improve the success of those restoration projects, with little to no extra effort.
Typically, marine environments are restored in much the same way we restore land-based ecosystems like forests and grasslands. Which is to say, the newly introduced lifeforms — seagrass, mangroves, oysters — are widely dispersed. But watery environments are more volatile than land: marshes fluctuate with the wind and rain, reefs are pummeled by waves and seabeds shift in harsh storms.
For this reason, the scientists found, clumping plantings together allows them to support each other: roots and stems interweave to offer each other stability. Clumps of marine plants can even pool oxygen in the soil beneath them. The results of the studies showed that clumping doubled survival rates of many of the restored environments. Now, the researchers say, the challenge is to win over decision-makers, who may not want to abandon the conventional process to venture toward more fertile ground.
Steel this idea
Here’s a sobering statistic: nearly 10 percent of all the world’s carbon emissions are generated by just 553 steel-producing factories. Now the good news: Sweden just delivered the world’s first batch of steel produced entirely without fossil fuels, and industrial quantities of it could be on the market within five years.
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Steel is incredibly bad for the climate, requiring enormous quantities of fossil fuels to produce, including coking coal. And production of it is expected to surge by one-third by 2050. Finding greener ways of making it is an environmental imperative. Swedish steelmaker SSAB produced its emissions-free steel with a new technology that creates iron pellets (the key ingredient of steel) using green hydrogen. The breakthrough, if scaled up, could dramatically reduce Sweden’s total carbon emissions — SSAB was responsible for nine million of the 45 million metric tons of CO2 that Sweden generated last year.