Waste One woman's fight against America's dirty secret

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Book - 2020

"Catherine Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that's been called "Bloody Lowndes" because of its violent, racist history. Once the epicenter of the voting rights struggle, today it's Ground Zero for a new movement that is Flowers's life's work. It's a fight to ensure human dignity through a right most Americans take for granted: basic sanitation. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable means of disposing cleanly of t...he waste from their toilets, and, as a consequence, live amid filth. Flowers calls this America's dirty secret. In this powerful book she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West. Flowers's book is the inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative. It shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards, and not only those of poor minorities"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : The New Press 2020.
Language
English
Physical Description
xi, 208 pages ; 23 cm
ISBN
9781620976081
1620976080
Main Author
Catherine Coleman Flowers (author)
Other Authors
Bryan Stevenson (writer of foreword)
Review by Booklist Reviews

While clean water has long been considered a right in the U.S., the citizens of Lowndes County, Alabama, find the opposite to be true. Lowndes County bore witness to the revolutionary Civil Rights marches in the 1960s, yet oppression of its citizens, particularly African Americans, has persisted. The county's outdated systems for handling waste water are archaic and subpar, while the price for fixing them has proven punitive to Lowndes County residents. Ninety percent of households lack adequate wastewater systems, and tropical diseases have been spawned in the region's stagnant mires of muck. Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Flowers has been actively engaged in civil rights work since her adolescence. With the people of Lowndes Country forced to live in squalor, and burdened by an unaffordable fix, Flowers exposes the true injustice of the situation and how it can be remedied, from both sides of the political spectrum. This is a powerful and moving book that deserves wide readership. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Who pays serious attention to the millions of Americans living with or near conditions such as raw sewage, toxic water, and poisonous air? Flowers does. The founder and director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ) uncovers the unsettling details of living standards in stretches of her native Alabama as well as the urban Midwest, central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, Hawaii, Native American reservations, and elsewhere. Her account follows her activism that received attention for social justice work, from high school in Lowndes County through college to teaching at public schools in Washington, DC, Fayetteville, NC, and Detroit, and then back to Lowndes County to organize around environmental justice issues. She describes leading CREEJ to help address both immediate and systemic impacts of inadequate sanitation, health disparities, and poverty in communities marginalized because of who lives there—people who policymakers and society at large dismiss as not worthy of respect, she notes. The book includes a foreword by Bryan Stevenson. VERDICT Mixing memoir, civil rights history, and polemic, this blunt litany by Flowers delivers a call to action for all concerned about sustainable solutions to the shamefully inadequate environmental infrastructure, policies, and practices in the United States.—Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The Equal Justice Initiative’s “Erin Brockovich of Sewage” traces her evolution as an activist and the growing environmental justice movement on behalf of rural Americans whose are losing access to basic sanitation because of racism, poverty and climate change.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Catherine Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that's been called "Bloody Lowndes" because of its violent, racist history. Once the epicenter of the voting rights struggle, today it's Ground Zero for a new movement that is Flowers's life's work. It's a fight to ensure human dignity through a right most Americans take for granted: basic sanitation. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable means of disposing cleanly of the waste from their toilets, and, as a consequence, live amid filth. Flowers calls this America's dirty secret. In this powerful book she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West. Flowers's book is the inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative. It shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards, and not only those of poor minorities"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A Smithsonian Magazine Top Ten Best Science Book of 2020The MacArthur grant'winning 'Erin Brockovich of Sewage' tells the riveting story of the environmental justice movement that is firing up rural America, with a foreword by the renowned author of Just MercyMacArthur 'genius' Catherine Coleman Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that's been called 'Bloody Lowndes' because of its violent, racist history. Once the epicenter of the voting rights struggle, today it's Ground Zero for a new movement that is Flowers's life's work. It's a fight to ensure human dignity through a right most Americans take for granted: basic sanitation. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable means of disposing cleanly of the waste from their toilets, and, as a consequence, live amid filth.Flowers calls this America's dirty secret. In this powerful book she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West.Flowers's book is the inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative. It shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards, and not only those of poor minorities.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The MacArthur grant–winning environmental justice activist’s riveting memoir of a life fighting for a cleaner future for America’s most vulnerable A Smithsonian Magazine Top Ten Best Science Book of 2020 Catherine Coleman Flowers, a 2020 MacArthur “genius,” grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that’s been called “Bloody Lowndes” because of its violent, racist history. Once the epicenter of the voting rights struggle, today it’s Ground Zero for a new movement that is also Flowers’s life’s work—a fight to ensure human dignity through a right most Americans take for granted: basic sanitation. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable means of disposing cleanly of the waste from their toilets and, as a consequence, live amid filth. Flowers calls this America’s dirty secret. In this “powerful and moving book” (Booklist), she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West. In this inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, Flowers shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards—not only those of poor minorities.