In addition to being an active community organizer, Dr. Treva Gere is an educator and Army veteran.
Born and raised in Adele, she has lived in Georgia all her life and feels a deep connection to the land. And most importantly, she feels a deep connection with those who bear the brunt of the environmental impact from her two proposed biomass plants in her backyard.
Since June 2020, she is the founder and chairman of Citizens of Concern in Cook County. Dr. Gere holds a PhD in Adult and Career Education from Valdosta State University.
Read our Q&A interview with Dr. Gere to learn about her important work at Adele and the importance of sustaining change across the environmental justice movement.
What is your favorite part of living at Adel?
It’s nearby. Wherever you go, you know someone is connected to you, even if you don’t know the person. It’s a close-knit community with a small-town feel.
I grew up here and my parents still live at home. I have cousins, aunts, uncles and friends who still live in Adèle.
Harmful facilities are often built near predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, continuing a legacy of environmental injustice. Tell us about repeated environmental injustices near you.
We have a legacy of pollution.
Our timber industry has a filthy past and is close to facilities that are not good for the community. The Del-Cook Lumber Company is an old lumber yard where utility poles were built and soaked in arsenic and other toxins that contaminate groundwater and soil. To this day, it has never been properly cleaned up and is located right next to a predominantly black community and closest to the poorest neighborhoods.
Along the way, many people adjacent to that community have cancer. Some even lost their lives because of it.
The Del Cook lumber yard is abandoned, but the contaminated land is still there. In fact, it’s right by the Housing Authority and has received complaints that the water in the community smells bad and causes skin problems. Something isn’t right — the water stinks.
Advanced cylinders and tanks is another dirty industry that still operates today. It is the propane tank reclamation business that pollutes the air with a highly volatile chemical called ethyl mercaptan. You can detect that there was an actual leak because you can smell it throughout the community. A lot of the time I drive through town and can’t roll down the window when I’m in the neighborhood.
These environmental injustices are not hidden. they are self-explanatory.
I have always valued justice. As Martin Luther King said, “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Environmental injustice is at our knees, and it’s blatant.
We see a connection between environmental justice and civil rights. I believe in social justice and the importance of doing what is right for humanity. I’ve always been an environmental champion, but when it comes to the back door, it’s a different story. And through this fight, I have learned about many other environmental atrocities. People show up to fight these industries, but no one listens.
You cannot fight this battle alone. I am enlisting the help of other warriors of Cook County Citizens of Concern.
How do the 4Cs work with each other and within the community?
We are building capacity. We have many members who work day jobs and do this during their volunteer time. We understand the importance of it, so we truly work from the heart. Looking ahead, we need to pull in more memberships to keep things going and keep people from getting too tired.
It’s all about sustaining change. We can’t sleep in battle.
Dr. Treva Gere
I was thinking of starting a youth leadership program within the 4Cs. Because if we don’t empower our young people to fight the same battle, we can’t sustain results. I have to teach them how to fight, have them fight with me, and be able to hand over the baton when I can no longer fight.
What we have been doing is sustaining change. No matter how far we have come, people are still fighting for their civil rights today. You can’t sleep in battle.
What does 4C want to happen with Spectrum’s plans for a biomass facility?
In August, we filed a petition with the Georgia Office of Administrative Hearings to express our concerns about air quality permits. The best-case scenario is that our appeal will result in the revocation of the permit. point blank. period.
Spectrum must dismantle the plant and find a truly green industry that doesn’t pollute the air. We want to stop this factory and other similar industries from polluting our doorstep. When we know better, we should do better.
The audacity of the spectrum to put another plant in our community, exacerbate our health problems and cause even more – it should be a crime. This is the second biomass plant proposed.
On the regulatory side, I hope we can set a precedent for how these industries are treated when it comes to the EJ community.