Catherine Flowers, the 2017 FHI Practitioner in Residence, is the Executive Director and founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, a nonprofit organization which focuses on leading participatory community development projects to improve infrastructure and quality of life in poor, rural communities in Alabama. Flowers also works with the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization which provides legal assistance to promote civil and environmental justice for marginalized communities, with a specific focus on challenging policies that trap racial minorities in cycles of poverty and injustice. Ms. Flowers is 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. She recently visited Standing Rock to demonstrate solidarity with the protestors. Ms. Flowers is also the Director of Eco-Ministry and Environmental Justice for the Center of Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and participated in the launching of the New Poor People’s Campaign with Reverend William Barber and Repairers of the Breach.

Kyra Josephson (‘18) conducted an interview over email with Catherine Flowers about the importance of her environmental justice work and its connection to human rights.  Below is an excerpt from the interview

KJ: How did you become interested in environmental justice?  How do you view the connection between environmental justice and human rights?

CF: I have always been a lover of the natural world growing up in rural Lowndes County. As I grew up I wondered why birds and wildlife died when the crop dusters sprayed nearby crops. It also made me wonder how it impacted people. Why were certain communities impacted and others were not. And why were all of the people impacted generally poor or minorities. And should all humans have the right to clean air, clean water and live free of contamination? That is the connection between human rights and environmental justice in my view.