Conference examines future of environmental justice, celebrates career of Bunyan Bryant

September 12, 2012
Jim Erickson,
Angela Fichera, (734) 615-5753,

Bunyan Bryant. Image credit: School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentBunyan Bryant. Image credit: School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentANN ARBOR—The legacy and future of the field of environmental justice is the focus of a conference organized by the University of Michigan Oct. 4-6 at the Ann Arbor Sheraton Hotel.

The event also celebrates the contributions to that field by Bunyan Bryant, who is retiring after a 40-year career as an activist, researcher and mentor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

The conference’s purpose is to give tribute to his contributions while offering attendees fresh insights from leading activists, academics and government leaders. The event coincides with the 30-year anniversary of the historic Warren County landfill protest in North Carolina, which many consider the start of the modern environmental justice movement.

The event, titled “Honoring the Career of Bunyan Bryant: The Legacy and Future of Environmental Justice,” is open to the public, but registration is required.

“This conference gives us an opportunity to both reflect on the past 30 years in the environmental justice movement but also to look forward and think about the key challenges we are facing, and what the action plan is for addressing those challenges,” said Marie Lynn Miranda, dean of SNRE. “This conference is directly relevant for people on the front lines, in communities fighting pollution, dumps and other sorts of adverse environmental exposures. It is relevant for anyone who holds equality of opportunity as a core value.”

The event begins with an evening reception Thursday, Oct. 4. The formal conference begins with a full-day session Friday, Oct. 5, and concludes with a half-day session Saturday, Oct. 6. On Friday evening, a tribute dinner is planned to celebrate Bryant’s contributions to the university, SNRE and the field he has long championed. Conference organizers include SNRE environmental justice professors Paul Mohai and Dorceta Taylor and emeritus SNRE Dean Jim Crowfoot.

With keynote speakers and breakout sessions, the event will culminate with the creation later this year of an action document for the movement. Bryant’s goal for the conference is to add substantively to the field by creating a guide that can serve and inform the work of activists and scholars in coming years.

An impressive list of leading environmental justice researchers and advocates are scheduled to attend and participate, including:

  • Grace Lee Boggs, founder of the Detroit-based Boggs Center
  • Jose Bravo, executive director of Just Transition Alliance
  • Robert Bullard, professor and dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University
  • Deeohn Ferris, president and founder of Sustainable Community Development Group
  • Michel Gelobter, founder and chairman of Cooler Inc.
  • Vernice Miller-Travis, a senior associate at Skeo Solutions Inc.
  • Richard Moore, senior adviser and special projects coordinator at the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice
  • David Pellow, professor and Don Martindale Endowed Chair at the University of Minnesota
  • Michele Roberts, co-director of Environmental Justice and Health Alliance
  • Peggy Shepard, executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice
  • Gail Small, executive director of Native Action
  • Donele Wilkins, president and chief executive officer of the Green Door Initiative
  • Beverly Wright, director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University

U-M co-sponsors are the Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, School of Public Health, School of Social Work, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and Center for the Education of Women.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice also will have a presence at the conference. EPA officials will conduct on-camera interviews with key participants as part of a video series marking the office’s first 20 years. The series features federal, state and local government officials, nonprofit leaders, students and academics sharing stories about the lessons learned while working on environmental justice issues since the office was created in 1992.

For registration information and additional conference details, visit



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