Meet Catherine Coleman Flowers. She’s fighting for climate solutions and social justice together by addressing the severe impacts of pollution and the climate crisis on poor and rural areas of the United States. A Lowndes County, Alabama native, Catherine works to address common issues like poor infrastructure and high energy costs in her home state to confront some of the root causes of poverty.
Catherine is the founder and executive director of Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, Inc. (ACRE) which “promotes sustainable initiatives to strengthen the infrastructure of families in rural and impoverished communities through participatory involvement.” But her work doesn’t stop there. From negotiating with the Alabama state government to serving as the rural development manager for Equal Justice Initiative to being an active Climate Reality Leader and Climate Speaker, Catherine has become a powerful force for change, both in her home state and beyond.
“Catherine is a shining example of the power individuals have to make a measurable difference by educating, advocating, and acting on environmental issues.” –
Al Gore, founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project
Most recently, Catherine has been working as the 2017 Franklin Humanities Institute Practitioner in Residence at Duke University. She has been involved in authoring a study with the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University that addresses the basic human right to clean water and sanitation and the health impacts that poor infrastructure has on vulnerable communities right here in the US. Instead of shying away from unsexy issues like the consequences of raw sewage for public health, Catherine has fought to bring widespread attention to an issue that has plagued her home county.
“The United Nations recognized the Human Right to Sanitation in 2010. In Lowndes County many of the residents do not have access to sanitation. When I began this work more than 15 years ago, I thought that it was just in Lowndes County. Now I realize that Lowndes County is symbolic of poor rural communities across the United States that are experiencing the same injustice,” Catherine said in an interview with Duke Today.
Prominent in the environmental justice world, Catherine is drawing attention to the health impacts of the climate crisis as well, participating in a panel at the Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta, GA in February with public health and climate science professionals from across the country. Her forthcoming study shows that tropical parasites like hookworm are gaining a foothold in some poverty-stricken Southern communities, where poor living conditions combined with increased rainfall and rising average temperatures due to climate change have created the ideal breeding ground.
Catherine also frequently works with the Climate Speakers Network, organizing events in several Southern states and joining former US Vice President Al Gore as an active Climate Reality Leader at events like the People’s Climate March and serving on Climate Reality’s board of directors.
Focusing on extreme weather and its impacts on vulnerable communities, Catherine has worked with citizens across the globe to work for climate solutions. At a recent Climate Speakers Network event, her organization joined several in the state of Alabama to form the Renew Alabama Coalition, working for a clean and healthy environment for all Alabamians.
If you – like Catherine – know that the climate crisis is affecting the health and wellbeing of our families and our planet, take action today. The White House has proposed a budget that would cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, which would significantly reduce its ability to do its job: to protect the health and safety of American families. Call your senators today and ask them to oppose any budget cuts that threaten the health of our families and our planet.