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October 02, 2013

Sierra Club Honors Environmental Justice Pioneer Dr. Robert Bullard

Leslie Fields and Dr Robert Bullard
(L to R) Leslie Fields, Sierra Club Board Member Aaron Mair, former Sierra Club Board President Allison Chin, Dr. Robert Bullard, Sierra Club President David Scott, and Sierra Club Board Member Lane Boldman.

Dr. Robert Bullard -- frequently called the "father of the environmental justice movement" -- received the John Muir award at the Sierra Club annual awards banquet on September 21, 2013, in San Francisco. Dr. Bullard is one of the world's leading experts on environmental justice and is currently the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

Rita Harris, Robert Tohe, Rhonda Anderson, and I (all part of the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Program) were present at the Sierra Club award banquet to honor Dr. Bullard as he received the John Muir award -- the Club's highest honor. The Washington Post ran a great profile on Dr. Bullard after he received this award as well.

As a scholar-activist, Dr. Bullard has advocated on every level for environmental justice. His expertise and media savvy has garnered much needed attention and remedies for communities burdened with environmental hazards.

For many years Dr. Bullard kept the extensive archives of the environmental justice movement as director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. He served as an expert on many local EJ struggles including the Dickson County, Tenn., landfill battle with the Holt Family. This African-American family has been suffering from cancers and other health problems due to the fact a landfill was located near their property and their water was contaminated by chemicals such as trichloroethylene, or TCE.

The white families were informed by the state of the chemicals and put on the municipal water system. The Holt family was not informed until years later. Even the dog pound near the landfill was informed before the Holt family. Dr. Bullard fought hard for media and legal attention to this case.

Dr. Bullard was also extensively involved in environmental justice issues around the Hurricane Katrina, writing and testifying tirelessly on environmental justice and stories of survival, redemption, and remedies. 

He has helped organized key conferences such as the First Nation People of Color Environmental Leadership Summits in 1991 and 2001. Out of the 1991 Summit, the "Principles of Environmental Justice" were adopted, which Dr. Bullard helped pen and which have informed environmental justice struggles and social justice activists all over the world.

Dr. Bullard has also participated in the United Nations World Conference Against Racism and other intolerances, the UN World Conference on Sustainable Development, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Conference of Parties conferences, and American Sociological and American Public Health Associations conferences, just to name of few.

Dr. Bullard has made key contributions to the body of research by the Environmental Protection Agency National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) and other offices of the Environmental Protection Agency and federal agencies over the years. He was present at the signing of the 1994 Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice by President Clinton.

His scholarship also includes 18 books on environmental racism, urban land use, industrial facility siting, climate justice, emergency response, transportation, smart growth, community reinvestment, housing, and regional equity.

Two of Dr. Bullard's books were published by Sierra Club Books, and he often collaborates with the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnership Program. His influence is evident in the environmental justice work of activists throughout the Sierra Club, including 2013 award recipients Richard Mabion of Kansas, winner of the Special Achievement award, and Jessica Seiglie Quinones of Puerto Rico, the Joseph Barbosa awardee.

Dr. Bullard richly deserved the John Muir award. The EJCP program and the Sierra Club will continue to support and promote environmental justice alongside Dr. Bullard and environmental justice activists and communities across America. Our organization is richer for responding to Dr. Bullard's influence by creating and maintaining the environmental justice program. And overall, the environmental community is better and richer because of Dr. Bullard's pathbreaking work.

By collaborating with Dr. Bullard and the EJ movement, the Sierra Club remains in the vanguard of the environmental movement.

-- Leslie Fields, Director of the Sierra Club Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program


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