Social Justice

Rapid glacial melt near Mount Everest peaks threatens Nepali communities

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

Near the peaks of Mount Everest – towering some 5.6 miles above sea level – the ancient Khumbu Glacier is melting.

Never before in the last 70 years has the massive ice rock melted more quickly than it is now. It is losing thickness at an unprecedented rate – about 131 feet in the last 10 to 15 years, to be exact. And the Nepali communities surrounding the Khumbu are feeling the consequences.

The impact of the depleted glacier could eventually reduce access to freshwater for these areas and could hinder Nepali guides who are dependent on the tourism from Mount Everest.

Rapidly melting glaciers result in floods or, as geoscientist Jeff Severinghaus calls it “a glacial lake outburst flood” – a gradual accumulation of meltwater from a receding glacier which often forms a lake in the space previously occupied by the glacier.

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Photography exhibit gives candid and ominous view of what immigration detention facilities are really like

By Carolina Gonzalez
Medill Reports

Barren land, industrial facilities, deserts and then a small concrete building in the middle of the void. These are the scenes portrayed in the 12 panoramic photographs covering the walls of the Gage Gallery in Chicago’s Loop.

Greg Constantine, a famed American social justice photographer, unveiled his latest work this month at the gallery at Roosevelt University. The series sheds a light on how ominous detention facilities really look from the outside, accompanied by stories from people who were caught inside.

People gather at the Gage Gallery for the opening of the documentary exhibit, with Greg Constantine’s photographs of detention centers. (Carolina Gonzalez/Medill)

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‘Hidden Figures’ author brings to life the visionary women mathematicians behind early NASA launches

By Anne Snabes
Medill Reports

The pioneering African American women engineers and mathematicians who helped land Neil Armstrong on the moon also maintained a strong family life outside of work and some played bridge and music, according to author Margot Lee Shetterly.

“They were very passionate about their hobbies and their families, as passionate as they were about their work,” Shetterly told a packed audience at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus Thursday evening.

Three of these women — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — are the focus of “Hidden Figures,”  Shetterly’s book  that was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated movie. The book is about the women at NASA who were called “computers,” because they made the calculations that modern-day computers make, guided instead by their own prowess and simple adding machines.

Shetterly talked to the Northwestern community about her own story growing up in the city in Virginia where NASA’s first field center was located after the space agency was created in 1958. She explained what life was like for women who worked at this facility. She said there are more opportunities for women of color in computer science and engineering now, but some still feel isolated as they are the only women of color in their work spaces.
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Park preservationists continue battle over Obama Center in Jackson Park

By Xinyi Zhang
Medill Reports

Protect Our Parks (POP) will replay a 1987 event when Hyde Park women go to Jackson Park to save trees on October 26. The preservation group will revisit the past by tying ribbons on trees that could be cut down to make way for the Obama Presidential Center, once construction is approved. The center is to be located near the Midway Plaisance at 60th and Stony Island Avenue on a site extending southward.

This is the latest salvo in the three-year preservation battle over whether the Obama Center should be built in Jackson Park. Construction remains up in the air pending the outcome of a POP lawsuit.

POP filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Chicago to prevent  the center from being built in Jackson Park last year and the verdict on it is expected in 2020. The lawsuit seeks to preserve Jackson Park, protect migrating birds and asks that alternative sites to be considered for the center.
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A heritage of artists highlight Chicago Inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

The Chicago show began by honoring those who owned these ancient lands.

It was a recognition of what was past, a moment of thought and solidarity with the natives peoples who held this land before it was taken away. Shout-outs from some of the audience and solemn nods from others came in response. This is a vital piece of every concert at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, but it felt especially eloquent at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert.

Mateo Mulcahy, the director of Community Projects and Events at the Old Town School of Folk Music, had been approached by Native American singer OPLIAM about a concert to commemorate for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated Monday with Columbus Day. OPLIAM would get the artists if Mulcahy could provide the room. The inaugural concert Wednesday offered a space for expression about indigenous rights and created awareness about native communities from all over the world.

Since South Dakota initiated the legacy in 1989, hundreds of cities and several states have now adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in favor of Columbus Day. Mulcahy said he hopes that Chicago will follow suit.

Frank Waln, NuFolk Rebel Alliance and OPLIAM performed.

The show concluded with songs by Frank Waln, a Sicangu Lakota Hip Hop artist and music producer. He is from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and attended Columbia College in Chicago. Between every song, Walen spoke earnestly with the audience about his experiences as a Lakota indigenous person.(Elena Bruess/Medill)

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Should the U.S. continue prosecuting illegal immigrants? Northwestern community split but majority favors decriminalization

By Carolina Gonzalez
Medill Reports

Northwestern University students were divided at a recent campus debate on  whether the U.S. should decriminalize illegal immigration, offering arguments both in favor and against the Democratic presidential candidate proposals to repeal or rewrite the existing law.

Sachin Shukla, a sophomore studying viola performance and the main debate proponent in favor of decriminalization, opened the discussion by telling participants that the existing law was the work of white supremacist Sen. Coleman Blease of South Carolina and adopted in 1929.

Shukla explained how the law specifically targets and criminalizes a small group of immigrants coming to the U.S. through the Southern border at Mexico. Under the current law, illegal entry is a misdemeanor.

“The whole conversation is centered around a very small minority of these people that are coming illegally and so it just seems punitive to this particular group,” Shukla said. “So, I think decriminalization seems like a better option because we are not even talking about the majority of the people that come illegally.”

Immigration debate
Sachin Shukla, a sophomore studying viola performance at the Bienen School of Music,  defended the decriminalization of illegal immigration.

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Homegrown Residency spotlights local Chicago musicians

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

Every Tuesday night, Uncommon Ground’s Live Intimate Listening Rooms spotlight artists who might otherwise be plugging up to amplifiers in their garages and basements. Here, they get their chance to perform in front of a room filled with friends, family, and other Chicago local music fans.

Artists such as Danielle “Miss Jones” Jones – who has been singing since she was 10, but never really considered herself as a performer – are provided the opportunity to debut their material live and uncut. Jones, 21, is an Indiana native who moved to Chicago right after she graduated high school. She now deems herself as an amateur pianist and a practiced vocalist.

She will be performing Tuesday night, romancing the audience with soft ballads about her life. Continue reading

Veggie co-op in North Lawndale brings fresh produce to residents with dietary restrictions

By Trina Ryan
Medill Reports

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, Reynaldo Engram arrives at work early to sift through boxes of carrots. He performs this task with painstaking precision, holding each carrot up to the light, rubbing his thumb slowly over its dirt-speckled orange skin. As hub assistant at Farm on Ogden, a spacious agriculture facility on the West Side of Chicago, Engram’s responsibilities include anything from watering plants to sweeping floors to cleaning bathrooms. “I do what I’m asked,” says the 59-year-old, smiling. But today he has an important job, one he takes seriously: inspecting produce for defects. He wants to make sure the most attractive-looking vegetables go out to his neighbors of North Lawndale.

“I want everyone to feel as strong and healthy as I do,” he says. “Not too many folks around here can say they feel that way at my age.”

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Through the ‘Woof’ – Education could help curb Siem Reap’s sky-high dog population

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

SIEM REAP, Cambodia – “There’s a dog!”

We moved closer to the house and waited patiently for the dog’s barks to bring its owner out to the street – a routine we’d perfected over 10 days of interviews. We learned quickly that, when trying to talk to dog owners in Siem Reap, Cambodia, finding a dog and letting it sound the alarm proved to be the most expedient way to bring its family outside to speak with us.

Finding a dog in Siem Reap’s Svay Dangkum Commune isn’t hard. Overpopulation of dogs is a major issue in the area, and dogs seem to be everywhere – trotting down the orange dirt road in front of us, peeking out from storefronts, napping under tables and digging through the informal garbage dumps that build up on street corners. Some of these dogs belong to owners – residents often let their dogs roam free, as opposed to locking them in a yard or walking them on a leash like “barangs” (western dogs). Some of the dogs that wander the commune, though, are strays or street dogs who must take care of themselves.

But why are there so many dogs, and what can be done to combat overpopulation and improve the health and welfare of both house pets and street dogs in Siem Reap? The matter could be as simple as increasing education and awareness about medical care and sterilization, preliminary research from The School for Field Studies suggests.

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You people are driving me batty: Humans and the noise that comes with them are stressing out Cambodia’s vulnerable bat population

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

SIEM REAP, Cambodia — Passersby usually look at the camera first.

Propped lens-up on an upside-down, red laundry basket in the middle of the street, the setup understandably draws attention. Inevitably, their eyes follow the camera’s angle upward, tilting their heads back to squint at the leaves – or what they think are leaves – rustling on the branches above.

Their eyes widen when they realize that the biggest leaves are actually bats. But recent, preliminary research by The School for Field Studies in Siem Reap, Cambodia, suggests that these bats might be as unsettled by us as we are by them.

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