Birmingham-Southern College's Urban-environmental Studies Department and the Mu Chapter of KAO host a keynote speaker as a part of "Green Week" every year. This year, Lois Gibbs, an acclaimed environmental activist and founder and director of the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ), was invited to speak. Gibbs talked about her experiences being a part of the Love Canal environmental disaster, community mobilization, and the important role the public plays in influencing environmental policy.
The Love Canal disaster was a chemical waste site located in Niagara Falls, New York, that caused environmental and health problems for the surrounding community. Gibbs was one of the affected residents and became a leading figure in the movement for environmental justice. She founded CHEJ in 1981 to help other communities across the United States facing similar environmental issues.
During her keynote address at Birmingham-Southern College, Gibbs shared her experiences as an environmental activist and emphasized the importance of community mobilization. She talked about how, in the case of the Love Canal disaster, the residents' efforts to organize and demand accountability from the government led to the creation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which is also known as the Superfund program. The Superfund program is a federal government initiative designed to clean up hazardous waste sites and protect public health and the environment.
Gibbs also spoke about the important role the public plays in influencing environmental policy. She encouraged students and community members to get involved in local and national efforts to protect the environment and to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. Gibbs stressed that environmental justice is a critical issue that affects everyone, regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status.
In conclusion, Lois Gibbs's keynote address at Birmingham-Southern College's Green Week was a powerful reminder of the importance of community mobilization and the role of the public in shaping environmental policy. Her experiences with the Love Canal disaster and her work with CHEJ serve as an inspiration for all of us to take action and make a difference in our communities.
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Dr. William Holt and students from the Mu KAO Chapter with Lois Gibbs during her keynote speech at Birmingham-Southern College during Green Week 2023.