Lois Marie Gibbs (born June 25, 1951) is an American environmental activist. A primary organizer of the Love Canal Homeowners Association, Lois Gibbs brought public attention to the environmental crisis in Love Canal. Her actions resulted in the evacuation of over 800 families. She founded the non-profit, Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste in 1981, to help train and support local activists with their environmental work. She continues to work with the organization, renamed the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ).
Gibbs's involvement in environmental causes began in 1978 when she discovered that her 5-year-old son's elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York was built on a toxic waste dump. The complete story was reported on and discovered by Niagara Gazette reporter Michael H. Brown as well as Calspan, a private research group who discovered the chemical leak at Love Canal. Subsequent investigation revealed that her entire neighborhood, Love Canal, had been built on top of this dump. With no prior experience in community activism, Gibbs organized her neighbors and formed the Love Canal Homeowners Association. Gibbs created a petition and reached out to the residents of her neighborhood by going door-to-door to gather support. Gibbs' efforts centered her role as a mother fighting to protect her children's health. She led her community in a battle against the local, state, and federal governments by presenting the signatures to the New York State Department of Health. After years of struggle, 833 families were eventually evacuated, and cleanup of Love Canal began. National press coverage made Lois Gibbs a household name. In addition, president Jimmy Carter mentioned Gibbs as the key grassroots leader in the Love Canal movement during 1980. Her efforts also led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund, which is used to locate and clean up toxic waste sites throughout the United States.
In 1980, Gibbs formed the Citizens' Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, later renamed the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) in 1998, where she currently serves as Executive Director. CHEJ is a grassroots environmental crisis center that provides information, resources, technical assistance and training to community groups around the nation. CHEJ seeks to form strong local organizations in order to protect neighborhoods from exposure to hazardous wastes.
Gibbs has authored several books about the Love Canal story and the effects of toxic waste. Her story was dramatized in the 1982 made-for-TV movie Lois Gibbs: the Love Canal Story, in which she was played by Marsha Mason.
Awards and honors
- The 5th Annual Heinz Award in the Environment (1999)
- Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003
- Awarded an honorary degree from Haverford College for her work as an environmental activist (2006)
- Received an honorary degree, a doctor of humane letters, from Green Mountain College (2009)
- Received an honorary degree, a doctor of Laws from Medaille College (2011)
- Received an honorary degree, a doctor of Public Service, from Tufts University (2013)
- Konrad, K. (28 July 2011). "Lois Gibbs: Grassroots Organizer and Environmental Health Advocate". American Journal of Public Health. 101 (9): 1558–1559. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300145. PMC . PMID 21799116.
- Revkin, Andrew C. (2015-11-25). "Love Canal and Its Mixed Legacy". The New York Times.
- Vaughn, Jacqueline (2017-03-31). Environmental Activism: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 149. ISBN 9781576079010.
- "Center for Health, Environment, and Justice Records, "Biography/History"". 2015.
- "The Heinz Awards :: Lois Gibbs". www.heinzawards.net.
- Konrad, K. (Sep 2011). "Lois Gibbs: Grassroots Organizer and Environmental Health Advocate". American Journal of Public Health. 101 (9): 1558–9. doi:10.2105/ajph.2011.300145. PMC . PMID 21799116.
- CHEJ Staff Page Archived 2008-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.