The EJ Forum would like to extend our condolences to the family of Steve Wing, environmental justice researcher, advocate, and champion, mentor to many young scholars and activists passed away this week. He was a great leader and even better mentor and friend. His life is an example of how we should fight for social justice, and human unity
As a founding member of the NC EJ Network (NCEJN) and associate professor of epidemiology at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Steve’s impact on environmental policy in North Carolina and on community health is immeasurable. He used his expertise and resources not only to advance the field of environmental health, but also to provide invaluable assistance to communities impacted by industrial harms from Eastern North Carolina to Fukushima, Japan.
In the early 1990s, Steve partnered with Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT), a community-based organization based in Halifax County, to begin documenting the local health and environmental impacts of industrial hog farms, which were growing rapidly across historic African American communities in Eastern North Carolina. Using a community-based participatory research model, the partners ensured that the research results would be shared with community organizers to aid in the fight against the hog industry, thus establishing relationships of mutual trust and improving their ability to conduct more comprehensive, effective research.
Over the course of his career, Steve’s work extended to many other environmental challenges, including correcting the record on radiation exposures and health impacts from the 1979 nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island, highlighting the risks of nuclear waste in North Carolina, the risks of the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in New Hill, NC, and advocating for communities impacted by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. He worked with communities across North Carolina to expose the hidden health effects of agricultural usage of sewage sludge, a byproduct of wastewater sanitation treatment processes. Steve’s research and expert testimony on worker health impacts also lead to the defeat of Sanderson Farms poultry plants in at least two communities in Eastern North Carolina.