Catherine Coleman Flowers: “Environmental Justice in Rural America”
Feb. 16, 2022 • online
Internationally prominent environmental justice activist Catherine Coleman Flowers provided insights for addressing the disproportionate impacts of inadequate waste and water sanitation infrastructure on rural communities in a free, public talk presented via Zoom. A question-&-answer session followed.
Immediately following Flowers’s presentation, an interdisciplinary panel of WSU faculty experts expanded on topics raised and related areas of WSU research, education, and engagement opportunities.
In her talk, Flowers focused on the problem of wastewater inequality as a social justice issue and the ways water and sanitation infrastructure serves as an indicator of larger cycles of racism and poverty in our country.
Throughout her 20 years of work on this issue, Flowers has gathered insights from people struggling with water sanitation problems in nearly every part of the United States—including the Pacific and Inland Northwest. She spoke about how, with research and ingenuity, the U.S. can make significant strides toward sanitation equity and how activists of any age can help achieve equitable and sustainable wastewater infrastructure.
The rural focus is especially pertinent to WSU’s mandate as a land-grant institution and its goal of advancing quality of life, economic development, equity and sustainability.
Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Flowers was appointed vice chair of the Biden Administration’s inaugural White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council in 2021. She was named a MacArthur Fellow for Environmental Health Advocacy in 2020.
Flowers is rural development manager for Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative and a member of the boards of directors for the Climate Reality Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. She is also co-chair of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Accelerating Climate Action and a practitioner in residence at Duke University.
In her book, Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, Flowers reveals one of the least-discussed forms of inequality—equal access to water and sanitation—and illuminates the correlation between sanitation and systemic class, racial and geographic prejudice affecting people across the United States.
Oct. 21, 2021 – David Treuer: “Modern Native America and Environmental Justice”
A best-selling author, anthropologist professor, and expert in Native American life and history, David Treuer (Ojibwe) presented “Modern Native America and Environmental Justice: Changing the Narrative of Our American Moment” in the first of two Lane Lectures of 2021-22, at Washington State University Vancouver and on YouTube – watch the recorded event.
About the Lane Lecture
The Lane Family Lecture in Environmental Science is endowed by a gift from L.W. “Bill” Lane, former publisher of Sunset magazine and numerous books and films, and his wife, Jean. The Lane Family Lecture was inaugurated in 1993.
In addition to the lecture series, the Lanes, along with their son Robert, a 1983 Washington State University graduate, created the Robert Lane Fellowship in Environmental Science. The fellowship supports graduate students studying environmental science at WSU.
“We are strong proponents of public service and hope that the annual lecture and fellowship encourage efforts to find solutions to some of the global problems that confront society,” said Bill Lane.
Bill Lane, a graduate of Stanford University, was the co-chairman of Lane Publishing Co. and publisher of Sunset magazine. He was a U.S. ambassador to Australia and Nauru, and ambassador-at-large to Japan. He also served as chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Centennial of National Parks, and on many other corporate and government committees and education boards.
Jean Lane, a graduate of Northwestern University, was a docent at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and served on the boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and the Filoli Center in Woodside, Calif.
Lane Lecture cosponsors of 2021 include the WSU College of Arts and Sciences; College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences; SoE Graduate Student Association; WSU Vancouver Native American Affairs; Collective for Social and Environmental Justice; WSUV Graduate Student Association; WSUV English Department; and WSU Pullman Common Reading Program. CR credit available for students.
Interdisciplinary expert panel Feb. 16
WSU experts in diverse fields, ranging from environmental science to sociology, economics, and biosystems engineering, discussed links between their work and environmental justice issues. Panelists included educators from across the University whose work intersects the theme of “Environmental Justice in Rural America.”
Three faculty members and one graduate student provided insights about their teaching and research as well as related engagement opportunities for WSU students and the broader community.
The panel discussion followed the Lane Lecture presented by leading water and sanitation rights activist Catherine Coleman Flowers. Audience questions were welcomed.
About the panelists:
Stephanie Blair (Ojibwe/Inupiaq) is a doctoral candidate in the School of the Environment based at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. She studies the toxic impacts of urban runoff pollutants on Pacific salmon and how salmon declines caused by human activities threaten tribal sovereignty, cultural resilience, and sustainable indigenous food systems in the Pacific Northwest.
Dylan Bugden is Boeing Distinguished Professor in Environmental Sociology at Washington State University. He is interested in the intersection of social conflict, inequality, and environmental change. His current projects examine the effects of climate protest, perceptions of environmental inequality, and urban-rural divides in the energy transition.
Joe Cook is an associate professor in the School of Economic Sciences. His research focuses on water and sanitation policy in low-income countries, water resources economics and policy, and nonmarket valuation. His recent work has focused on how to design a federal customer assistance program to help households pay their water and sewer bills.
Ani Jayakaran is a professor with WSU Extension, affiliated with the School of the Environment and Biological Systems Engineering, and based at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center. Ani’s work focuses on green stormwater infrastructure engineering designs. His program aims to influence stormwater management decisions and empower traditionally under-served Black, and Indigenous communities, people of color, and lower-income groups.
Alex Fremier, an associate professor in SoE, was moderator for the panel.
Previous Lane Lecture Presenters
Paul Auerbach, MD
Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine | Stanford University School of Medicine
“The Intersection of Climate Change and Human Health”
Sandra Postel 2021 Stockholm Water Prize recipient
Founding Director | Global Water Policy Project
“Water Is the New Oil”
Jane Goodall Renowned primatologist
While at WSU, Jane Goodall visited our pygmy rabbit conservation team.
Harold A Mooney
Paul S. Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology | Stanford University
“Taking Stock of Nature’s Assets”
David T. Suzuki
Emeritus Professor | University of British Columbia
Activist and science broadcaster
“Ecology vs. Economy…Setting the Real Bottom Line”
Cecil D. Andrus Former U.S. Secretary of Interior (1977–1981) and Governor of Idaho
“Threatening Clouds Over Our Environment”
Gene E. Likens Founding Director, President Emeritus | Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Professor Emeritus | University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Acid Rain and the Biogeochemistry of Calcium at Hubbard Brook”
John W. Terborgh James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences | Duke University
“New Horizons in Global Conservation”