MCE 50th Anniversary: Kicking Butt and Taking Names Since 1969

Coalition Report
By Heather Navarro,
Executive Director
Coalition for the Environment


It was 1969, and while all eyes gazed up to the moon, we were focused on the world immediately around us. As Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon’s barren landscape, we were taking our first steps to care for and protect this Earth, this place, our home.

Before there was an EPA or Department of Natural Resources, before there was an Earth Day, recycling bins, or clean water permits, there was the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), the state’s first independent, grassroots citizens group fighting to keep our environment and the people of Missouri safe and thriving.

Fifty years ago we began this work and fifty years later, that effort has led to the tools, policies and laws which form the backbone of environmental protection in our state. You can draw a straight line from the early conservation efforts of one of our founders, Leo Drey, to today’s Food and Farm Program and MCE staff members Melissa Vatterott, Rae Miller and Tosha Phonix, whose efforts are helping make nutritious, locally produced food accessible and affordable for everyone.

From tackling air pollution and pesticide spraying to opposing the Meramec Dam, from advocating for the clean-up of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill to defending the right to clean water, healthy food access, clean energy, and open space for all Missourian – Missouri’s environment is cleaner and her people healthier because of the work of MCE.

Today, we’re still fighting. We’re helping environmentally-responsible farmers thrive, organizing community-led food justice programs, and scrutinizing industrial agriculture projects throughout the state. We’re advocating for clean water and championing the communities that depend on it. We’re protecting Missouri’s precious remaining floodplains and wetlands, pushing for more rigorous water quality standards, and standing up to pollutive industries that threaten our ecosystems and jeopardize public health.

Internally, MCE is actively engaged in identifying, understanding, and dismantling systemic racism and implicit bias within our own organization and throughout the environmental community. We recognize that people of color are disproportionately affected by public health and environmental threats, and lack equal access to many of Missouri’s natural resources. We are committed to becoming a more inclusive, diverse organization, and building a more equitable environmental movement throughout the state of Missouri.

In 2019, we celebrate these 50 years of educating, organizing, and advocating for Missouri’s people and environment. We celebrate the dedication and passion of our founders fifty years ago and the power of those who support this work all across our state today. We cherish our legacy and honor our history by continuing to courageously protect Missouri’s natural resources for the benefit of all and ensure that every Missourian has the tools to hold government and polluters accountable. We are where we are today because of those first steps 50 years ago. Join us in taking the next steps into the next 50 years. Mark your calendars for our 50th anniversary event on November 2nd and check out moenvironment.org to learn more.