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Catherine Coleman Flowers MacArthur Foundation

Environment

Alabama environmentalist lands on Time’s “Influential People” list

Flowers has been the driving force behind an effort to address devastating wastewater issues in several communities.

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Catherine Coleman Flowers is influential. Her work over the past two decades in drawing attention to the long-ignored issues of wastewater inefficiencies in the Black Belt has helped bring international interest and outrage. Billions of federal dollars are now devoted to the problem – in the Black Belt and in other often-ignored communities around the country. 

Flowers’ advocacy work has helped change the lives of entire communities. And her influence … let’s just say that it’s global these days. 

On Thursday, Time magazine selected Flowers as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. 

That’s right, “world.” 

“It’s deeply meaningful to be included in the company of so many leaders and changemakers whom I admire,” Flowers told WAFF-48 in Huntsville. “I see this honor as a celebration of environmental justice, a movement that is rooted in rural communities like Lowndes County, Alabama, which I am blessed to call home. I believe that often the most significant activism starts in your own backyard; and if you stay the course and find incredible partners to walk with you, amazing things can happen.”

Flowers’ entry in the Time list was written by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery and a fairly influential person in his own right. 

In describing Flowers, Stevenson wrote: “A child of ‘bloody’ Lowndes County, between Selma and Montgomery, she is at the center of the quest for environmental justice in America. Catherine’s fight to expose the “dirty secret” of systemic neglect across the U.S. in places like Lowndes County, where more than 40% of the majority-Black residents lack access to clean sanitation, has persuaded environmentalists and policymakers to engage more directly with the poor and people of color.”

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Flowers is credited, at least in part, for drawing national attention to America’s wastewater issues, and for the Biden administration devoting $50 billion to address the problem. 

Flowers is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and serves as a board member for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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