The predominately African-American historic Tanyard neighborhood, situated around the Pensacola, FL working waterfront, has become increasingly under attack. Climate change is bringing higher than normal tides and stronger, more frequent storms; last year’s Hurricane Sally wreaked $30 million in damages in Escambia County and Pensacola alone. According to the EPA, five Superfund sites lie within Pensacola city limits contaminating soil, ground and surface waters. Despite that, gentrification and fill-and-build development continue at a rapid pace. The infrastructure simply can’t keep up.
Higher Ground Pensacola, led by Gloria Horning, is dedicated to finding solutions.
In the wake of the BP Oil Disaster in 2010, Horning arrived in Pensacola as an AmeriCorps volunteer and was struck by the environmental injustices in the Wedgewood community. A trained journalist as well as environmental social justice advocate, she worked with residents to get their voices out and raise awareness of the issues on a larger scale.
Currently, Higher Ground Pensacola is fighting what it calls “the big build,” a public/private development, part of which will be situated upon an old Emerald Coast Utilities Authority sewer treatment plant, nicknamed “Old Stinky.” Now a green space, the 19-acre site helps mitigate the frequent floodwaters, but that space is now in peril. Advocacy partners Anthropocene Alliance and Thriving Earth Exchange are helping Higher Ground Pensacola with engineering and legal assistance.
“I have spent countless hours attending state, county, city, ECUA, and neighborhood association meetings watching as government officials have repeatedly failed to act on regulatory infractions that impact our water, soil, and air,”Gloria Horning.
She keenly knows the consequences of poor government oversight. In 2020, shortly after driving a truck full of relief supplies to Higher Ground members in Louisiana after Hurricane Laura, Horning’s community was slammed by Hurricane Sally. Her 101-year old house – still not fully repaired – was ravaged. Her community’s homes, yards, and streets were inundated for weeks with raw sewage mixed with salt and fresh water. “The infrastructure is so old that it can’t handle all of it. Now add to that all the building they want to put in. It could be a disaster,” she said.
Higher Ground Pensacola’s mission is to secure the safety of the community’s residents and energize them, specifically those who have felt disenfranchised in the past. The group encourages residents to show up at public meetings, document everything, show people what has happened.
“I love where I live and I live here for a reason,” Horning said. “I’m a big voice, a loudmouth, a bulldog. I won’t let go.”
Written by Kerri McLean
FEMA’s failure to account for climate change leaves BIPOC communities on the brink of disaster, Prism Reports, by Ray Levy Uyeda, Feb. 2023
Neighbors fight for solutions to flooding, fecal matter in water, News 5 WKRG, 6/30/2022
Adapting to Chronic Flooding: Survivors’ Stories and Actions they Take! America Adapts Podcast by Doug Parsons, 6/7/2022
Drowning in dirt: How homebuilders are making floods worse, E&E News – Climate Wire, by Daniel Cusick, 5/9/2022
Flood insurance is… complicated. Here’s why. Thomson Reuters Foundation
Pensacola woman says Hurricane Sally brought rain, wind and sewage | WEAR (weartv.com)
Surviving a Flood: A Community Perspective from Pensacola, FL
What Happened to Escambia’s $417 Million Flood Agenda? (arcgis.com)
Is Florida’s landfill pollution an environmental racism issue? | Waste Dive
Dr. Gloria Horning: Professor and Environmental Activist | Her Campus
Thriving Earth Exchange Project
Dr. Gloria G. Horning
Flooding, Water Contamination
Fighting Industrial Contamination, Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions
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