Environmental health activist Peggy Shepard to deliver Carleton convocation

January 28, 2020
By Leander Cohen '22

Environmental health activist Peggy Shepard will deliver Carleton College’s weekly convocation address on Friday, Jan. 31, from 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel. In her presentation, titled, “A Community Perspective on Environmental and Climate Justice,” she will discuss her work to advance environmental justice in urban communities.  

Shepard is the co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a West Harlem-based environmental advocacy organization that seeks to empower and organize low-income people of color to build healthy communities. WE ACT also serves as the lead organizer of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change, a national coalition of 41 environmental justice organizations working to advance climate policy to ensure the protection of vulnerable communities. By combining grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and community-based environmental health research, the organization has become a national leader in promoting environmental justice in urban communities.

A former journalist, Shepard has worked in publishing and as a state housing official. In the late 1980s, she was elected Democratic Assembly District Leader for West Harlem. While campaigning for the position, she learned that the city’s largest sewage treatment plant, originally located in a white, upper-middle class neighborhood, was being constructed in her community. Realizing that her community was being targeted to carry the disproportionate burden of pollution, Shepard began to shift her focus toward environmental justice advocacy.

Shepard currently serves on numerous non-profit and governmental advisory boards, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Earth Day NY, and the OneNYC Advisory Board. She has also co-authored research articles in Environmental Health Perspectives and the American Journal of Public Health. Her work has received broad recognition, including the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and honorary doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.

Shepard received her B.A. from Howard University.

Convocation is sponsored by Carleton College Events. For more information, including disability accommodations, call (507) 222-4308. The Skinner Memorial Chapel is located at First and College Streets in Northfield.

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