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St. Louis environmentalists honored for 2022 Earth Day celebration

Leah Clyburn speaks to the crowd at the McKinley Bridge roadside park on July 24, emphasizing how pollution issues in the St. Louis region transcend state lines.
Eric Schmid
St. Louis Public Radio
Jess Watson, the executive director of earthday365, and Sierra Club partner Leah Clyburn joined “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss the 2022 St. Louis Earth Day Festival.

Leah Clyburn’s goal is to bridge the gap between communities that otherwise attempt to tackle issues on their own. There is power in bringing people together across state and county lines, the environmentalist and community organizer told St. Louis on the Air.

“Like many things, the environment and pollution has no borders,” said Clyburn, a senior training partner for the Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter. “The water flows as it's gonna go and carries [pollution] right along with it, as well as the air that we breathe — it moves from west to east.”

072421_ES_Clean Air March 04.jpg
Eric Schmid
In 2021, community leader Leah Clyburn organized a rally that brought together people from north St. Louis and East St. Louis at the McKinley Bridge to share their individual struggles with the region’s poor air quality.

Clyburn is nominated for a earthday365 Keystone Community Activist award this year. She earned the nod, in part, for her work creating bridges between communities, as she did last summer with a rally for cleaner air in which people from north St. Louis and East St. Louis gathered at the McKinley Bridge.

“We did it to acknowledge that the air pollution — that comes from our coal stacks, that are here in Missouri — is affecting the lives of folks that are in East St. Louis all the way to Chicago,” she said. “When community comes together, we can make real change.”

Jess Watson, the executive director of earthday365, said Clyburn’s ability to bring community members, environmentalists and scientists together to affect change is what earned her the nomination.

“Leah has served as this amazing translator between community groups,” Watson said.

During Tuesday’s discussion, Watson gave a preview of this year’s St. Louis Earth Day Festival, which is back after a two-year hiatus. She also highlighted some of the other sustainability awards nominees being recognized.

Jess Watson and Leah Clyburn discuss environmental justice

“There are so many people in St. Louis that are doing amazing work, and they're flying under the radar,” she said. “So we wanted to bring more attention to those folks and to their projects.” (See the full list of the 2022 nominees here.)

Earthday365 will announce the winners of this year’s sustainability awards at the St. Louis Earth Day Festival at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Related Event
What: St. Louis Earth Day Festival with featured speaker Congresswoman Cori Bush
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23-24
Where: The Muny Grounds in Forest Park (1 Theatre Drive, St. Louis, MO 63112)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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