Grass-Roots Groups Foster Ethics of Whistle-Blowing

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- More than 800 people gathered May 14-16 for the Grassroots National Convention, as part of a concerted effort to deter further incidents of environmental abuse in this country.

These people -- whose neighborhoods are endangered by waste incineration, whose rivers are polluted with toxic waste, whose children are threatened with lead poisoning -- came to tell their stories and develop strategies to achieve what they call environmental justice.

"We believe in building from the bottom up," said Lois Gibbs, founder and director of the Virginia-based Citizens Clearninghouse for Hazardous Waste, which sponsored the convention. "People come to realize they have the power to change laws and fight for a safe environment by making their agenda known to elected officials and industrial leaders."

Gibbs speaks from her own experience. Her fight began in 1978 when she discovered her neighborhood was built on 10,000 tons of buried chemical waste left by Hooker Chemical Co. She organized a local group, The Love Canal Homeowner's Association, which ultimately forced former President Jimmy Carter to order the relocation of 900 families from the contaminated area.

Gibbs started CCHW in 1982 in response to hundreds of calls from citizens nationwide who wanted help in their own struggles for environmental justice. Today, the grass-roots movement works with more than 7,500 citizens groups.

Workshops addressed the hazardous effects of pesticides, medical waste, toxic chemicals, lead poisoning and incineration. …