Environmental justice is having a moment. The term, which encompasses the many ways by which low-income people and communities of color suffer an unequal burden from pollution, contamination, and climate change, has seen a surge in use, largely due to the recent American political campaign and the protests across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder this summer. Those factors, as well as the patterns of infections and death due to COVID-19, focused attention on a number of systemic issues in the U.S., including unfair environmental impacts felt by Black and brown Americans.

Into that political and social moment comes the book Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, written by Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental health researcher, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and a founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice. (She’s also a 2017 Grist Fixer.) The book pulls the curtains back on how poor communities and communities of color in Lowndes County, Alabama — located between Selma and the state capital Montgomery — are reckoning with a lack of adequate sewage infrastructure and the health crises that accompany it.

Flowers says that she wanted readers to see the issues in her book as problems that can get much worse if governments in this country don’t invest in better infrastructure for basic necessities, like access to modern plumbing. She worries that future infectious diseases will spread even more as climate change scrambles weather patterns in the South.

“People that are impacted the most will be those living around raw sewage,” she told Grist. “We see this already with the death rates for people that don’t have [regular] access to water — they can’t wash their hands. We’re also seeing parasites that are living and thriving that we thought had been eliminated. And they’re going to be moving further north as the climate changes.”

You can read more at Grist.org here.