Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's Environmental Passion

Lisa Jackson is currently the Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives at Apple; however, this environmentalist's historical significance does not start there. Jackson was the first African-American to serve as the Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2009, she was named as one of Newsweek's "Most Important People in 2010" and featured on Time magazine's 2010 and 2011 lists of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."

During her time with the EPA, Jackson outlined principles to modernize America's 30-year old chemical management laws. She called for unprecedented innovation in drinking water protection efforts, and announced tough standards to clean the air we breathe. Her passion was helping vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and residents of low-income areas who faced threats and health issues caused by the environment. Jackson concentrated on expanding educational outreach to communities, reducing greenhouse gases, ensuring air and water quality, and preventing exposure to toxic contamination.

National Public Lands Day, Lisa Jackson

Her passion for the environment arose as a young person watching news coverage of the Love Canal tragedy in the late seventies. For context, historian Dr. Jordan Kleiman explains, "Love Canal is an aborted canal project branching off of the Niagara River about four miles south of Niagara Falls. It is also the name of a fifteen-acre, working-class neighborhood of around 800 single-family homes built directly adjacent to the canal. From 1942 to 1953, the Hooker Chemical Company, with government sanction, began using the partially dug canal as a chemical waste dump."

As you might imagine, the situation did not end well for the residents of Love Canal. Some experienced illnesses like asthma, migraines, and epilepsy. In addition, pregnant women had high rates of miscarriages, and a stunningly abnormal amount of babies was born with birth defects. Regrettably, the state government was implicit in the cover-up. Meanwhile, a passionate heart was forming in young Lisa Jackson, who would eventually make a difference in environmental policy.

Lisa Jackson with President Obama

Jackson majored in chemical engineering, receiving her undergraduate degree from Tulane University and her master's degree from Princeton. As head of the EPA, Jackson would champion the rights of stakeholders in decision-making processes for their communities. Speaking at a Martin Luther King Celebration in 2010, Jackson addressed the social impacts of the environment, saying, "Environmental challenges have the power to deny equality of opportunity and hold back the progress of communities."

Taking on a new challenge in 2013, Jackson left the EPA to work for Apple. The former administrator reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and her responsibilities include minimizing the tech giant's impact on the environment. The job entails addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials, and inventing new ways to conserve precious resources.

At 60 years old, Jackson is a vibrant and inspirational figure for African Americans and women who want to invoke environmental change. Notwithstanding, her span of influence is not limited to race or gender because good work for the environment affects the entire world.