In the wake of several new sustainability initiatives on campus, Goldman Environmental Prize winner Kim Wasserman will visit campus to discuss the connection between environmental justice, racism and property.
Wasserman’s environmental activism stemmed from her experience growing up near the Crawford and Fisk plants in Chicago — some of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest power plants which were responsible for several health issues in the community, including asthma and bronchitis. The entire community suffered because of the presence of the coal-powered plants.
The health ramifications acted as the impetus for Wasserman to take over as the community organizer for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) in 1998, lobbying for the right of the community members to live and raise children in a neighborhood without toxic pollution. She began to work with community-based organizations and reach out to policy makers.
In 2011, her efforts gained momentum with the new Chicago Power Coalition and recent election of a new mayor and class of aldermen on City Council. The Chicago Power Coalition pushed for the Clean Power Ordinance and gained support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 35 aldermen, who ultimately shut down the Crawford and Fisk plants in 2012.
Now, LVEJO has partnered with an organization in Pilsen to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement and prohibit fossil fuel industries from operating on the property. Wasserman is meanwhile working to rally a next generation of activists to transform industrial sites into open spaces and parks for the community.
In 2013, Wasserman won the 2013 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America. She will be speaking to Knox about her environmental experiences on Monday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Harbach Theater.