Emelda West admits she's not an environmental scientist, but says she does know
how to add. Dozens of companies have moved into Convent, Louisiana, promising
jobs, but 60 percent of her community is unemployed and 40 percent lives in
Having witnessed Convent's industrial transformation, West helped found the St.
James Citizens for Jobs and the Environment, a grassroots group fighting the
Shintech polyvinyl chloride plant. The plant would annually add 600,000 pounds of
air pollutants to a parish that ranks third in the state for toxic releases and
transfers. This gentle churchgoer and 72-year-old great-grandmother fiercely
champions nondiscriminatory environmental regulation. She's become a heroine to
me and to thousands of environmental-justice activists across the country.
Robert D. Bullard, author of Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and
Communities of Color and founder of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at
Clark Atlanta University
They are dedicated. Evangelical in approach. In the rain, snow, and the blazingly
refreshing light of the African sun, they preach about nature and inspire our
vision. Though their actions are visible, they are usually anonymous
individually. But they constantly remind us of our obligation to Mother Earth and
our children-the future. Canvassers for the Movement to Save the Ogoni People,
and for all environmental organizations, are my unsung heroes.
Owens Wiwa, Nigerian environmental and human-rights activist
Most U.S. nuclear-devices testing was performed less than 120 miles directly
upwind from Virginia Sanchez's community of Duckwater, Nevada. Needless to say,
the Shoshones living there, mostly outdoors, weren't told about any possible
problems. They hunted and ate rabbits, including their organs, which contained
radioactive iodine. Sanchez's brother and many others were lost to cancer.
Sanchez is trying to stop the federal government from moving waste from 108
nuclear reactors onto her land-Newe Sogobia. She and others from the Citizen
Alert Native American Program are demanding answers, as well as saying simply,
"Don't dump on us."
This past year both houses of Congress quietly passed the Nuclear Waste Policy
Act, authorizing the transportation of up to 90,000 shipments of radioactive
waste to Yucca Mountain, the heart of Shoshone territory. The shipments will
expose Sanchez's reservation to contaminants again, but this time the waste will
also pass within a half mile of 50 million Americans. It might be worth thinking
Winona LaDuke, founder of White Earth Recovery Project and author of Last Woman
Dr. Paul Connett, professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University, has a
passion for grassroots activism. He's traveled to over 40 countries to help
communities in trouble by translating complex scientific data into information
people can use to fight environmental degradation. When Waste Technologies
Industries wanted to install new incinerator equipment at their East Liverpool,
Ohio, facility we talked to Dr. Connett, our secret weapon, and he told us the
equipment would increase toxic air emissions. That information allowed us to take
control of a public hearing on the issue and to take control of our health. Dr.
Connett is not just an environmental hero, he's an angel.
Terry Swearingen, 1997 Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient
For nearly three consecutive months, a beautiful 24-year-old
Earth First! activist, Julia "Butterfly" Hill, has lived by herself
perched high atop a 200-foot, 1,000-year-old redwood in Northern California's
Humboldt County. Her presence alone continues to save the tree
from being logged by Pacific Lumber. She says what would bring her back down is
Pacific Lumber President John Campbell agreeing to let the tree stand "to allow
it to live and die by the law of nature."
If Julia Hill is any measure then, indeed, to quote Dostoyevsky, "The world will
be saved by beauty."