News | May 5, 2021

Catherine Coleman Flowers on being of and for the rural South

Up next in our latest season of Broken Ground is an interview with Lowndes County, Alabama, native Catherine Coleman Flowers. She is founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and her research brought to light the failing wastewater infrastructure in rural parts of the South. In April, President Joe Biden named her to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

This season of our podcast highlights how women are on the frontlines of the fight for environmental justice, and the remarkable work of Coleman Flowers exemplifies this.

The 2020 MacArthur ‘genius’ grant winner who’s been called “the Erin Brockovich of Sewage” released her memoir “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret” in November to detail and expose the phenomenal toll that lack of proper waste sanitation takes on public and environmental health, not to mention people’s dignity.

In the episode, she discusses how environmental injustices often criminalize poverty and perpetually penalize or exploit poor people.



“Consequently, we continue to have the same problem and, until we change that economic paradigm to make it fair and more just, we’ll continue to have that same problem,” she says. “Because if you look at who doesn’t have wastewater infrastructure, these are the same areas that tend to get the dirty power plants, where you want to put the landfills. They just add and compound these problems and keep victimizing the same people over again.”

According to Coleman Flowers, the only way to solve this problem is by letting others know about it. (And sharing our latest episode is a great way to help with that!)

Other seasons of the podcast have addressed how Southerners are navigating the most pressing environmental threats of our time, including sea level rise and the cumulative impacts of living near pollution. These previous episodes and our new conversation series are available now on iTunes, Spotify, at, or wherever you get your podcasts.