The intersection of climate change, environmental justice, and infrastructure in the U.S. South

Scalawag and Southerly are partnering with the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University to publish stories about climate change, environmental justice, and infrastructure in the U.S. South. We are seeking investigative stories, reported essays, and features about the challenges Southern communities face when it comes to infrastructure and the socioeconomic and political issues that surround them. Above all, we want journalism that interrogates the social power dynamics involved in infrastructure projects and systems, and tie in with timely national and regional policies, elections, and issues.

Climate change exacerbates the social, ecological, public health, and safety challenges long posed by America's infrastructure systems. For our second round of stories, we want to explore how infrastructure in the South impacts marginalized communities, and the grassroots responses to those challenges.  

We're interested in nuanced stories that go beyond the usual pipeline and dam narratives, and new interpretations of the possibilities and limitations of infrastructure for marginalized communities.

Here are the stories we've published so far in this series:

For 30 years, Georgia and Florida have been fighting over water
Haisten Willis

For 30 years, Georgia and Florida have been entangled in legal battles over water rights in the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint (ACF) river basin. The Chattahoochee River winds through Georgia before joining the Flint River near the Florida state line, and Florida argues its seafood industry — a critical part of its economy — has been crippled by the lack of water coming through the river basin to the coast, largely because of Georgia farmers' irrigation practices. Florida sued Georgia in order to get it to cap its water use, but Georgia argues such limits would destroy its agricultural economy. What's at stake is the future of Georgia's farms and Florida's fisheries. 

Nuclear waste in Paducah, Kentucky poses extra threat to region facing historic flooding
Austyn Gaffney

Many know Paducah, a small town on the on the Ohio River in far west Kentucky by its other name: "Atomic City." Paducah is the site of a uranium enrichment plant which operated for 50 years before closing in 2013. It produced uranium for the Manhattan Project and for nuclear power plants, among other things. The Paducah plant is now a Superfund site, which the U.S. EPA estimates will not be cleaned until at least 2065. That timeline is a problem not only because of the many people in the town who are sick or dead from working at or living near the plant, but also because Paducah, like 60% of Superfund sites, is vulnerable to climate change impacts, like the historic flooding of the Ohio River for the last two years.

Mold, foundation cracks, sinking houses: How a Florida Habitat for Humanity neighborhood fell apart
Imani Jackson

Habitat for Humanity has a set of construction standards and best practices for its home builds. So how was one of its communities built on top of an old dumping ground in a floodplain? Black, low-income and affordable housing communities often contend with construction quality challenges and many are sited in low-lying areas, near toxic industries, landfills, or other environmental hazards. This increases vulnerability to various forms of disaster — from industrial accidents to flooding to public health risks. These communities often possess fewer resources to prevent or recover from these crises, which highlight resiliency challenges. Imani J. Jackson connects affordable housing, environmental racism, and climate vulnerability.

The next two stories will be about the intersections of oil and prison labor, and Black women-centered approaches to green infrastructure in New Orleans.

The stories will be published by Southerly, an independent media organization about ecology, justice, and culture in the American South; Scalawag, a print and online magazine that aims to sparks critical conversations about the American South by uplifting untold stories and marginalized voices; and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, through its multi-year initiative, Power: Infrastructure in America.

We pay $1,000 for 1,800 to 2,000 words. Please fill out this Google form with your story idea and contact information by Monday, March 23rd.  We look forward to hearing from you!