Waste text with image of a Black woman

Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret

For this month’s equity resource, Equity Committee Member Andrea Siegel recommends, Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret by Catherine Coleman Flowers. “The book explores the connection between climate change, racism, and rising injustices like increased poverty and environmental inequities. Specifically, she has highlighted and brought national, if not world-wide, attention to the extraordinary poverty that persists in rural communities across the richest country on Earth, the United States. 

In this memoir, Flowers shares her personal journey to becoming an environmental justice advocate for her community of Lowdnes County, Alabama, which is home to many historic moments in the US Civil Rights Movement including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma to Montgomery March. She focuses on raising awareness of how climate change and bad policy only deepen the cycle of poverty and inequity. She demonstrates how rising temperatures, greater rainfall, unjust policies, and a lack of investment in infrastructure by the government, combine to send raw sewage into homes and yards spreading infections from parasites, like hookworm, that were once thought eradicated. 

Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret is a concrete and eye-opening way to tell the story of environmental injustice. It is shocking to hear the stories Flowers tells of families living without even basic sewage and sanitation–a problem we often associate with developing and/or less wealthy countries–infrastructure that many of us take for granted. Her book gives a personal look at a life dedicated to fighting environmental racism and injustice, what it takes to sustain that fight and bring others to the table to fight with you.”