Coleman-Adebayo’s memoir recounts the legal battle culminating in the 2002 No FEAR Act, “the first civil-rights and whistleblower act of the 21st century.”
Steeped in the history of the civil-rights and women’s movements and blessed with a keen intellect, the author earned degrees from Barnard College, Columbia University and MIT. In 1990, she was on track toward a promising career with the EPA, considered one of the most progressive federal agencies. However, Coleman-Adebayo soon sensed that all was not well. Pay discrepancies ran along racial and gender lines, and white men dominated the ranks of the executives. During a trip to South Africa as a member of the Gore-Mbeki Commission, the author witnessed the “systematic, verifiable, environmentally devastating” effects of vanadium mining, a metal considered strategic by the CIA. She was quickly stymied by her superiors in her efforts at solving the South African environmental issues. Once she reported her belief that “the EPA [was] covering up crimes…being committed by an American multinational corporation against the people of South Africa,” to the Washington Post, she became a whistleblower. Workplace retaliation was swift, resulting in her filing a complaint against the EPA. Weaving together her personal records with the transcript of the federal civil trial, in which she prevailed, the author provides an insider view of the legal tactics used at the highest level of government. Coleman-Adebayo also recounts the shenanigans surrounding the subsequent hearings and the strenuous political process involved in the unanimous passage in both houses of Congress of the No FEAR Act.
Though the narrative bogs down in a large cast of characters, this is an inspiring and worthwhile trek through one woman’s brave battle against a system favoring the powerful.