Paul Mohai, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
Paul Mohai is Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and Faculty Associate in the Social Environment and Health Program at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Professor Mohai has been studying the pattern of evidence pertaining to the disproportionate burdens of environmental hazards in low-income and people of color communities since the late 1980s. He has also been researching the environmental attitudes, concerns, and actions of African Americans and their influence on the environmental movement. His current research involves national-level studies examining cause and effect relationships in the distribution of environmental hazards by race and class and solving methodological problems in environmental justice research.
He is also working with colleagues to examine what role environmental factors play in accounting for racial and socioeconomic disparities in health and mortality. Professor Mohai was an organizer with Bunyan Bryant of the 1990 Michigan Conference on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards, and member of the "Michigan group", which has been credited for placing environmental justice on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's policy agenda. He is co-editor of the book, Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards: A Time for Discourse, and author of numerous papers on the subject of race and the environment, he was appointed Principal Investigator of the University of Michigan?s annual Detroit Area Study.
Professor Mohai served on the National Advisory Committee of the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held in Washington, D.C. In the early 1990s, he was member of the Michigan Group advising the U.S. EPA. In 1993 and in 1999, he testified before the U.S. Congress about the research and evidence pertaining to environmental inequalities. Professor Mohai teaches courses in Environmental Justice, Environmental Public Opinion Analysis, and Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan.
Charles Reith, Adjunct Professor of Management
The Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer; AB Freeman School of Business at Tulane University
Charles Reith is an Adjunct Professor with the Payson Center, where he teaches environmental courses and supports environment-related initiatives. Charles also teaches courses in energy and environmental management at the AB Freeman School of Business at Tulane University. Dr. Reith is a consultant and entrepreneur in the environmental field. As a partner of FullCircle LLC, he plans and directs the development of recycling ventures, especially related to organic waste. He is an expert in vermi-composting the use of redworms for converting animal waste to organic fertilizer and in alternative systems for agriculture and horticulture.
Florence Robinson, Retired Professor Southern
University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
5th Annual Heinz Award Recipient
For more than a decade, Florence Robinson waged a virtual one-woman war against toxic wastes. Her battlefield has been "Cancer Alley," an 80-mile strip of land along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana where low income, minority communities exist side by side with large industries. Since she accepted a position as professor of biology at her alma mater, Southern University, in the early 1970s, Ms. Robinson has lived in the small community of Alsen, near Devil's Swamp. Once an idyllic spot, Alsen was home to many newly freed slaves who, settling there after the Civil War, enjoyed cool, clean water and plentiful harvests. That ended in 1964 when an industrial "borrow" pit was opened in Alsen to dispose of hazardous waste. The area was further fouled by 11 nearby petrochemical plants, a commercial hazardous waste incinerator, and several waste landfills.
Her fight against the racism, greed, and ignorance that contributed to the degradation of her community's health and cultural fabric yielded its first major victory in late 1997. One of the major polluters in her area agreed to stop the burning in a hazardous waste incinerator. The facility was then dismantled at the end of 1998. After years of exposure to a disproportionate share of the worst byproducts of our technological advances, Florence Robinson said, "enough is enough" and insisted on being taken seriously. Florence Robinson shared the Heinz Award in the Environment for her tireless fight against industrial polluters who foul the land and threaten the health of communities with chemical and other hazardous wastes.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.