Michelle Simon is a professional environmental scientist and filmmaker. She has 17 years of formal experience across the sectors (civil society, government, academia and private) with a 20 years history as a socio-enviro-political activist. She has priorities her work to focus on the delivery of human rights shelter and basic service needs such as water and sanitation. She has also enforced compliance of developers by protecting natural resources such as rivers, wetlands and groundwater and designed projects at an environmental level to include food security, rainwater harvesting, waste recycling and energy efficiency.
Her work arises from both lived experience and professional experience. Her lived experience formed from birth as an affected person on the receiving end of the externalities of toxic pollution by multinational corporations in one of the worlds most polluted areas, the South Durban Basin in South Africa. The forced apartheid planning of placing the most toxic industry on the doorsteps of black communities predestined her life as a socio-politico-environmental activist and set the pace for her career as a professional scientist delving into the very issues she and countless others were subjected too. As negative as her lived experience was, it grounded her and was fundamental in creating her relentless convictions on protecting the earth and all who lived on it. It also harnessed her appreciation of nature as limited as it was back in apartheid to black communities, nature, green spaces where held in check and so conservation was racist in access.
However, the battles for human rights, environmental justice and social and political freedom where not separate, working as a grassroots activist from the age of 15 years old, she learned that all activists had one common goal, to protect those who needed protection and this included the voiceless wildlife. She grew up breathing polluted air, frolicking in toxic water, playing in oil drenched sand, none the wiser that this was not nature but the ruthless force of unconscionable industry coupled with a racist regime.