Catalyst Summer 2016

The Power of Science + Activism

Sue Anderson


UCS National Advisory Board member Sue Anderson’s advocacy for social justice is powered by science

From her small farm in Colorado, where she and her wife grow organic vegetables, keep bees and chickens, and tend an orchard, longtime community activist Sue Anderson has a clear perspective on the unintended consequences of agricultural policy.

Corporate, industrial farming practices have normalized the use of potent herbicides and insecticides across the nation, Anderson says. The result, she says, is a “double whammy” that yields poisoned soil and sick and dying bees— eliminating the variety of flora and fauna necessary to maintain the productivity of our agricultural lands.

“We need a different model for growing our food,” she says. “Pollinators like bees don’t have diverse food sources to land on, and then the crops they do land on are often poisonous to them.” After learning about widespread bee deaths, Anderson and her wife have focused on creating habitat on their land for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Partners for Change

As a sustainable farmer, Anderson is especially enthusiastic about the recently launched HEAL Food Alliance, a coalition uniting the Union of Concerned Scientists and other food justice organizations in advocacy for a just and healthy food system. Working to discourage the indiscriminate use of harmful pesticides and herbicides is just one of the HEAL Food Alliance’s many initiatives; Anderson appreciates the coalition’s range of expertise. “It’s important to bring together organizations, activists, and thought leaders from different perspectives to really re-envision how we do food in this country—how we can make our food system work better for more people,” she says.

Anderson is no stranger herself to taking local action to combat large-scale, systemic problems. She majored in environmental studies in college and has worked in international development, against nuclear proliferation, and for LGBT equality and economic justice. She joined UCS to help strengthen the scientific basis of her activist work.

“I appreciate that UCS provides data that can be translated into activism and public policy,” Anderson says. “I think it’s one of the most important organizations providing information and policy leadership to make the changes we need to protect our environment, on many different levels.”