If Catherine Flowers ever received a calling to take on a career in environmental activism, it likely came in the form of mosquito bites.
In 2009, Flowers was doing economic development work in her hometown of Lowndes County, Ala., where raw sewage leaked into the yards of poor residents who lacked access to a municipal sewer system.
On one visit, she met a pregnant woman whose toilet waste flowed into a pit right outside her mobile home. The mosquitoes swarming the pit attacked Flowers.
Days later, her body had broken out in mysterious red blotches.