December 11, 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed legislation creating a $1.6 billion environmental “Superfund” to pay for cleaning up chemical spills and toxic waste dumps. This legislation came out of a grassroots fight in Niagara Falls, NY at Love Canal.
This is not just another anniversary date, it is a reminder of what can be accomplished when people come together, speak with one voice and demand change. Recently the divisions, among people who often want the same things, has been so orchestrated by those who want to keep the status quo. It’s become difficult for everyday people to figure out what’s what. But if you think about what you really want and ignore the other side’s game of what can be done, what’s possible we can win. At Love Canal I was told you will never be evacuated so give it up. But 800 families were evacuated. We were told the Superfund legislation would never pass it was way too costly, but it did.
When you look back at least in our environmental health and justice movement you’ll see how labor and communities came together, even in the belly of the beast in Louisiana, to pass the Right-To-Know legislation. Recycling is now a staple in our society where someone throwing away a can in the garbage is frowned upon. The public came together to use their power as consumers to stop many toxic products from being sold on the market. Young people today are speaking out and speaking loudly about Climate Change and using their power and their votes to move candidates.
Today marks the anniversary of what a grassroots movement can do. Let us celebrate that victory and work to achieve more. Let’s not be influenced by those who want to keep us apart, rather find the ways we can join together to win justice for all living things.