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Shepard Edits EJ Issue on Climate Change

By Eddy Ball
March 2010

Environmental Justice cover showing hands of multiple ethnicities holding up a globe
The cover of the inaugural issue of the journal Environmental Justice. (Photo courtesy of Karen Ballen and Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.)

Peggy Shepard
Guest editor Peggy Shepard (Heinz Awards photo courtesy of photographer Jim Harrison)

A special issue( Exit NIEHS of the journal Environmental Justice edited by NIEHS grantee Peggy Shepard highlights the disproportionate effects of global warming and pollution on disadvantaged communities worldwide. Shepard, who is executive director of New York-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice( Exit NIEHS, also co-authored a guest editorial on "Climate Justice."

Announcing the special issue, the WE ACT Newsletter said, "Global warming, pollution, and the environmental consequences of energy production impose a greater burden on low-income, disadvantaged communities, and strategies to prevent these inequities are urgently needed." According to an editorial by Environmental Justice Editor-in-Chief Sylvia Hood Washington, Ph.D., the seven original articles - several of them authored or co-authored by NIEHS grantees - are an outgrowth of a 2009 Advancing Climate Justice conference( Exit NIEHS hosted by WE ACT and co-sponsored by NIEHS (watch videos( Exit NIEHS).

The special issue reflects the growing awareness among global health researchers and environmental justice advocates that climate change will be most keenly felt in developing nations and in disadvantaged communities everywhere. In her comments on global health, NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., has reinforced the Institute's awareness of the environmental justice implications of climate change and commitment to support efforts to reduce its impact on public health - most recently by supporting high-profile research on the co-benefits of intervening to mitigate or reverse the effects of climate change (watch video( and by reaffirming support to EJ grantees (see text box).

Shepard's selection as the guest editor is the latest in a long list of honors she has received for her work. Shepard received a Heinz award in 2004 (watch video( Exit NIEHS) and won the prestigious 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership (see story( She has held positions on major environmental health and justice advisory bodies, including the NIEHS National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council and currently serves on the Institute of Medicine's committee on Ethics of Housing-Related Health Hazard Research Involving Children, Youth, and Families.

Affirming Support for Environmental Justice

Birnbaum underscored NIEHS support for Institute-funded programs in the area of environmental justice (EJ), with a statement released at the 2010 Conference on Environmental Justice, Air Quality, Goods Movement, and Green Jobs: Evolution and Innovation; and the Worker Education and Training Program Awardee Meeting in New Orleans Jan. 25-27. NIEHS was a co-sponsor of the meeting in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dillard University.

"We will continue to fulfill our mission as a federal agency by partnering with EPA and EJ communities, championing environmental health research and public health interventions, and pursuing the goal of a safe, healthy, and just environment for all people," she told delegates at the meeting.

Birnbaum emphasized the ongoing commitment of NIEHS to EJ in several areas - the NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) program - the newest tool in the Institute's environmental justice portfolio; safe green jobs training through the Worker Education and Training Program (WETP); and the EJ component of the NIEHS climate change research agenda.

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