Grassroots icon still making a difference in communities across America


Love Canal opponent and lifelong environmental activist to speak at Fairfield University. Public is invited to this free event.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (March 25, 2015) – In the spring of 1978, 27-year-old housewife Lois Gibbs discovered her child was attending an elementary school next to a 20,000-ton toxic chemical dump in Niagara. Desperate to do something, she organized the Love Canal Homeowners Association, beginning one of the most publicized environmental fights in modern American history and launching Gibbs towards a lifetime of activism and service.

Gibbs, now the executive director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), will appear at Fairfield University on Wednesday, April 29, as a guest speaker at an environmental law and policy class. The class will begin at 2 p.m. with a screening of the documentary “The Poisoned Dream: The Love Canal Nightmare,” and Gibbs will offer remarks at 2:45 p.m. The public is invited to the free event, which will take place in the Dolan School of Business, Room 110A. She will also be honored as a fighter for justice at the annual Law Day luncheon of the St. Robert Bellarmine Pre-Law Society earlier in the day.

The Pre-Law Society is sponsoring Gibbs’ visit.

Gibbs’ fight at Love Canal was an uphill battle. Opposing the homeowners association, Occidental Petroleum, as well local, state and federal government officials insisted the leaking chemicals at the dump, including dioxin, were not the cause of the health problems experienced by residents, which included high rates of birth defects, miscarriages, cancers and other maladies. However, in October 1980, President Jimmy Carter delivered an emergency declaration, which moved 833 families from this dangerous area and signified a victory for the grassroots community group.

Passionate about helping others in similar situations, Gibbs founded CHEJ in 1981. Her vision has guided the organization’s efforts to provide critical organizing and technical assistance to communities engaged in their own environmental struggles. She sits on numerous boards and advisory committees. She holds honorary degrees from SUNY-Cortland, Haverford College, Green Mountain College, Medaille College, and Tufts University. In 1990, she received the Goldman Environmental Prize and she has also won the 1998 Heinz Award and the 1999 John Gardner Leadership Award.

For more information on this event, contact Sharlene McEvoy, Ph.D., J.D., professor of business law, at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2836 or SAMcEvoy@fairfield.edu.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 26, 2015

Vol. 47, No. 221

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