While plenty of attention shines on the likes of Larry Fink and Jeff Bezos for their climate action tactics, there is no shortage of activists who are making a huge difference day to day when it comes to our relationship with the environment. But many of these leaders don't benefit from vast media coverage. Being that we’re in the third week of Black History Month, we at TriplePundit thought we’d highlight these black heroes whose environmental and community work has left a huge impact not only on the black community, but also society at large.
By all means, this is far from an exhaustive list, yet we thought these five visionaries deserved to be recognized.
Rose Brewer: A professor of Afro-American and African studies at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Brewer writes about environmental racism, notably how toxic waste dumped into poorer communities has left behind health and social problems for decades. Her work has included leadership roles in the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM), an advocacy group that takes on the disparities that result from environmental injustice.
Many writers have referred to Dr. Robert Bullard as the “father” of the environmental justice movement. The title dates back to his research in the 1970s, which revealed the correlation between black neighborhoods and the location of garbage dumps. His 1990 book, Dumping in Dixie, was instrumental in bringing the civil rights and environmental movements closer together.
George Washington Carver (shown above in a portrait by U.S. artists Betsy Graves Reyneau): Yes, we already know a lot about this revered scientist thanks to his research on alternatives to growing cotton (as in peanuts), as well as his work to prevent soil depletion. But did you know Carver also wrote extensively on the risks associated with relying on monoculture crops, looked at nature through the lens of biomimicry before the word became part of our lexicon, and was averse to any process that resulted in waste?
A nurse by profession, the late Barbara Hillary is largely credited as being the first black woman (and oldest person) to travel to the North and South Poles. She also founded the Arverne Action Association, which strived to improve the quality of life in her Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, New York. Her time in both polar regions, along with a trip to Outer Mongolia during the last year of her life, drove her to become a climate change activist.
Savonala “Savi” Horne: As Executive Director of the Land Loss Preservation Project, Horne and the organization she leads provide legal support and assistance to financially distressed farmers and landowners across North Carolina, including the most vulnerable African-American rural communities. This group also works to help farmers transition away from growing tobacco, promotes sustainable agriculture, and boosts responsible forestry efforts.
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Image credit: U.S. National Archives
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.