Member Profile: Sue Harden, ACE member

October 20, 2015

Sue is an ACE member and active member of our Massachusetts EJ Alliance.

My husband and I lived aboard our boat in East Boston in the harbor and we got on the subway one day with somebody that had some sort of sticker on. I’d been looking to make connections because I’d been in environmental justice and social justice work my entire life. I met this gal with the sticker and went to a meeting with ACE lawyers Staci Rubin and Gene Benson. We sat around this paper-covered table and I thought, this is really interesting. The people were committed and very, very productive.

The need for an Executive Order on Environmental Justice became evident when I started working with community groups in Chelsea and East Boston. Before, I was an environmental activist and a social activist but I never really saw the intersection of the two.

What I learned through ACE is that they are at a very important intersection. These pieces all fit together. Sometimes I’m talking strictly about environmental justice, or sometimes I’m saying let’s plant more perennials so we can get the carbon back in the soil. It’s all integrated-it’s all pieces of the same puzzle.

In Chelsea and East Boston we were working on the ethanol campaign. It’s just such a pleasure to spend time together and to know you can get the job done and get support from one another. Without camaraderie, it’s pretty hard to do something like this.

The campaign for the EJ EO was as statewide as possible. We started collecting these postcards saying that environmental justice was important. I said that we needed to demonstrate that these came from the state of Massachusetts and not just from ACE and its friends. We wanted to be very sure that we had postcards from everywhere, including Deval Patrick’s hometown. We had them from Fitchburg to Holyoke, from the Berkshires to Boston, from Cape Cod. We covered the state.

I colored in each part of the map that we had postcards from. The map showed that it really was from those individual places, and the number of postcards spoke for itself. We walked in with the map and with the postcards and it was pretty dramatic.

After finally getting it passed and thinking Wahoo, We’re done, we weren’t done. We had to keep the pressure on. Now we’re having listening sessions with all the state agencies on how they will implement the Executive Order.

When we had the Executive Order signed, that was just such a moment. Being in the presence of the group of people-professors from Northeastern, lawyers who are donating their time, and all the other folks-that’s the payoff.

People wonder why would you do something like this, but the payoff is in your heart and in the sense of being a part of something bigger than yourself, making a difference, being able to use that difference and go forward with it. It’s been just a terrific ride.