“Washing with No Water: Environmental Justice, Deregulation and Climate Change Amidst a Pandemic”
From Erin Ciciora
Professor Rachel Havrelock (English, University of Illinois at Chicago; Founder & Director, UIC Freshwater Lab) presents “Washing with No Water: Environmental Justice, Deregulation and Climate Change Amidst a Pandemic” as part of the Humanities Research Institute's Out of Isolation series.
Originally presented on October 22, 2020.
Water has always been integral to public health. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, washing one’s hands assumed critical importance in preventing and staving off infection. But what about the households cut off from water supply? What about the people who cannot afford their water bills during the economic recession? Some states and cities issued moratoriums on water shutoffs but did not address those cut off prior to the pandemic. Others did nothing at all. Researchers and non-profit groups issued comprehensive plans for water affordability and accessibility. At once, the federal government slashed environmental protections with the EPA taking the pandemic as opportunity to abdicate its founding responsibilities. Then came the summer storms and fires of 2020. In each case, communities of color and low-income earners shoulder disproportionate burdens as many generate new approaches and ideas for water supply. This presentation discusses disproportionate access to water, its fragmented governance, and the emergent theories of water sovereignty and self-determination that respond to the paradox of needing to wash when there is no water.