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Category Archives: Planet Harmony

Our Executive Producer, Steve Curwood and Washington Reporter, Ebony Payne, appeared on WBGO to discuss Planet Harmony. Check out the story below.

If you’d like to hear more from the NYC jazz station that Esquire calls “the best in the galaxy” click below.

WBGO1.mp3 5.6 MB

This week the World Media Foundation, which produces Living on Earth is starting something new. It’s called Planet Harmony, and it’s designed to reach out to young people, especially young people of color. Few people of color are actively involved in the public discussions about environmental change, even though they have many concerns.

It may be a function of history. For example, in the early days, some national parks were whites-only. But as Earth Day turns 40 barriers are coming down. When Earth Day is 60, fully half of Americans under 30 will be people of color.

Now let’s meet Ebony Payne, she’s a reporter who will be filing stories and blogging from her hometown, Washington D.C.

Welcome Ebony. Hi there!

PAYNE: Hi, how are you?

CURWOOD: Good. And yourself?

PAYNE: I’m good, thank you for having me.

CURWOOD: So tell me, why do you think young people of color are getting so involved with the environment these days?

PAYNE: Well, I think the direction of the country is going green. Young people of color see the opportunities that we have, we also see the disproportionate amount of suffering that our communities are facing.

Like with Hurricane Katrina and even the earthquake in Haiti, we’re able to see that these natural disasters have huge implications particularly for our communities and that the government isn’t always quick to respond. With the election of Barack Obama, seeing that we can come together and make big change, I think people of color are just getting really excited to have an impact.

CURWOOD: There’s an increase of interest among young people of color of the environment, but the number seems pretty small. What’s your experience been?

PAYNE: It is small. I used to say it can be pretty lonely being black and being an environmentalist. But it also makes me realize how critical it is to have the voice of communities of color in the discussion because if it’s not then the decisions will be made without us and they are being made without us.

CURWOOD: So, what got you motivated to tell the story of environmental change?

PAYNE: Well, I had an upbringing of playing outside a lot and I was just really sick and tired of seeing my neighborhood trashed. I remember I was walking to school one day and there was this bush and it was just decorated with plastic bags, and I remember thinking that it looked like a Christmas tree with plastic bags as ornaments. But I was just really sick and tired of seeing my neighborhood like it was worth nothing.

CURWOOD: And so then what draws you to telling the story of environmental change?

PAYNE: I think being a reporter it’s a nice way to be able to relate to a lot of different people and to be able to tell everybody’s story. To inspire others. And I think just carrying around a sign, it’s important, but I feel like writing and telling stories is a much more effective way to get the message out.

CURWOOD: So, as a reporter what do you find that young people of color care most about when it comes to the environment?

PAYNE: I would say toxic substances being leaked into their groundwater and into their communities; I would also say the lack of healthy food. If you go into many black neighborhoods, it takes a long time to find healthy fruits and vegetables.

CURWOOD: What are you working on now for Planet Harmony, in terms of a story?

PAYNE: For my next story I’m focusing on Congressman Clyburn, he’s going on a national environmental justice tour with the EPA and Lisa Jackson, and I hope to be working on the new Tosca legislation reform that has been introduced into the Congress recently.

The legislation deals with over 83 thousand chemicals, five of which are being regulated. And the legislation is trying to change it so that the EPA has more power to regulate and to assess chemicals before they go on the market.

CURWOOD: What do you tell your friends that ask you, hey, how come you’re involved in this enviro-thing?

PAYNE: I feel like it’s the most important issue. I feel like any issue that you care about can somehow be related back to the environment. If you want to talk about agriculture, national defense, health care, public health, make-up and chemicals being in your make-up—anything that you want to talk about, it can be related back to the environment, so I just love that.

CURWOOD: Well, Ebony Payne, I want to thank you for taking this time with us today.

PAYNE: Thank you for having me.

CURWOOD: And you can check out Planet Harmony on the web by going to myplanetharmony dot com. That’s myplanetharmony dot com.

pH steve and ebony.mp3 4.8 MB