Kimberly Wasserman was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize this year for her organization’s efforts in succeeding to close the ancient and toxic coal-fired power plant in her Chicago neighborhood. The power plant’s emissions have been the cause of 2,800 asthma attacks, 550 emergency room visits, and 40 premature deaths each year, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study. Parents in the neighborhood would keep their children from playing outside because of the overwhelming pollution.
After her 3-month-old baby had an asthma attack due to the plant’s emissions, Wasserman decided to fight back and founded the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. She began canvassing her neighborhood and convincing residents they had a right to live free from the heavy environmental pollution.
Wasserman partnered with other health and environmental groups, and launched a strong campaign to close down the plant, which included picketing, attending public hearings, and organizing “Toxic Tours” of the industrial sites. The campaign succeeded with closing the plant in the fall of 2012.
Wasserman’s organization is currently in negations to prohibit any fossil fuel company from operating on the property. She is also working to transform old industrial sites in the city to parks and open spaces for families to spend time in.