Right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur’s backdoor.

Laur lives in Anderson, North Carolina, a rural township with just over 2,000 people (and zero cell towers). It is one of the many predominantly Black communities in the United States experiencing a perfect storm of injustices threatening the health of residents and their environment.

Predominantly Black neighborhoods in the U.S. have historically been exposed to higher rates of air pollution. Specifically, Black people in America are exposed to about 1.5 times more particulate matter—a form of air pollution known to cause cancer—than White people.

These days, the risks are even higher. Because exposure to air pollutants decreases lung function, communities in polluted areas are more susceptible to COVID-19; a recent Harvard study found that people in areas with high particulate matter are 8% more likely to die of the coronavirus than those in areas where the pollution is just one unit lower.

The plant that would threaten Laur’s health and home was awaiting the approval of an air permit by the North Carolina Department of Air Quality which, if approved, would basically greenlight the project. “This made me get out and go door to door,” Laur says. One by one, she alerted her neighbors to the prospect of the asphalt plant. In the end, three neighbors joined her efforts—the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, Anita Foust, and Bill Compton. Together, they formed the Anderson Community Group to advocate for environmental justice in their community.

Read the full article about advocating against pollution by Isabella Garcia at Yes! Magazine.