A collaboration between Duke University scholars and the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) has focused on environmental justice questions in rural Alabama. In this essay, the partners describe their research on how sewage and related environmental problems intersect with broader social structural issues, and consider how to address these challenges. The authors also reflect on the process by which scholars and community-based organizations can work together, and what goes into a mutually rewarding partnership.
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE). ACRE seeks to address the root causes of rural poverty. She also serves as the rural development manager for the Equal Justice Initiative and as director of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. In addition, she serves as Duke University’s Franklin Humanities Institute practitioner in residence. Her goal is to expose the Third World conditions where rural people live amongst raw sewage. She has characterized this as “America’s Dirty Secret.” Flowers has a master’s degree in history and recently coauthored a peer-reviewed study with scientists from Baylor’s National School of Tropical Medicine that exposed evidence of hookworm and other tropical parasites in the United States.