Black and White and Mad All Over

Country and city folk strive for enviro-justice


| November 10, 2005


When Rhonda Anderson of Detroit met Lynn Henning of Hudson, Michigan, in the halls of the Statehouse, they were both there looking for justice. After chatting a while, these two Sierra Club organizers realized that their communities -- one black and urban, the other white and rural -- were facing similar struggles against big polluters. The revelation inspired the pair to organize a daylong bus tour that would bring people of different races and locales together and show them firsthand that they're allies in the fight for a clean environment. Anderson and Henning share their thoughts on the trip with Grist.

Country and city folk took turns visiting their respective communities, seeing how industry is affecting their environments. In Hudson, they saw concentrated animal-feeding operations that spray untreated animal waste over the fields, unleashing not just a stench into the air but also chemicals, growth hormones, and antibiotics into the soil and, in turn, the water. In Detroit's 'Cancer Alley,' they saw the Marathon oil refinery dumping into a nearby river. Henning, the owner of a family farm, writes, '... they're all the same -- they're dumping, and some community is going to have to deal with the mess.'

The group came away from the trip with ideas, such as a joint lobby day when the two groups can go talk to public officials about environmental issues together. As Anderson put it, 'I think it's going to be very powerful when a white farmer is accompanying a black community leader into a meeting with a legislator to say, 'Their issues are our issues too, and we're going to keep coming back here with them until you start listening to the people instead of the polluters.''
-- Archie Ingersoll

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