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An absolutely sweltering heat wave has enveloped the southern U.S. over the past couple of weeks. The steamy, humid air in the Southeast — which has been in the high 90s and felt like upwards of 100 degrees in many places — is dangerous for vulnerable populations: the elderly, people living without air conditioning, those who are experiencing homelessness. These are some of the same groups at a high risk of contracting COVID-19.

Around the country, as protests against police violence continue in these conditions, resources and aid, especially simple things like water access, are critical. And this week, we published an essay that fits perfectly in with these concerns and themes: Researcher and writer Barbara Sostaito, who is based here in North Carolina has spent years studying sanctuary in the borderlands. She wanted to write about the importance of water in social and migratory movements, and connect events that have happened at recent Black Lives Matter Protests with tactics used by Border Patrol along the U.S./Mexico border.

In June, a video taken by the Asheville Citizen Times showed police ramming into protesters and destroying water supplies. Days later, the same tactic was used by police in Louisville, Kentucky, when officers destroyed milk jugs and water at a protest in honor of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in March by police who raided her apartment while she was sleeping. In speaking with activists and researchers in the South and Southwest, and drawing on her own studies, Barbara connected how these actions are part of a larger militarization strategy used by U.S. Customs and border Protection, who often destroy water left out for migrants crossing the border in the Sonoran Desert to dissuade them from continuing their journey. 

Water bottles pressed against the wall along the Arizona/Mexico border.
Photo by Barbara Sostaita

She also looked at how sharing water — like volunteer medics have done at protests since the Civil Rights Movement — is a practice of radical care. "Water keeps people moving, connected, alive," she wrote. "It sustains social and migratory movements — especially now, during the heat of the summer — whether they’re on stretches of asphalt road or barren deserts." 

—Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder, Editor, Publisher

Read the essay.

Stories worth your time

Mountain State Spotlight's first story is out, about how a West Virginia plan to feed hungry kids this summer has major holes: Feeding sites are only accessible by families who have a vehicle, and there is a two-hour pickup window in the middle of one workday for a week’s worth of food. The plan relies on the state’s cash-strapped nonprofits to fill the gaps.

This New York Times story examines how Louisiana’s $50 billion coastal restoration plan would benefit many, but could wipe out fisheries and take land from some people making their living on the coast. 

Outside Magazine spoke to a hiker who finished the Appalachian Trail in the middle of the pandemic after months of trespassing and hiding from rangers. His decision to continue has raised major questions about white privilege in the outdoors. “By hiking now, you have created a narrative that says, ‘My personal needs and desires outweigh a greater societal mission. At the end of the day, what’s really important is what I want,’” Sandi Marra, the ATC’s president and CEO, told Outside. 

NC Policy Watch has the first of a two-part story about the conflict between utilities in the Cape Fear River Basin over the discharge of the likely carcinogen, 1,4-Dioxane, into the drinking water supply. Some waterways in the basin have the highest levels of the chemical in the nation. "Nonetheless, a review of five years’ of emails obtained under the Public Records Act show that, to keep state regulators at bay, Reidsville utilities officials, with tacit approval from their Greensboro counterparts, went over the head of DEQ staff and sought help from people at the highest levels of the agency, as well as Sen. Phil Berger’s office," Lisa Sorg wrote.

This photo essay by F. Brian Ferguson called “Vanishing West Virginia” is a love letter to the photographer's home state. GroundTruth Project wrote that his photos "dig far deeper than simply mimicking visual styles – they stand on their own as both earnest and deftly observed moments in an often-misunderstood place." 

Daily Yonder has a story about environmental groups' victory with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancellation, and looks at how landowners continue to face uncertainty and the prospect of continued legal battles with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

HuffPost investigated how Dominion Energy CEO Thomas Farrell’s history of railroading Black communities and glorifying the Confederacy is under new scrutiny now that the project is dead. “Clearly there’s a need for new leadership and new direction,” said state Del. Sam Rasoul, a Democratic legislator from Roanoke. “Dominion has consistently operated counter to the interests of Virginians and … when you have a CEO who championed a film that essentially glorifies the Confederacy, with all that is going on, it’s clear that there’s a new mindset needed.”

‘Give us a break, Lord’: Amid active hurricane season, pandemic halts recovery in Florida two years after Michael

With federal money running out, slow rebuilds, and a lack of affordable housing, many Panhandle residents are vulnerable to this year’s storms. Read the story, published with Climate Central.  

Photos: New Orleans sanitation workers strike for protections and better pay

Hoppers are demanding higher hourly wages, hazard pay, and PPE during the coronavirus pandemic. View photos from their picket line

News flying under the radar 

Our Prism looked at how Brunswick, Georgia — where Ahmaud Arbery was chased and killed by white men while he was out jogging — has a long history of environmental racism. "Brunswick houses four Superfund sites, and the town has 15 hazardous sites listed on Georgia’s hazardous site inventory." All but one are within a one-mile radius of a “majority-minority” population. One of them is behind an elementary school with 87% students of color. 

Cassia Herron is a writer and organizer in Louisville who spoke to Huffington Post about food, racial, and economic injustice and her work to create a cooperatively owned, affordable market that sells Kentucky and Indiana-grown produce. 

Environmental groups in Florida file a lawsuit alleging that stormwater carrying toxic metals and petroleum products has been flowing for years into Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay from six scrap metal recycling centers. Read about it in Tampa Bay Times

Despite objections from environmental groups, Georgia regulators have agreed to let the state’s largest electric utility accept bids from companies for a new biomass plant, according to the Georgia Recorder

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