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Week of January 11, 2010

MLK: Environmental justice advocate says Obama brings optimism

Vernice Miller-Travis, an urban planner and a longtime environmental justice advocate, will present an MLK Symposium lecture titled “Now is the Time” at 5 p.m. Jan. 19 in the Michigan League’s Vandenberg Room.

The lecture is part of the School of Natural Resources and Environment Dean’s Speaker Series.

Miller-Travis has been a leading voice in the environmental justice movement for more than 20 years and says she’s “never felt as hopeful as I feel right now.”

The concept of environmental justice is based on the principle that environmental laws and protections should extend to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Miller-Travis said her optimism stems largely from President Obama’s appointment of several environmental-justice experts to key positions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, and now we have a lot of highly qualified people in place, at the federal level, to help us accomplish that work. It’s a new day,” says Miller-Travis, lead consultant at the Miller-Travis & Associates environmental consulting firm and an adviser to the EPA on issues of environmental justice.

Miller-Travis said it’s fitting that she will speak about environmental justice at U-M’s MLK Symposium. The environmental justice movement was an outgrowth of the civil rights movement, and it has deep roots at the university. In 1990 SNRE Professors Bunyan Bryant and Paul Mohai published one of the first major scholarly books examining the links between race, class and environmental hazards.

“Vernice Miller-Travis is a nationally recognized policy analyst and advocate in the field of environmental justice, with both grassroots and Washington experience,” says SNRE Dean Rosina Bierbaum. “As one of the country’s earliest academic environmental justice programs, SNRE is honored to have her be part of the school’s Winter Dean’s Speaker Series and to co-sponsor the lecture with the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.”

In addition to being the title of her lecture, “Now is the Time” is the title of a forthcoming report that will examine new opportunities to advance environmental justice during the Obama administration. Miller-Travis is helping to write the report, which is sponsored by the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. SNRE’s Mohai is a contributing author.



Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, on her greatest passion: “Working to improve the physical and virtual accessibility to all of our community, regardless of individual physical or mental challenges.”


  • Arts & Bodies, Dec. 18-Jan. 15, 2010, Work•Detroit, 3663 Woodward Ave, Detroit
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