Saturday, July 11, 2009

Luke Cole (In Memoriam), Founder and Director of Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

Although the term "environmental justice" is somewhat commonplace now, twenty years ago when Luke Cole started the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, he was a pioneering attorney developing the concept and the law. Luke died last month - far too soon, but his mark on the world will not soon fade. Luke fought for low income people and people of color to have a seat at the table and to actively participate in decisions impacting their environmental health and quality of life. He helped people stop toxic waste and tire burning incinerators, clean up dirty oil refineries, and beat back mega-dairies in the Central Valley of California. He trained numerous aspiring lawyers (myself included) to remember that the environmental justice lawyer's job is to ride shot gun, provide good strategy, and not get in the way of the movement.

Unfortunately, I could find only two video clips of Luke, and neither tell his story well enough to be satisfying. He is and will be missed, but his spirit lives on in all who knew him and continue to fight for justice.

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