Luke ColeLuke Cole
Director, Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment

Luke Cole was founder and director of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment. A legal pioneer and graduate of Harvard Law School, he represented low-income communities and workers throughout California who are fighting environmental hazards, stressing the need for community-based, community-led organizing and litigation. Through the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, he also provided legal and technical assistance to attorneys and community groups involved in environmental justice struggles nationwide.

Cole served on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council from 1996 to 2000 and was also a member of Environmental Protection Agency’s Title VI Implementation Committee. He was recognized by American Lawyer magazine, Berkeley’s Ecology Law Quarterly, and the American Bar Association’s Barrister magazine for his impact and achievement in the public sector. Cole was the co-founder and editor emeritus of the journal Race, Poverty & the Environment. He published, with Professor Sheila Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (NYU Press, 2001). He taught as a visiting professor at UC-Hastings School of Law and also taught seminars on environmental justice at Stanford Law School, UC-Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, and Hastings.

Tragically, Cole was killed in a car accident while on sabbatical in Uganda on June 6, 2009. He was a tireless and path-breaking environmental justice leader and an inspiration and mentor to legions of students, activists, and lawyers. He gave selflessly of his time and knowledge in pursuit of a better world for all of us. Cole’s work highlighted that global warming is an environmental justice issue of massive proportions and is already taking a terrible toll on communities in Alaska and around the world. 

Luke Cole’s memorial page may be viewed here, and memorial donations may be made to the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.

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