The Climate Refugee Crisis

by Kratika Tandon

Jakarta, the largest and capital city of Indonesia, is a fast-growing metropolitan province that is home to millions of people and offers a dynamic blend of cultures. It is famous for its rich history, busy markets, and beautiful scenery. However, at approximately 10 centimeters per year, it is also the fastest sinking city in the world. According to a Medium article from August 20, 2020, the city is predicted to be largely underwater by 2050. Approximately 20% of the city is already below sea level, and rising aquatic levels are threatening the existence of the Indonesian islands. The citizens have little choice in the matter as the global politics of climate activism continue while the capital city begins to disappear. An NPR article from June 20, 2018 states that since 2008, approximately 24 million people have been displaced globally by devastating climate disasters. As climate change presents a growing threat to vulnerable populations around the world, climate displacement of environmental refugees has become a growing problem.

Climate migration is in no way a new phenomenon, but current conditions are worsening rapidly. A report by the 2006Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change projects that the world will have 150- 200 million climate change refugees by 2050. However, the term “climate refugee” itself is tricky. There is no international agreement on who should qualify as a refugee since these migrants do not fit into the legal definition of a refugee: migration due to fear of persecution. According to EcoWatch of February 8, 2021, the identification of these displaced individuals is important because “essentially no legal framework exists that allows a person displaced by climate change to apply for visa, refugee, or other protections.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) presents three types of environmental migrants. The first are environmental emergency migrants. These are people who flee temporarily due to an environmental disaster or sudden environmental event, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Second, there are environmental forced migrants. This occurs when populations leave due to deteriorating environmental conditions in their area. This could include deforestation, coastal deterioration, and water scarcity. Finally, there are environmental motivated migrants, also known as environmentally induced economic migrants. These are people who leave to avoid possible future problems. A possible reason for environmentally motivated migration could involve declining crop productivity due to desertification.

Dina Ionesco, head of the Migration, Environment, and Climate Change Division at the IOM states that “responding to the challenges of environmental migration in a way that benefits both countries and communities, including migrants and refugees, is a complex process… involving many different actors.” Working through this problem will require collaboration on a global political level. However, some small steps are already being taken. A report commissioned by an executive order passed on February 4, 2021 by the Biden administration includes proposals for how the US could respond to this global migration. This executive order is focused on rebuilding and enhancing programs to resettle refugees and planning for the impact of climate change on migration.

The climate crisis is inevitable—and pretty soon, Jakarta will not be the only sinking city. We need to act rapidly in order to alleviate the issue of global migration due to climate change. Climate refugees not only get displaced due to natural disaster and climate change, but they also have very little protection. The wealth gap clearly manifests itself among the effects of climate change, and before we are on course for “climate apartheid,” as mentioned by a UN report of June 25, 2019, we need to make changes. We can actively support the movements to pass new legislation and sign circulating petitions. Since we humans acted collectively to get to this point, the best we can do now is act together to offer hope and refuge.

Click here to sign the Environmental Justice Foundation Petition.

About Kratika Tandon

Kratika Tandon is an incoming freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is majoring in biology and graduating with a minor in environmental economics and policy. She graduated from Dunlap High School as class valedictorian. Tandon is incredibly passionate about sustainability. As such, she is interested in many different career paths that involve helping the environment. She is most interested in writing about the subjects of environmental issues, social justice, life during a pandemic, and racial equity. She is proficient in informative and expository writing as well as public speaking. Tandon was a part of her high school’s speech team for four years. This past season, she competed in two events at the state championship tournament: original oratory and informative speaking. She wrote and perfected these speeches on her own, both tackling specific topics dealing with the environment. Tandon was also the president of her school’s local Interact Club. She possesses great leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. She is participating with Giving Voice because she wants to use her voice and writing to inspire others and facilitate change.

About Cailyn Talamonti 

Cailyn Talamonti (Manhattan, IL) is a senior at Bradley University. In May 2021, Talamonti will be graduating with a major in Animation and a minor in Graphic Design. She currently works as a freelance artist and designer, creating content for local bands, companies, and others. One day, she wants to be a webcomic artist. Her work is available at cailyntalamonti.com.

We’re Here, Too

by Alayna Steward

Last year marked the American Disability Act’s thirtieth year in effect. The ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled people in transportation, employment, public accommodation, and more. This act was a huge leap for disabled people, yet there are still so many areas where this law is lacking.

Last year showed us just how important disability rights are, with COVID-19 disproportionately affecting the disabled. Additionally, we saw disabled people being barred from voting. The Supreme Court sided with Alabama’s decision to ban curbside voting, which for many disabled people was the only way they could vote. We also saw deaths of disabled people of color by the police—such as 24-year-old unarmed and vulnerable Marcus-David Peters, who was shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis. Additionally, we saw natural disasters leaving disabled people stranded with no means to get to safety. The majority of people who die during a natural disaster are the disabled and elderly. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was found that nearly half of those who died were 75 and older.

It seems that the disabled are constantly on the backburner of the equal rights conversation. So, one might wonder: what did the ADA actually accomplish? When it was passed, the ADA made it federal law that public spaces be accessible. This meant implementing ramps, elevators, braille, curb cuts, and more in order to provide disabled people the accommodations they require. It was also supposed to be a means to welfare reform, resulting in an increase in employment of disabled people. However, in terms of accessibility, many public spaces are not fully compliant, including concert venues, restaurants, and even city sidewalks. In New York City, only 3.4 percent of crosswalks have audible signals installed, which help blind/ visually impaired people know when it is safe to cross the road. Another instance is the safety of sidewalks during the winter. Driving down the road a few weeks ago in Peoria, I watched as a man in a wheelchair pushed himself in the opposite car lane, unable to use the sidewalks because no one had cleared the snow and ice, putting him in unnecessary danger. In terms of welfare reform, the gap in employment of disabled to non-disabled people has grown, showing the ADA has had less of an impact on employment among the disabled community than we thought it would. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 17.9 percent of disabled people were employed, compared to 61.8 percent of non-disabled people.

Even then, the ADA falls short in preventing discrimination against disabled people. Disabled people still cannot get married without the possibility of losing benefits and financial aid from Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. For many disabled people, this means they have to choose between marriage and basic needs (food, shelter, etc.). Disabled people are also at a higher risk of losing custody of their children, being evicted, and even dying because they are left in financially vulnerable positions. There are still cases of disability-based discrimination that are overlooked.

While it’s heartbreaking to learn about these facts, it is necessary. In order to help, we have to not only speak up and act, but also educate ourselves on the issue. Disabled people are people and are just as valid as their non-disabled peers. Learning more about this topic can help us understand the struggles disabled people are facing. Fortunately, the Biden administration has addressed very specific policies in regard to disability rights. Soon, there may be important changes to the ADA and how the ADA is applied in certain situations that will help disabled people. The disabled community is watching. It’s time something changed.

To learn more about the disabled community and how you can help, check out the following websites:

Advocates for Access

Volunteers of America

AARP: Create the Good

ADA National Network

NPR.com: “Disaster Relief For The Elderly And Disabled Is Already Hard. Now Add A Pandemic”

NPR.com: “Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting In Alabama, An Option During Pandemic”

Time.com: “Black, Disabled and at Risk: The Overlooked Problem of Police Violence Against Americans with Disabilities”

About Alayna Steward

Alayna Steward is a sophomore at Bradley University majoring in Music Business. They have been invested in music and writing their entire life. They are involved in a few musical groups on campus, including Bradley Chorale. They like strawberries, the color yellow, and cats. As a queer disabled person, Steward understands the importance of creative and self expression and having your voice be heard. They hope that their work will not only inspire readers, but also give them a voice and let them know that they are not alone.

About Adrien Vozenilek

Adrien Vozenilek is a senior at Peoria Notre Dame High School. Currently, their focus is portraying family history and their Italian heritage through 2D works centered around heirlooms. Adrien will be a freshman at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and plans to become an art therapist for LGBTQ+ youth.

Deep Sea Mining: A Race for Material

by Izaak Garcia

When people think of the deep sea, it is often linked with dark and intimidating monsters that devour people in one bite, hostile to everything around them. But the real threat is humans. The process of deep sea mining involves obtaining minerals and other resources taken from the ocean floor and turning them into products such as watches, electronics, and much more. The most common deep sea mining sites are in the Pacific Ocean, between the countries of Japan and Australia, stretching all the way to the west coasts of North and South America.

Many popular and valuable minerals such as silver, copper, and gold are in high demand all around the world. While many areas of the world such as Tanzania and the Arctic are rich in minerals and precious metals, the main source where these materials can be found are in the ocean floor. Because of this, more and more countries are expanding their own individual deep sea mining industries. But in the end, enough is never enough.

The majority of the research being done by organizations such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on deep sea mining is aimed towards the protection of systems called hydrothermal vents (areas of the ocean where seawater meets magma). Underwater volcanoes and tectonic plate boundaries create ridges and converge to form these hydrothermal vents. Surprisingly, around these vents, scientists found a whole new biological community and environment. These marine organisms rely on the chemical processes that occur in the hydrothermal vents to survive and function in this deep sea atmosphere.

But scientists and environmental activists are still trying to come up with solutions that ensure that companies can continue to mine safely from the deep sea without harming and disrupting the natural ecosystem. This process takes time, and meanwhile more environments are being destroyed and uprooted by deep sea mining machines and equipment. All around the world, countries are expanding their own deep sea mining industry, but a huge concentration of mines exist in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific Ocean.

Citizens interested in making a difference can write to their representatives in congress. Voting is an important responsibility—paying attention to each candidate’s views and positions can help the environment. Along with these two suggestions, supporting non-profit organizations that protect the oceans is an extremely useful way for citizens to involve themselves. Organizations such as the Deep Sea Coalition aim to protect all parts of the deep sea, from its ocean floor to the biodiversity of the species living there. To get involved and support the Deep Sea Coalition, you can go to their website.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a senior at Richwoods High School, enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program. After high school, Garcia plans to study Computer Science. He has played soccer with FC Peoria and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and Computer Science for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two total productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new coding languages, and video games.

The Science of Comedy

by Jenin Mannaa

The audience didn’t know what to make of my polka-dotted dress, orange sash, and pigtails until I opened my mouth.

“I am Ludmilla Linski—Soviet Russian Spy!”

Linski is one of the characters I have depicted in theater, and believe it or not, she’s among the least absurd.

In my pursuit of the scientific career of medicine, I always thought that I would have to relinquish my love for the performing arts—until I realized that comedy is integral to medicine. This philosophy began when I started volunteering at the daycare, where I met children like Neva. One particular afternoon, Neva’s face contorted as she approached me with a scraped knee. When the water works commenced, I brushed off her knee, bandaged her wound, and raised her to my hip. Employing a baritone voice that could rival Morgan Freeman’s, I bellowed, “Nevaaa, please don’t cry!” All traces of sadness dissipated as laughter overtook her.

That humorous interaction was one of many. During my volunteer work at the hospice clinic, I befriended Roseanne, a secretary who I conversed with during our lunch breaks. When I told her that I competed on the Speech team in the ‘Original Comedy’ category, she suggested that I perform for the other secretaries at the office. As I looked upon the faces of my audience members who were stricken with boredom from the monotony of their work, I set a goal for this performance: I wanted to revitalize the clinic. I shifted into character, contorting my face, adopted different voices, and relished in the laughter that permeated the room.

After volunteering within the community of Peoria, I wanted to broaden my scope. I volunteered virtually with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, and my destination was Alajeulita, Costa Rica—a small town rendered hopeless by the pandemic. I used my Spanish language skills to create posters displaying the safety precautions needed to combat the coronavirus. I worried that the impact of my presentation to the residents of Alajuelita would be hindered by my virtual presence and I would not be able to connect with the people I was trying to help. In an effort to diminish the barriers between us, I tried incorporating humor within my lecture… although the residents of Alajuelita may have been laughing at the flaws of my Spanish!

Comedy allows me to pursue my aspirations in medicine on an even grander scale. I want to help my patients overcome greater obstacles than a scrape on the knee. I want to restore their hope in dire situations and diffuse the monotony of their hospital experiences with laughter, and alleviate their ailments with both medical relief and amiability. Comedy and medicine may seem incompatible, but the culmination of my experiences volunteering at the daycare, medical clinic, and around the world have revealed that their relationship is symbiotic. Although my patients may never experience the eccentricities of my theater characters like Ludmilla Linski, I hope that in becoming a physician, I can heal with one laugh at a time.

About Jenin Mannaa

Jenin Mannaa is a rising senior at Dunlap High School. Her stellar academic performance has granted her entrance to the National Honors Society at her school. Jenin has expressed her love for advocacy through her involvement on the Dunlap Speech Team as Junior and Senior Captain. Within speech, her primary goal has been expressing her identity as a Muslim American woman. Jenin attended IHSA State for Oratorical Declamation her junior year of high school. Within her speech team, she was also awarded Sophomore and Junior MVP. Jenin’s passion for the arts is evident through her involvement in Stage 323, where she was inducted in the International Thespian Society. She has also been involved in Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale, and Show Choir throughout her high school career. Moreover, her devotion to garnering support for ethnic minorities motivated Jenin to create Dunlap’s UNICEF Club, which educates students about the tribulations of underprivileged individuals in impoverished countries. Within UNICEF, she leads fundraisers, and within the first few months of the club she raised approximately $500. During her summers, Jenin has spent over 200 hours volunteering at the Unity-Point Methodist Hospital within the daycare or shadowing various doctors within Peoria.

About Sophie Liu 

Sophie Liu is a senior at Dunlap High School who has won numerous art prizes such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Award and several honorable mentions. As someone who also values academics, business, and volunteering, she has participated in and led many activities in her community. Her volunteering contribution has awarded her the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is one of the club leaders of her school’s Interact Volunteering Club. During her summers, Liu has participated in several business camps such as Kelley Business’s Young Women’s Institute, where she has gained knowledge and experience in her passion. She also runs her own online art business where she creates commissioned art pieces and gains firsthand business experience. Liu plans to continue her love of business, volunteering, and art in college, where she will major in either Marketing or Business Analytics and minor in art.

A Conversation With Dr. Rita Ali

by Adeline Ferolo

Peoria County’s local election is in full swing, and it is time to become involved in the community and vote! If you are unfamiliar with the City of Peoria’s politics, this year is extremely important regarding the race for mayor. The current mayor, Jim Ardis, held office for the past sixteen years and is not running for reelection. Following the February 2021 primaries, the race was narrowed from five potential candidates to two—Dr. Rita Ali and Mr. Jim Montelongo. Both have served on the Peoria City Council. With the April 6, 2021 general election date approaching soon, it is important to become an informed voter—especially if you are new to the local political scene. For many high school seniors, this is their first experience participating in local politics. Luckily, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Rita Ali about her background in politics and her interest in youth-specific initiatives in Peoria.

Upon introduction, Ali was incredibly friendly and charismatic, describing her first experience with politics during her time at Manual High School. During her freshman year, Ali campaigned for freshman class president against her close friend. She eventually won the election with the spontaneous slogan, “In order to get up, we got to get down!” Following her election as class president, she tackled her first big issue: allowing girls to take industrial arts classes. These classes included mechanical and architectural drawing and were reserved for boys only. By organizing a group of students and taking it to the school board, the following semester industrial arts classes were open to all students. Outside of high school, Ali also served on the Police Community Relations Committee and the Community Action Board at just fourteen years old. Ali plans to create similar opportunities for high school and college students to become active in the community by instituting a Young People Advisory Board upon her election. It would constitute high school and college students in hopes of engaging with young voters and their ideas for the community.

Ali’s interest in youth-directed initiatives also expands across employment and educational opportunities in the community. As the current Vice President of Workforce and Diversity at Illinois Central College, Ali is familiar with educational opportunities in Peoria. She hopes to strengthen and reevaluate the Peoria Promise program, ensuring financial aid to low-income students in pursuit of a college degree. Additionally, she hopes to expand the program to low-income high school students taking dual degree courses. This could allow high school students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree without having to pay college tuition. Ali plans to implement accessible training programs for jobs in the healthcare industry, a prominent economic sector of Peoria. Outside of these initiatives she also hopes to connect Peoria with other cities by advocating for an Amtrak passenger railroad line. This would be a cost-friendly and safe option for transportation, especially for college and high school students hoping to spend a weekend in Chicago or St. Louis. Ali certainly has youth-focused plans for the Peoria community, reassuring me at the end of the interview, “Even (with) the leadership position as a mayor, know that I am accessible and that I have your interests at heart.”

Watch the full interview with Dr. Rita Ali, where we discuss these and other issues in fuller detail: click here!

Note: The Montelongo campaign was contacted three times over a span of two weeks in an attempt to secure an interview for this article, but they never responded to these requests. For more information on the Montelongo campaign, refer to his official website by clicking here.

About Adeline Ferolo

Stories, arguably, are the most underrated form of currency that floods the digital world, through highlighted Instagram posts and viral YouTube videos. As a rising senior at Richwoods High School, Adeline Ferolo aims to express herself and the issues closest to her authentically through engaging, storytelling, and other mediums. She is a competitively academic student. Her interests range across many creative outlets—as an active writer for the Richwoods Shield, the monthly school newspaper, and as a contributor to the youth-led blog EnviroWrite, which explores rising environmental concerns. Recently she has discovered her passion for the medium of film after attending the National High School Institute summer program at Northwestern University, where she had previously studied creative-intensive subjects ranging from sustainable architecture to graphic design. Within the past year, she has focused her efforts on exploring the visual medium in both her academic and personal life, opting to create experimental videos for class projects and continuing to explore different aspects of the visual language.

A Note From Our Editor – April 2021

Welcome to the April issue of Giving Voice!

Our team is working on exciting new collaborations—and while I cannot reveal everything that is happening, I can tell you that we are in need of more student writers, illustrators, and photographers. By joining the Giving Voice team, young people have the opportunity to gain professional publication experience, be reimbursed financially for their work, and join a team that values finding positive solutions to problems and celebrating the great things in our community.

It also gives students an opportunity to explore topics that interest them and ignite their passions. In this issue, Alayna Steward dives into the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the problems that still remain 31 years after it was enacted. Steward offers action items to our readers, connecting them with the resources they need to address the gaps still remaining in the ADA.

Another contribution to this issue is from Adeline Ferolo, who reached out to both of the Peoria Mayoral candidates and had the opportunity to interview one of them. In it, she offers young first-time voters the opportunity to hear more about issues that matter to them—from providing education to low-income students, to jobs and transportation. What a wonderful opportunity to be able to dive into the journalistic field as a high school senior!

Cailyn Talamonti created the artwork that accompanies Kratika Tandon’s article, “The Climate Refugee Crisis.” The image is emotional and moving—bringing to life Tandon’s cry: “We need to act rapidly in order to alleviate the issue of global migration due to climate change.” There is so much talent in these pages—and we cannot wait to see the team grow!

We are very grateful to the Gilmore Foundation for providing us with the funds needed to give professional and uplifting experiences to so many students. If you are interested in becoming a writer or connecting a student with us, visit bigpicturepeoria.org.

Mae Gilliland Wright, PhD

Giving Voice Editor-in-Chief

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