Waves of Change: Meet Environmental Justice Public Advocate Regina Strong

Waves of Change: Meet Environmental Justice Public Advocate Regina Strong
July 9, 2024 Great Lakes Now

Waves of Change is an online interview series highlighting the diverse faces and perspectives shaping the environmental justice movement throughout the Great Lakes region.

This month, we spoke with Regina Strong, Environmental Justice Public Advocate at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

For anyone in Michigan, there are two important timely things to note from the interview:

In 2019, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the role of Environmental Justice Public Advocate. A “strong” first candidate for the job, with more than 30 years of experience, Regina Strong previously directed Sierra Club’s Michigan Beyond Coal campaign and served as the executive director of Community Development Advocates of Detroit, which helps build affordable housing around the city.

Originally from East Cleveland, Ohio, it was during her time at the Michigan chapter of Sierra Club that she was most influenced in the realm of environmental justice. Strong worked with other social justice pioneers like Rhonda Anderson, who introduced her to things like the Jemez Principles, and Theresa Landrum, who also serves on the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (MAC-EJ) and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART). Monica Lewis-Patrick, who was previously interviewed on Waves of Change, and who Strong refers to as a “water warrior,” has also been a huge motivator for Strong.

“A lot of people separate environmental work from environmental justice work, and unfortunately that still happens a lot,” said Strong. “When really, the people part, needs to be at the core of this, and who’s impacted — no one should have impact. But, if some folks are having more impacts than others, then we need to be able to deal with that. And so, folks who see that link, either from an academic lens or from other perspectives really motivate me because that’s at the core of this role.”

According to Strong, some of the most prescient environmental and public health challenges come down to where people live. Considering the historical context of why people live where they live, is also at the core of this work. Proximity to industry and water quality are huge concerns she often hears from the public.

“It’s so place-based,” said Strong.

Given that Michigan is a Great Lakes state and the home of the Motor City, Strong thinks the intersection of the state’s beautiful nature with its industrial history makes it home to some powerful environmental justice advocates. Even the creation of a state office like where she currently works — it is the first environmental justice advocacy office in the country, which points to the trailblazing potential of caring for the environment (and the people) in this Great Lakes state.

To learn more, listen to the full interview brought to you by Great Lakes Now host, Anna Sysling.

Catch more news at Great Lakes Now: 

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PFAS experts gather to address growing chemical crisis

Featured image: Environmental Justice Public Advocate Regina Strong. (Photo courtesy of Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy)


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