Founder’s Day promotes environmental justice

By Liz Lavin
March 22, 2007

Meghan Hurley

Cabrini College held its third Founder’s Day on Mon., March 19. Founder’s Day is held in honor of Sister Ursula Infante, MSC, the founder of Cabrini College.

Each year the day is themed around a specific social justice issue and a speaker is invited who embodies the Cabrinian legacy of making the love of God visible through active social justice work in the world. Past years have seen an immigration-rights activist and a death penalty abolitionist.

This year the speaker was Dr. Robert Bullard, Ware Distinguished Professor of sociology. He is known as the founder of environmental justice and has been changing environmental policies across the United States since he started in this field in the 1970s.

Bullard told the story of how he accidentally became involved in environmental justice when his wife came home from work one day and said, “I just sued the state of Texas.”

She filed a lawsuit because a certain company was trying to put a landfill in the middle of an African-American community. She needed a sociologist to help her research and make her case, and Bullard was it.

As he describes it, “I was roped into this profession.”

Bullard defines environment as where people live, work, play, worship and go to school as well as the physical and natural world.

“When we define it in that context, it doesn’t leave much out,” he said.

He explained that race is a large factor in environmental justice and told a story about a family who lived next to a landfill. Their water was contaminated yet officials told them it was safe to drink. The whole family got sick. The family lived only 54 feet from the landfill; the closest county commissioner was five miles away. Bullard used this point to emphasize that those who are not directly affected by it easily ignore the problem.

“[Environmental justice] is something that I’ve heard about but not expanded on,” freshman English and communication major Diana Trasatti said. “I always had a very general knowledge of it; this went much deeper.”

Freshman nursing major Bridget Cantwell agreed saying, “I never knew race was such a big issue in the environment.”

Bullard is working towards environmental equality for everyone, whether they are African-American, white, rich or poor. He says the rebuilding of New Orleans is up to the young volunteers that can take on the leadership because we can not rely on the government.

“The solution we are calling for is environmental justice for all,” he said.

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Liz Lavin

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