News | May 20, 2021

Chandra Taylor on environmental justice and everyday environmentalists

The latest episode of our podcast, Broken Ground, features Senior Attorney Chandra Taylor, who leads SELC’s Environmental Justice Initiative.

Based in our Chapel Hill office, Taylor specializes in water quality and environmental justice issues. Her work with the Concerned Citizens of West Badin in central North Carolina exemplifies this, as she supports African-American residents advocating for cleanup of a former aluminum smelting site to protect water quality in the adjacent lake and creek.

In conversation with host Claudine Ebeid McElwain, Taylor discusses how her early years in Kinston, North Carolina and her love of science, along with mentorship at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, all led to her current work. She also reflects on the uneven interest in achieving environmental justice over the years, something she’s witnessed first-hand over her career.



“We have to grapple with the exclusionary aspects of a certain kind of environmentalism. Because it’s not going to be just conservationists who turn the tide on global climate change. It’s going to take a lot of people. It’s going to take the everyday environmentalist. It takes all of us.”

Despite the challenges to making progress, Taylor is motivated in part by the successes she’s seen since empowering communities to tap into available legal expertise.

“It feels good when you protect the environment because you know how meaningful your work is to a really huge number of people. It is an outsized impact for the amount of effort you put in. It’s not just one person or one family that is going to be the beneficiary of this work, it is neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, the nation, the world. The work that we do has such a huge effect.”