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Catherine Coleman Flowers shines a light on hidden environmental injustices at Luskin lecture


Catherine Coleman Flowers joined the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series on April 27 to share the triumphs and frustrations of her journey in equitable water sanitation across the United States. Flowers is the founder of the nonprofit Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, and has also received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. She’s been serving as vice chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. A week before her Luskin Lecture, she introduced President Joe Biden as he signed an executive order making environmental equity a priority of federal agencies.

“Catherine has found that the problems of inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure reach across rural America, including California, and these problems are tied deeply to systems of racial and class oppression,” said Megan Mullin, professor of public policy and faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, as she introduced Flowers to a packed room at the university’s Kerckhoff Hall.

The Luskin Lecture was followed by a dialogue with Mullin and Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, who shared both his professional expertise and lived experience as a native of the rural Eastern Coachella Valley. The panel spoke about the key role of research and data in shaping equitable policies, and the new technologies that could lead to solutions in places where water and sanitation infrastructure is failing.

“We decided that we’re not going to just wait on someone to change policy. We’re going to reengineer the septic tank. And we’re looking to collaborate,” she told the UCLA audience. “We need your ideas. Because this is not just an Alabama problem. It’s a California problem too.”

Read more about Flower’s work at UCLA Luskin.

Image Source: Les Dunseith