Profile

Catherine Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Director, Environmental Justice & Civic Engagement

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the Director of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

She is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE) which seeks to address the root causes of poverty by seeking sustainable solutions. She also serves as the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative serving the citizens of Lowndes County, one of the 10 poorest counties in Alabama’s Black Belt.

Catherine has been able to bring significant resources to address its many environmental and social injustices. Specifically, her work at ACRE addresses the lack of sewage disposal infrastructure in Alabama’s rural Black Belt, the legacy of racism and neglect stretching back to the time of slavery. 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.

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.

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