Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Chandra Taylor

The intersection between racial equity and climate change has become increasingly clear as marginalized populations, particularly people of color, disproportionately suffer the effects of extreme weather – these groups are also underrepresented among leading environmental groups, depriving them of a seat at the table and input on possible solutions.

There are leaders within the region seeking to change this dynamic, however. One of them is Chandra Taylor, senior attorney and leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Environmental Justice Initiative. She will be one of several speakers at “Invisible Fences: Racial Equity and the Environment,” a breakout session taking place at this year’s Annual Meeting.

Taylor’s leadership was recently recognized by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, which named her its Water Conservationist of the Year.

“Working at the intersection of civil rights and environmental protection, Taylor forced cleanups at contaminated industrial sites at Yadkin River and Badin Lake, stopped water pollution threatening North Carolina communities, and helped shape transit and landfill policies,” the federation said in announcing the award.

Taylor, who grew up in Kinston, North Carolina – one of many in the region devastated by the decline of the textile industry – says her personal experience has had a direct impact on her professional life.

“I was very specific about wanting to do work representing communities of color and low-wealth communities and I’m going to do it in the State of North Carolina because this is the place that I love,” she says. “Social justice is important to me because I saw people who worked really hard but still did not always make ends meet.”

Taylor has led work in North Carolina to force cleanups at contaminated industrial sites, stop water pollution threatening North Carolina communities, and shape transit and landfill policies.

In 2007, she helped lead the overhaul of North Carolina’s Solid Waste Management Act in order to protect lower-wealth communities and communities of color, as well as natural resources, from being disproportionately harmed from landfill-siting.

For all her success, Taylor says it wouldn’t have happened without the support of the people and communities she’s trying to help.

“There’s so many contaminated sites across the Southeast that will never be fully or properly addressed without the assistance of great communities and great lawyers working together,” she said.


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