Backyard Talk

What Are You Thankful For?

By Liz Goodiel, CHEJ Science and Tech Fellow
The holiday season, and Thanksgiving in particular, is the time of the year where we all take time to reflect on the things in our lives we are thankful for. Some might give thanks for a loving family, supportive friends, a steady job or maybe even just a roof over one’s head. Another thing to be thankful for is the hard work communities have accomplished over the last year. 
One thing to be thankful for is leaders and groups who are working hard for the health and protection of their communities. Individual communities across the country have been burdened by toxic chemicals, abandoned waste facilities, contaminated water sources and various other threats to public health. To combat these issues and to seek justice on behalf of their impacted neighbors, leaders everywhere have been speaking up and working tirelessly for remediation. We give thanks to the people who refuse to give up and continue to fight their local problems. 
One example of a leader who won’t quit is Lee Ann Smith, the cofounder of P.O.W.E.R. Action Group in Asheville, North Carolina. A mother of two, Ms. Smith is an elementary school librarian by day and a local activist by night. Alongside her community, Lee Ann has fought without rest for the cleanup of an abandoned CTS facility with residual radioactive waste. She has attended a handful of meetings with her representatives, assisted in countless protests and has even met with some of the highest officials in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From her fight and the support of her neighbors, the CTS Superfund site has received cleanup action with a plan for further remediation. However, there is still work to be done and her willingness to fight won’t end until the battle is over and her community receives a complete cleanup. 
Lee Ann is just one example of the thousands of leaders taking the charge against unjust community exposure to harmful contaminants. We give great thanks to all of the people speaking up about their local concerns and taking action to address the problem. We give thanks to those that schedule community meetings to hear all the voices of those individuals that are most impacted. We give thanks to those who march alongside their neighbors to raise awareness and to organize others for the common goal. We give thanks to the leaders that consistently contact their local political leaders and we give thanks to those political leaders that fight for their constituency with their concerns at the forefront. 
Everyday, people across the country are burdened with environment and/or public health problems; today, we give thanks to all of those who refuse to give up the fight.

Homepage Superfund News

Lois Gibbs Describes the Movement she Sparked and what Today’s Activists Need to Know

Listen to the Podcast.
In 1978, Lois Gibbs was a young mother with a child in a school that was found to be built over a toxic chemical waste dump site. Lois gained international attention and incredible momentum in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as she led the fight for environmental justice for children and families affected by the environmental disaster identified with the neighborhood where it occurred, Love Canal.
“I was waiting on someone to knock on my door and tell me what to do, to explain how I could help,” says Lois of the early days of revelations about the infamous Love Canal dump.
“But no one ever came to my door. So I did something on my own.”
Her persistent activism led to passage of the “Superfund” toxic waste site cleanup legislation.
Lois went on to found the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, which has helped more than 10,000 grassroots organizations with technical, organizational or environmental education. She appears in the 2018 HBO movie Atomic Homeland and was named a “top environmentalist of the past century” by Newsweek magazine. She also has been honored with a Heinz Award and the Goldman Prize for her groundbreaking environmental work.
On this 40th anniversary of the Love Canal tragedy, Lois shares how she dealt with being called “a hysterical mother with a sickly child.” She explains the moment she most clearly saw democracy at its best, and the key to success for today’s environmental activists.
“Average people and the average community can change the world,” Lois says.
Hear how she did it, and how you can, too, on this episode of “We Can Be.”