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ITHACA, N.Y. — The American Ethical Union has honored Sandra Steingraber, Distinguished Scholar in Residence in the Ithaca College Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, for her “commitment to rescue our nation’s land, water and people from unsustainable, damaging corporate practices.”
Steingraber was presented with the 2015 Elliot-Black Award at the organization’s national assembly on June 29.
Founded in 1876, the American Ethical Union (AEU) creates, nurtures and inspires ethical humanist communities to foster a world that is democratic, compassionate, just and sustainable.
A biologist who researches and writes on the links between human health and the environment, Steingraber is also an activist who has been jailed for acts of civil disobedience protesting a planned natural gas storage facility near upstate New York’s Seneca Lake.
In presenting Steinbraber with the award, the AEU noted, “You stand up to authority with peaceful civil disobedience and demand policy changes…Your advocacy inspires activists to call out for the protection of our environment and our health.”
The Elliot-Black Award is given in recognition and tribute to an individual or organization who has made a significant positive impact on society and the achievement of ethical ideals.
Previous honorees have included social activist Frances Fox Piven, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Innocence Project.
In her acceptance speech, Steingraber took note of those earlier winners.
“The roster of Elliot-Black awardees of years past is a heroic pantheon: whistleblowers; public servants who stood against corruption; journalists who faced imprisonment; advocates for the poor, the homeless, the dispossessed; filmmakers who turned their camera on AIDs and exploited workers and did not blink,” said Steingraber. “I am honored and humbled to stand among them…I accept this award on behalf of the 279 people who have been arrested since last October defending Seneca Lake against gas storage, which is to say, on behalf of those fighting for community, climate, and water, which is life itself.”
In 2013 and 2014, Steingraber was sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to trespassing on property owned by Inergy LLC and refusing to pay a fine. The nation’s largest energy transportation and storage company, Inergy seeks to bury fracked gases in abandoned salt caverns located beneath and beside Seneca Lake.
Steingraber came to prominence with her 1997 book “Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment.” Heralded by the Sierra Club as “the new Rachel Carson,” she has testified before the President’s Cancer Panel and the European Parliament and participated in briefings for members of Congress and United Nations delegates.
Her honors include the Heinz Award, given for significant achievements benefitting the environment; the Rachel Carson Leadership Award from Carson’s alma mater, Chatham College; the Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Fund; and the Environmental Health Champion Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles.
For more information on the American Ethical Union, visit aeu.org. For more information on Sandra Steingraber, visit steingraber.com.