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Keynote Address: Renowned Environmental Activist and MacArthur “Genius Grant” Recipient Catherine Coleman Flowers

Event date/time: 
Thursday, February 29, 2024 - 5:30pm
Event Type: 
Event location: 
Student Union Ballroom
UMass Amherst, Amherst, MA, 01003

Catherine Coleman Flowers—internationally recognized environmental activist, critically acclaimed author of “Waste: One Woman's Fight Against America's Dirty Secret,” MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and Vice Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council—will deliver a keynote address for Black History Month.

Flowers is an environmental and climate justice activist who has brought attention to the largely invisible problem of inadequate waste and water sanitation infrastructure in Black, Indigenous, Latinx and poor rural communities of the United States. 

Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Flowers has spent her career promoting equal access to clean water, air, sanitation and soil to reduce health and economic disparities in marginalized, rural communities.   

Flowers sits on the Board of Directors for the Climate Reality Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Geophysical Union, as well as serving as a Practitioner in Residence position at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. In 2021, her leadership and fervor in fighting for solutions to these issues led her to one of her most notable appointments yet: Vice Chair of the Biden Administration’s inaugural White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. In 2023, she was recognized as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the world and was featured on Forbes’ 50 Over 50 list.  

In her book, “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” Flowers shares her inspiring story of advocacy, from childhood to environmental justice champion. In the book, she discusses sanitation and its correlation with systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that affects people across the United States. She and her work have been profiled by CBS’s 60 Minutes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, PBS Newshour, and more.  

Learn more at

Event sponsors include the Toko Lecture Fund by College of Humanities & Fine Arts; School of Earth and Sustainability; Office of the Provost; Isenberg School of Management; College of Natural Sciences; Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (CAFE); Office of Equity and Inclusion; Commonwealth Honors College; School of Public Health and Health Sciences; Clean Energy Extension; School of Behavioral Sciences; Graduate School; and Women into Leadership.

Speaker(s) / Instructor(s): 
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Contact's name: 
Heather Lohr
Contact's email: 
This event will be recorded: 
UMass Amherst Amherst MA