This Week Outside: Smokestacks in the Carolina Blue Sky

Zachary Turner
4 min readMar 27, 2022
Students paint signs for the UNC Climate Strike.
Student activists paint signs encouraging UNC-Chapel Hill to divest from fossil fuels and transition away from its coal-burning power plant. Photo by Zachary D. Turner

After a two-week hiatus, I’m back with another entry in this compendium of things that happened outside. This article will be short and sweet because all my classes collectively decided to enter warp speed this past week.

My brain as of 5 PM Friday of last week

The war continues in Ukraine. I have stayed mostly quiet on the issue because I don’t want to add to the noise, or worse, add to the multitude of bad takes that have flooded Twitter. My opinion on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that countries should not invade other countries — no caveat. But Citations Needed did an excellent critique of terrible news tropes we’ve seen surface recently, and I highly recommend listening to it.

Without further ado, let’s see what’s been going on outside.

Student Activists March for Clean Air and Clean Energy on Campus

Shameless plug: I did some reporting for Carolina Connection, UNC’s student radio show. That’s right, friends and fam, I hand-delivered some of this week’s news.

Students marched Friday in opposition to Carolina’s Cogeneration Facility, a power plant that burns coal and natural gas to power the campus. What’s bonkers, bananas crazy is not just the fact that UNC is the only NC campus operating a coal power plant, but the facility basically lives on campus. The plant burns coal on West Cameron Avenue, just down the road from the landmark Carolina Inn.

Students paint a sign that reads “Climate Justice Now.” Photo by Zachary D. Turner.

Students and community activists also requested that UNC make good on the promises of its 2009 Climate Action Plan.

“TBD is not an acceptable answer for our assignments at this university,” said Neil Dowdy, a graduate student, “So it should be an acceptable answer to the UNC Climate Action Plan either.”

The UNC Climate Strike Coalition marched from the Pitt to South Building, where they petitioned the university to invest in renewable energy through the Green Source Advantage Program. Rev. Robert Campbell also spoke on behalf of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and the Roger Eubanks Neighborhood Association to bring awareness to environmental justice issues impacting marginalized communities in the area.

Rev. Robert Campbell speaks at the UNC Climate Strike. Photo by Zachary D. Turner.

Listen to “Student demonstrators demand UNC stop using non-renewable energy on Carolina Connection.

Siri, Take Me Straight to Hell

It’s been a good week for maps, which means it’s been a good week for me because I love maps. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news stops. Our first map highlights hot spots of industrial chemical pollutants in the United States.

A snapshot of Solenis LLC’s pollution footprint on ProPublica’s industrial pollutants hot spot map. According to their reporting, Solenis LLC contributes 99.5% of the estimated environmental cancer risk for this area in South Greensboro.

Boo. The map pulls data from the EPA and USDA to show viewers where industrial air pollution is occurring, what the potential risk is, and how that risk has changed over time. One of the most at-risk communities according to the map is Morganton, NC. The highest risk residents in the area surrounding SGL Carbon LLC, a carbon manufacturing plant, have a 1 in 84 excess lifetime cancer risk from industrial air pollution.

Check out the map on ProPublica.

Two issues that I keep close to my heart are environmental and labor issues. For this reason, I adore Pudding’s record-high weather map. It borrows the days-since-last-incident aesthetic to playfully remind us all that the end is neigh if we don’t turn this ship around quick. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s a fantastic reminder that the world is gearing up for its final #hotgirl summer.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of This Week Outside. It is time for me to slither back inside my burrow and turn the hand crank in my brain that spits out essays and school assignments. One of these days, I might scrounge up the audacity to create a Patreon, but in the meantime, you can show your support by lavishing me with praise and following me on Twitter.

Until next week, you filthy, filthy animals.



Zachary Turner

I write about the environment and climate change from Raleigh, NC. 🍁 🌳 ☀️