To and from the common brick: Slow-motion disaster on Chicago’s South Side

The Center for Humans and Nature’s Minding Nature journal recently published SJNN Cycle 4 fellow Eiren Caffall’s lyrical longform reported essay, drawing on her SJNN research, on flooding and environmental racism in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood. An excerpt is below; read the whole piece here.

To begin, imagine a brick.

This one is vintage, sought after by collectors, made of a unique type of clay only found from Lake Michigan to Kankakee, Illinois; from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Gary, Indiana. It is called Chicago common brick. It is pink—not shocking pink or peony pink, but pink like well-grilled salmon, mottled and pocked, idiosyncratic. It is anything but common.

Now imagine a wall.

This one is also vintage. It is one of the four walls of a brick bungalow built in the 1920s, nearly identical to its neighbors. The wall hugs the prairie ground and is covered with light powder—efflorescence—because the bricks are melting from constant exposure to climate change-fueled stormwater and sewage runoff backed up through the sewer pipes into the basement. [full story here]