Lisa Perez Jackson was adopted as an infant and grew up in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward in the 1960s. The area was a vibrant center of African American culture with a high rate of home-ownership. Her father was a postman and Navy veteran who took great pride in serving his community and his dedication to the public good was passed on to his daughter. As a child in Louisiana, Lisa noticed that pollution deregulation helped the wealthy make more money but it was harsh for the poor who lived near waterways and canals fouled by the oil industry. She came to realize that environmentalism and equality were entwined and that people of color were most likely to bear the burden of environmental degradation. In her own words, “environmental challenges have the power to deny equality of opportunity and hold back the progress of communities.” Continue reading Lisa Perez Jackson: A Life in Balance
In 2007, a member of the United States Senate drafted a resolution to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of a famous biologist; a woman who had been most at home with her nose in a book or on the shores of the sea. Things didn’t go as planned. Havoc ensued as a senator from Oklahoma mounted an outraged resistance against the woman’s memory. The controversial woman was Rachel Carson.
Carson grew up in Pennsylvania and was born with a gift for words—she talked early and had a story published in a St. Nicholas magazine when she was eleven . Continue reading Rachel Carson and the Paradigm Shift
Wangari (Muta) Maathai was born in 1940 in Kenya. In her Kikuyu culture women were storytellers and all humans had right to shelter and space. Like her grandmother-namesake she was known to be industrious and organized.
By the time she was born the native drink–millet porridge–had been replaced by the tea of the British colonialists. Her father was a mechanic and driver for a British settler and was tall and strong. He didn’t need a jack to change a tire on a car. The family cultivated a small farm a with soil so lush you could “almost feel the life it had.” At the urging of her brother, she was sent to a Catholic school where she was first in her class. She enjoyed her schooling but in retrospect recognized that it served to undermine her own culture. Continue reading Wangari Maathai and Her Canopy of Hope