Calumet’s waves of immigration have a region claiming routes from Croatia to Mexico. Steel workers such as the one pictured here were responsible in large part for this blending of cultures. Equally diverse are the landscapes which have been carved out from Native Americans to European settlers to industry. Unfortunately, the latter two have left a very difficult legacy for nature to recover from.
This dramatic region is now negotiating its rich industrial past with future plans for economic and environmental revitalization. Unfortunately, this negotiation is thwarted by unjustly high rates of poverty and unemployment, due to the waning of industry which helped to build up the Southeast side in its hey day. Yet diversity still thrives, even more so nowadays. Today, one finds African Americans living side by side to Haitians and Ethiopians. Unfortunately, these social groups share a commonality of pollution from the air, water, and land. Ships coming through the harbors below, cars commuting on the highways above, and industry fouling the air they breathe all present a multi-pronged assault on the health of residents.
Environmental problems and poverty challenges are arguably the two biggest problems facing our world today. In this sense, the Southeast Side is a microcosm of our world’s failures. Moreover, the two phenomena are linked and we are now seeing an increase in poverty and inequality as our natural systems collapse. Both of these issues are already acute and only stand to worsen in the coming decades for the Southeast side. SETF will work hard to address both of these facets, which we see as key to the region’s development in the coming decades. We hope to build a future that leaves us as proud as we are about our past.
Photos by Rod Sellers