Key Black environmental leaders

From left, Dorceta Taylor, PhD, and Rue Mapp

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Robert Bullard, PhD

Robert Bullard, PhD, Dorceta Taylor, PhD, and Rue Mapp are three key people who have powered the environmental justice movement. These three people have spent their careers working to bring others to action to create a more just and cleaner environment for all.

Dr. Bullard is a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. He is considered the “father of environmental justice” because of his work that began in the 1970s on the environmental injustices faced by minority communities in Houston. Dr. Bullard was collecting information for a civil rights lawsuit his wife was filing that challenged the placement of a landfill in a Black community. In an interview with The Guardian, Dr. Bullard said, “we found five out of five landfills in Houston were located in Black neighborhoods, and six out of eight incinerators were in Black neighborhoods.” This led Dr. Bullard to start writing and researching environmental justice, and it set him on his path to become a leader in the movement.

Rue Mapp is the CEO and Founder of Outdoor Afro. A 2009 report about National Park Service (NPS) attendance found that white people made up 78% of NPS visitors. Mapp wanted to increase the diversity of people using preserved natural spaces, so she created a network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. Outdoor Afro leads nature experiences to empower people of color to be the face of conservation.

Dr. Taylor is a professor of environmental justice at the Yale School of Environment. Her work mainly focuses on environmental racism and diversity within environmental groups. Dr. Taylor has written several books on the subject, including “Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility” and “The Environment and the People in American Cities.” Her most prominent work, which is focused on diversity within environmental groups, is called “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations & Government Agencies.” This report is the most comprehensive report on diversity in the environmental justice network.

Although these are a few of the people who are considered the faces of the movement, many leaders are doing great environmental justice work, and we are all environmentalists. As Dr. Bullard said during a talk at Furman University, “Do you breathe air? Then you’re an environmentalist.”

Let’s keep innovating to create a more just and cleaner environment!

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