Elizabeth C. Yeampierre is an internationally recognized Puerto Rican environmental/climate justice leader who was born and raised in New York. At the onset of her professional career, she saw that communities of color would be the most impacted by climate change, and so she felt compelled to commit her life’s work to climate justice. Twenty years on, she continues to assume the role of Executive Director at UPROSE, which is Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. There, she tirelessly works to secure her place at the vanguard of a movement in which people and the planet are valued above all else. Looking ahead, she hopes to build a relentless, unstoppable groundswell that will effectively slow down climate change.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
I became involved in the environmental justice movement because the discriminatory siting of environmental burdens in communities of color was giving our community asthma, cancer, and other life threatening health issues. Similarly, my work in climate justice began because communities of color will be the most impacted by climate change. My work in EJCJ started when community residents asked me to help them stop the expansion of the Gowanus Expressway.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake. Today I work to train intergenerational frontline leadership dedicated to moving our community away from an extractive economy to one that respects people and the planet , while also working to operationalize just transitions initiatives that provide 100% renewable energy like community owned solar and off shore wind.
What do you find most fulling about your work?
The most fulfilling part of my work is transformation- For example, when a young person feels their power and recognizes they are descendants of resilient people who imagined and fought for a better world- or when a local mom and pop shop recognizes that their family and economic future will be impacted by climate change and become involved.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
Stopping the siting of a 520 megawatt power plant while doubling the amount of open space in Sunset Park. Our greatest challenge right now is working at the intersection of racial injustice and climate change in the face of an administration bent on rolling back civil rights to the 1950s.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
It is my hope that we build a relentless, unstoppable groundswell that will effectively slow down climate change – and in Brooklyn , that we use our industrial sectors to build for climate adaptation, resilience, renewable energy and climate neutral buildings.
Who would you nominate for this list? I would nominate Cameron Russell – a Brooklyn based super model who works diligently to support grassroots struggles for racial and climate justice.