2013 March 14 By Jessica Knoblauch
“Every little victory, a life is saved. Every big victory is a major advance for our society and for our planet.” During my interview with Vernice Miller Travis, I was reminded that fighting to clean up air or water pollution in your neighborhood is no easy task; and it’s even more difficult in communities already plagued by rundown housing, unemployment and other societal ills.
WE ACT co-Founders Peggy Shepard (right) and Vernice (left).
Environmental justice advocates like Vernice Miller-Travis have fought to end this injustice for years. Working with communities, environmental organizations and government agencies, Vernice has spent her life spreading awareness about environmental justice and helping build strong, sustained grassroots advocacy led by the people most impacted by environmental and public health threats.
This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Vernice about her environmental justice work, which began in her own backyard of West Harlem, NY, in the 1980s. There, Vernice and her neighbors banded together after a giant sewage treatment plant was sited near their community, an area already plagued by a dirty industry, diesel bus depots and highways that fouled the air. The result was WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the first environmental justice organization in New York City, which successfully argued in court that the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was a public and private nuisance. As a result, New York City was forced to fix the plant, and a $1.1 million fund was established to address community concerns related to health, environment and service delivery. ….(read more).