A stint as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica inspired Jacqui Patterson to take on the rights of the environment. Now she is a champion of the people and the environment as she serves as the Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.
Fighting against corporate violations of the Clean Air Act and fighting against companies that want to pollute our fresh water takes Patterson to battlegrounds around the world. On March 3 and 4, she will be a keynote speaker and convene a workshop at the 12th annual Sustainability Summit in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center. MATC is a host sponsor of the summit.
Patterson will be on a panel with Will Allen of Growing Power, Magda Peck of the UWM Zilber School of Public Health, and Claire Gervais, M.D., Department of Medicine and Public Health for UW-Madison. They will be discussing the status of sustainable food supplies and public health. Milwaukee’s own Will Allen has led the movement to growing fresh foods in container gardens that can be grown in most any location. Milwaukee has many food deserts in the inner city, which causes the residents to have a diet high in salt, sugar and empty calories. This poor diet also leads to obesity and low immune systems.
“Seventy-one percent of African-Americans live in counties that are in violation of the Clean Air Act,” Patterson said. That strongly contributes to the high amount of asthma and other respiratory ailments among the urban dwellers. The Wisconsin Department of Health says that more than 400,000 adults have been diagnosed with asthma and that obese persons are more likely to be at risk of contracting asthma due to the added stress on their lungs. The department also noted that adults from the lowest annual household income levels are at higher risk and are five times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma than whites.
Patterson will also participate in the breakout session on climate change and health: What Can We Do About It? In her current position with the NAACP and several other past organizations, Patterson has waged battles and won wars against corporate polluters. Her challenges against coal- fired power plants are legendary. “Sixty-eight percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal- fired power plant,” Patterson stated. These plants emit high amounts of mercury, sulfur, lead and other contaminants into the environment. Coal is responsible for 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Her workshop will stimulate battle plans to improve the air and water quality here in Wisconsin. One of the best weapons is to follow the money to discover the real culprit.
All students can attend the summit free of charge, and are encouraged to attend the job/career fair.
There are many strong-paying job opportunities in the environmental arena, including water technology, earth and soil management, building trades, and sustainable energy growth and management. The career fair will take place on Wednesday, March 4 from 2 – 5 p.m. with a networking reception held from 5 – 6 p.m. To register for the summit or to volunteer, go to the website at www.sustainabilitysummit.us.