EPA Announces April Deadline For Coal Ash Pond Cleanup, Climate Change Artist–Lee Mokobe, The Caribbean Tree Planting Project, Climate Change Champ, Iraq’s Azzam Alwash

by | Jan 19, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

EPA announces April deadline for coal ash pond cleanup, plus meet climate change artist, Lee Mokobe. The Caribbean Tree Planting Project surpasses its goals, and climate change wetlands champion, Iraq’s Azzam Alwash.



Lee Mokobe from Cape Town, South Africa, burst onto the scene after winning a South African slam poetry contest at the age of 15. Immediately after that, in 2015 Mokobe became a TED Fellow and Adobe Creativity Scholar and co-founder of Vocal Revolutionaries, an arts education program focused on empowering creative African youth.

Mokobe created Ubuntu Climate Change heroes, an installation showing ordinary people being climate change heroes. The installation launched in October 2020 in ten cities around the world. The goal of the installation? To spark solutions-based conversations around overconsumption, overproduction, environmental consciousness, and nature conservation. It featured recyclers, food bank creators and indigenous healers educating communities about water preservation and land conservation.

Mokobe has performed all over the world including at the Barclay’s Center, The LGBT Center, LA YouTube Space and Vidcon. Mokobe’s work has been featured by The Fader, Al Jazeera, New York Public Library, Philly.com, Soulpancake media, OkayAfrica and Leeway Foundation.

Why does Lee Mokobe matter to us? Art is an important tool to create action through understanding and empathetic connection to our world. Whether it’s climate change, or racial and social justice, Mokobe’s main aim is to “show that ordinary citizens can become part of the solution to help slow down climate change”.




In 2019, at a philanthropic conference in Jamaica, the seed of the Caribbean Tree Planting Project (CTPP) was planted. By February 2020, CTPP had sprouted! CTPP’s goals include:

  • planting at least 1 million trees and engaging related climate action in at least 10 Caribbean countries;
  • promoting climate change activism among Caribbean Youth and the Caribbean Diaspora;
  • continuously highlighting multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborative actions to accelerate the achievement of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially #13 (Climate Action) & 15 (Life on Land)

CTPP says collaboration is essential to reaching the sustainable climate goals in the region. Thanks to collaborative efforts, 22 Caribbean nations have planted over 1.3 million trees as of April 2021. In fact, the Caribbean Tree Planting Project has already exceeded its tree planting goals by 300-thousand trees!

This year, CTPP, along with partners, Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance and Sandals Foundation, is putting the call out to mobilize a tree planting initiative for Earth Day 2022. The aim? Planting 10,000 more trees in the Caribbean from April to June 2022.

Why does The Caribbean Tree Planting Project matter to us? It’s  proof that if a diverse coalition of island nations can come together to plant trees, it can happen everywhere.  Plant a tree!




The EPA announced last week it would be enforcing a 2015 regulation requiring coal-fired power plants now have a deadline of April 2022 to begin the cleanup of coal ash ponds. An ash pond is an engineered structure used at coal-fired power stations for the disposal of two types of coal combustion products: bottom ash and fly ash. The pond is used as a landfill to prevent the release of ash into the atmosphere.

It also mandates the clean up of impoundments, where coal ash is mixed with water and stored in a large pond, at or below the water table level. There are potentially more than 100 ponds sitting at or below the water table, which potentially leach toxins like mercury, cadmium and arsenic into the groundwater.

The EPA estimates about 500 unlined coal ash surface impoundments exist nationwide. According to Lisa Evans, senior counsel at Earthjustice, “Enforcement of the rule’s provisions is desperately needed.” Why does the EPA’s announcement matter to us? Besides leaching into the groundwater, coal ash also is an air pollutant. Plus, the toxicity of coal ash has been linked to several cancers, asthma, inflammation and immunological reactions.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the EPA looks forward to working with stakeholders and state partners to get this done. He added, “For too long, communities already disproportionately impacted by high levels of pollution have been burdened by improper coal ash disposal. Today’s actions will help us protect communities and hold facilities accountable.”




2021 marked 18 years that Azzam Alwash, founder of Nature Iraq, has been working to restore the marshes of Iraq. Alwash left Iraq as a young man and moved to the US. Kayaking through the wetlands of his new  southern California home made him miss the Iraqi marshes of his boyhood. Subsequent research led him to discover the Iraqi marshes had dried up. 

The dried up Iraqi marshes inspired Alwash to move back to Iraq in 2003 to start a project to rebuild them. He thought the project would take about three years. Instead, it became a multi-decade project.

Alwash works with stakeholders, locals near the wetlands, to get people to understand how important the marshes are. Iraq is the 5th most vulnerable nation in the world to the effect of climate change, according to  the United Nations environmental program. 

Why does Azzam Alwash matter to us? Wetlands are distinct ecosystems that are flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). They act like shock absorbers for nature. When floods occur, wetlands absorb the excess water until the local climate can process it. “The marshes become a container” of the water coming down from the spring snowmelt, Alwash said. Loss of those marshes leads to flooding.

Climate change will increase the amount of local flooding, globally.  Azzam Alwash was awarded a Goldman Prize for his environmental work in 2013.CHe says Iraq already has “great laws on the books. If they were implemented, Iraq would be an eco-heaven.”

DEEPER DIVE:  Nature Iraq, WIRED, Center For Strategic & International Studies