Collaborative Research Project Tackles Environmental and Social Inequities in Alabama

Catherine Flowers and Duke team members in Lowndes County

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE). Since 2015, she has partnered with the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Nicholas School of the Environment to find solutions for the lack of wastewater infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama.

The situation exemplifies the social and environmental inequities facing rural communities of color in the American South, which include endemic poverty, lack of economic opportunity, hazardous health conditions, and inadequate infrastructure.

A recent article by Flowers and Duke’s Erika Weinthal, Elizabeth Albright, and Emily Stewart, “Solution-centered Collaborative Research in Rural Alabama” describes the ongoing environmental justice project in Lowndes County.

This year, an interdisciplinary network led by Duke graduate students has taken the lead in diagnosing the interlaced physical, financial, legal, and political barriers to sanitation access in Lowndes County and evaluating potential solutions.

Next year, Flowers will be involved in a Bass Connections project team with colleagues from the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Duke Human Rights Center.