WSW: Seeking Environmental Justice

Feb 19, 2014

Building that was once home to Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem
Credit Wikicommons

Peggy Shepard helped start West Harlem Environmental Action, or WE ACT, for Environmental Justice in 1988. 

She and others were trying to bring attention to the pollution in neighborhoods where poor and minorities were more likely to live. 24 years later Peggy Shepard is still leading that fight as executive director of WE ACT. Shepard speaks Thursday February 20th at Western Michigan University (details here). 

Shepard told WMUK's Gordon Evans that big money makes a difference with elected officials, and often neighborhoods which don't have wealth and power end up having the worst pollution. Shepard says racism is institutionalized in the way that government operates. She says that makes it tougher for people in minority areas to make their case to environmental regulators. 

Peggy Shepard
Credit Courtesy photo

A chemical spill in West Virginia has left many residents unable to drink water. Shepard says Appalachia is oppressed in the same way that poor minority areas are. She says not having clean water for drinking and bathing is a major problem. 

Shepard says environmental activism requires organization and good training. She says groups wanting change need to make sure they have people who can speak knowledgeably. Shepard says good technology allows "citizen science" to gather information about air and water quality.