The quote above in the title is from Professor Robert Bullard, pioneer investigator of environmental discrimination and father of the concept of environmental justice. He is one of the many interviewees in The City, a podcast by USA Today. The full quote is this: “Chicago is completely flat, so if you see a mountain, be suspicious. Landfill!”
The City is a journalistic reconstruction of the start of the illegal dumpsters in the city of Chicago. In this podcast, creator, host, and executive producer Robin Amer, and her team of journalists tell the story of how one of Chicago’s most prolific criminals (John Cristopher) dumped piles of debris in several black neighborhoods. Robin Amer focuses her attention on the “six-story mountain of rubble in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood” and its ties to an FBI operation (operation “Silver Shovel”) aimed to uncover political corruption in the city.
“The FBI called this new undercover investigation Operation Silver Shovel. “Silver” like the 30 pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Jesus. And “Shovel” like the bulldozers at John Christopher’s dumps.” – Says Aimer on Episode 5 where she continues to disclose how this FBI operation worsens the problem of unwanted waste in minority neighborhoods by protecting John Christopher as an informer while he still kept dumping in other neighborhoods, presumably without the FBI’s knowledge.
The podcast is not only well documented, but it also offers its listeners a chance to look at some of the concrete evidence used in the investigation, including some transcriptions, pictures and files. It is all available directly in the website under a link that says “DIG DEEPER”.
The City also has a VR/3d model of the North Lawndale neighborhood as it was in 1992. The model is available though the web or contained in USA Today’s app where you can use a VR set to explore the neighborhood. Alternatively, you can check the 3D map directly below by clicking on the play button and moving your mouse around. Make sure to click on the annotations bar that pops up at the bottom so you can get more information about the effects of this massive dump in the middle of a once clean and healthy neighborhood.
As an avid podcast listener, I recommend The City to anyone interested in urban issues, real stories, journalism and high quality podcasts. If you want to give The City a try, here is a 28 second trailer from the first season. The second season was recently released and I will write about it when I’m done listening!
You can subscribe for free to The City Podcast on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.
- If you would like to learn more about environmental discrimination, make sure to read this article and visit Dr. Bullard’s website here.
- If you would like to learn more about The City, I recommend this article by Mauricio Peña from the non-profit news outlet Block Club Chicago.
- If you would like to know more about Robin Amer, you can find her website here.
- Transcripts from the city are also available at the podcast website here.