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Wilma Subra Wins 2011 Human Rights Award

Post: March 22 2011 in: Community
Wilma Subra Wilma Subra

LEAN Technical Adviser, Wilma Subra, has been named the Domestic Honoree at the 9th annual Human Rights Awards

Wilma Subra in the field collecting samples.Since 2001, the Human Rights Awards Gala has brought together activists, supporters, and friends to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations working for human rights from around the country and around the world.

On June 1, 2011, the work of Gulf Coast Activist Wilma Subra (Domestic Honoree) will be honored at the 9th annual Human Rights Awards. Wilma is an accomplished environmental scientist who has been on the front-lines fighting for the rights of local communities in Louisiana following the Gulf Spill. This year’s International Honoree is U.N. Ambassador for Bolivia Pablo Solón, a strong proponent of climate justice and the rights of nature.

Global Exchange’s Human Rights Awards are grounded in their commitment to ensuring that the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are respected and upheld by the world’s governments and private institutions. Since their founding in 1988, they have partnered with individuals and organizations throughout the world to educate people about threats to political, economic, social and environmental justice and to activate individuals and communities to confront these problems effectively. With these annual awards, Global Exchange recognizes the contributions of individuals and organizations defending human rights in their own countries and around the world.

Domestic Honoree Wilma Subra’s career as a chemist required that she travel extensively throughout the country, conducting tests on behalf of corporations. Often times, she found information about potential hazards to the communities she visited, but the restrictions of her position prevented her from sharing what she found. As time passed, she found it difficult to reconcile her silence with what she knew to be right.

Finally, she decided she could no longer work for the corporations doing so much harm to so many. So, she went into business for the people–forming the Subra Company, to provide testing and knowledge on behalf of Louisiana citizens in the fight to protect their lives and livelihoods. Bringing her expertise in chemistry and microbiology to bear, Wilma now provides scientific evidence for communities to back up their claims when it comes time to go toe to toe with corporate criminals.

She has worked with communities impacted by natural gas drilling in Texas and Wyoming, has helped communities living near polluted shipyards in San Francisco, and covered the potential impacts of importing Italian nuclear waste through New Orleans. She has trained people in rural areas in techniques for monitoring the health of the communities in which they live — gathering data on air quality and the impact of harmful emissions.

In 1999, Wilma received a MacArthur Genius Grant for her work protecting communities, and she served as vice-chair of the EPA National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). In every capacity, at every turn, she has used her expertise and quiet diligence to help communities in need and spread the word about industry abuses.

Following the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Wilma has been on the frontlines of the struggle for truth. B.P. has consistently claimed that there is no more danger, but Wilma has been relentless in exposing the disastrous reality: oil coating the bottom of the ocean, oil continuing to wash up on shore, oil destroying the life cycles of countless organisms. The challenge of responding to the Gulf oil spill is massive, but Wilma is undeterred. She will continue as she has for the past thirty years: putting her expertise to work, battling a toxic industry with public good.

Visit the Human Rights Awards website here: humanrightsaward.org

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