Catherine Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Senior Fellow, Environmental Justice & Civic Engagement

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ) which seeks the implementation of best practices to address the reduction of health and economic disparities, improve access to clean air, water, and soil in marginalized rural communities by influencing policy, inspiring innovation, catalyzing relevant research, and amplifying the voices of community leaders. This is done within the context of climate change and through the lens of environmental justice.

A member of the Board of Directors for the Climate Reality Project, she is employed as the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative and serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Her goal is to find solutions to raw sewage that exist in rural communities throughout the United States. Catherine is also an internationally recognized advocate for the human right to water and sanitation and works to make the UN Sustainable Development Agenda accountable to front-line communities. Her journey is chronicled in her book entitled Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, which will be published by the New Press this fall.

Catherine’s Videos

HBO’s VICE News Reporting: Catherine Advocates For Alabama Residents Exposed To Hookworm.

Ms. Catherine Flowers, Rural Development Manager, Delivers Testimony on #InvestingInWater. As Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, Catherine delivers a testimony on investing in water.


The Accidental Environmentalist: Catherine Flowers: A mosquito bite decades ago leads Catherine Coleman Flowers on her life’s journey.  A day in the life of an environmental justice activist to solve problems at the intersection of poverty, climate change, and politics from the Alabama Black Belt to Washington, D.C. 

America Will Be – Uniting a Movement: Kairos Center & the Poor People’s Campaign document the people coming together for clean water & to eradicate poverty, from Standing Rock and beyond.

Q&A with Catherine

What is “environmental justice”?

Environmental justice means fighting for the equitable distribution of technology and resources with a preference to those who need them the most, and promoting the protection of the earth, its eco-systems, and giving all access to clean water, clean air, and surroundings free of toxic chemicals.

Where does CEE focus its efforts on EJ?

CEE combines environmental justice with caring for the earth. The educational programs provide information and clarity on how we can balance our faith with justice for mankind and the earth. What kind of things do you work on? I focus on researching and improving water and sanitation in poor rural communities. I also coordinate climate training efforts and facilitate partnerships with people and organizations that seek climate justice.

How can faith leaders become more involved in EJ work?

Faith leaders can get involved in EJ work by first accessing the EJ issues in their communities or by providing support to those around the nation that are fighting for climate and environmental justice.

You do a lot of work in rural communities on water. Why do you care so much about this issue?

I am a country girl who grew up in a rural setting. I have experienced firsthand problems with wastewater treatment that can lead to environmental degradation and health issues. I care because I have witnessed the neglect of poor rural communities’ needs when it comes to water and wastewater infrastructure, and I have seen the tragic results. It is a point of deep shame for our nation–the richest in the world–where children are playing around and living among raw sewage. Now, we are seeing climate change act as a multiplier for the problem, tremendously increasing the likelihood that diseases will infect people living in those conditions. Therefore I am passionate about finding a solution that is sustainable and affordable that also takes into account the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

From the Blog

What Can You Do to Fight the Climate Crisis?

With 60 Days to Save the Earth… Catherine Flowers among experts interviewed for the Guardian. Individual acts alone won’t stop the climate crisis, but there are things we can do. We asked experts what they do in their daily lives to make a difference. Valerie Yurk in Washington, Published: Wed… Read more

Born Country but Raised an Activist: Catherine Coleman Flowers of the Biden Climate Task Force Uncovers “America’s Dirty Secret” n “Bloody Lowndes,” Alabama

By Sienna Zuco for Global Climate Pledge “Because I’m country!” Said Catherine Coleman Flowers when asked why she was passionate about working for rural communities as an environmental justice advocate. Growing up in the “Black Belt” region of Alabama, which is known for its rich dark soil, Flowers fell in love… Read more

In Alabama, racial disparities in health outcomes predate the pandemic: Catherine Flowers on PBS News Hour

In Alabama, doctors and nurses are seeing record numbers of hospitalizations associated with COVID-19. The state has reported more than 1,300 deaths since the pandemic began. But certain regions and populations within the state are faring far worse than others — and huge health disparities among Black residents are causing… Read more

Climate Equity and Inclusion

by Catherine Flowers Published June 22nd 2020 on World War Zero When people think about climate change and environmentalism, the image that comes to mind is a polar bear on a melting block of ice. However, that image neglects to include people, especially living in communities that are suffering from lack of… Read more