Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, has a history of fighting for environmental justice. It began when residents started investigating why local asthma rates were so high.

Photo of activists with sign.

Kimberly Wasserman of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization says they were surprised to find a coal-fired power plant hidden in their community.

WASSERMAN: “And this is something that most folks think is easily recognizable, but it wasn’t. It was tucked away in the industrial corridor of our neighborhood, right off the highway, and the reality is they gave off white smoke which was very unassuming – it wasn’t black, it didn’t smell.”


Yet, the plant was spewing dangerous sulfur dioxide into the air. Local residents campaigned for more than ten years, and the plant finally closed in 2012. Today the legacy is an engaged and environmentally-conscious community. Little Village now boasts a 22-acre park, a new bus line, and community gardens. Residents are helping to decide how to redevelop the site of the former coal plant in a way that supports the local economy.

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And Wasserman’s organization is developing a climate adaptation plan to address local concerns such as flooding and help ensure environmental justice and security for Little Village residents.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Activists from the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Rising Tide North America, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and the Backbone Campaign climbed the fence of the controversial Crawford coal plant in Little Village and unfurled a 7’ x 30’ banner, which reads: “Close Chicago’s Toxic Coal Plants.” Photo credit: RAN.

More Resources
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization website
Meet the woman who shut down Chicago’s dirty coal plants
Looking out for climate change in Chicago
People of color are already getting hit the hardest by climate change
Pollution’s racial divides

Erika Street Hopman is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media, an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. ChavoBart Digital Media contributes original reporting,...