Eco-Equality. (the Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members)

Article excerpt

Rhonda Anderson ends every phone call and e-mail with a single word: "Peace."

It's something that's in short supply in her home of Detroit, where 26 percent of inner-city residents live in poverty and one in every 100 people falls victim to violent crime each year. As an organizer with the Sierra Club's environmental-justice program, Anderson is exposing the hidden connections between these social ills and environmental ones--and helping local residents fight both.

Nationwide, dirty power plants and other toxic-spewing facilities are more likely to be located in low-income areas and communities of color, like the Riverbend neighborhood that surrounds an abandoned Continental Aluminum recycling plant on Detroit's east side. Although no one knows exactly what kind of contamination the company left behind, residents have high levels of asthma and lead exposure, which has been linked to learning disabilities and increased criminal behavior. Anderson is working with local activists to get the Continental site closed off, tested, and cleaned up.

But that won't be the end of the story. Concealing at least 19 city and county environmental and safety violations in a decade at Riverbend, in 1998 Continental relocated to Lyon Township, a once-rural suburb about an hour from downtown Detroit. …