April 5, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 112—George Floyd, and gardening

In May 2020, millions of people throughout the world watched the final minutes seconds of George Floyd’s life at the hands of police officers. His death caused outrage throughout the world. Now, people are watching the trial of one of the police officers charged in Floyd’s death. But what is it about his death that caused so many people, particularly white people, to “wake up” to injustices that have been experienced for centuries? That is a question IU researcher Cleveland Hayes hopes to answer. Hayes says the number of television shows talking about racial injustices in America following Floyd’s death was at a level he had not seen going back to the death of Trayvon Martin, and he asked himself, what was different about this moment for white Americans in particular? Hayes plans to interview individuals with varied backgrounds to hear their stories of how this moment has impacted them. Hayes says these personal experiences will be pivotal to helping him answer the question of why now. This is the first time in the history of protest for racial justice that the world has seen such a rallying of people from all walks of life saying ‘okay, enough is enough,’ Hayes says. He hopes the stories he collects will help us better understand why Floyd’s death has inspired so many white individuals to act when other events that sparked national debate and action did not. Furthermore, Hayes hopes his project will inspire people, particularly white individuals, to examine their role in the systemic racism that has existed for so long.

In other news, with spring upon us, many people are getting outside to work on their gardens. Growing beautiful flowers or food for your family can be a great stress reliever, especially as the pandemic continues, says Gabriel Filippelli, director of the Center for Urban Health at IU. But before breaking out that shovel, Filippelli says it is important for gardeners to know they are planting in a safe environment. Soil in both urban and rural environments is full of nutrients, but urban soils often contain high amounts of lead and other heavy metals. Filippelli says lead exposure is the biggest contaminant risk Americans face, particularly children. But lead in the soil should not prevent individuals from gardening. For those concerned their soil may be contaminated, Filippelli offered some useful advice. The soil right next to your home typically has twice the lead contamination found in the middle of your yard, he says. If you want to plant right next to your house, bring in fresh soil for a raised bed garden and mulch with wood chips or grow grass in the area surrounding the raised beds so that contaminated soil doesn’t get back into the soil. Raised beds also provide optimal drainage, limit erosion, increase efficient water use and can even extend the growing season. Gardeners should consider making a raised bed just three to four feet wide for optimal access to all parts of it. If your house is located in a pre-1950s neighborhood or close to a busy roadway, assume levels of lead in your soil is likely high, Filipelli says. In this case, practice safe gardening principles of using raised beds, mulching to ensure safety, and washing all produce thoroughly.