Environmental Justice

With Kirby ManiaEnvironmental Justice

The study of the environment encompasses multiple disciplines across the humanities and sciences. In this course we will pay particular attention to the discourse surrounding environmental justice, considering perspectives from critical race theory, ecofeminism, history, sociology, political ecology, and economics. Emerging as a movement in the early 1980s in the US, environmental justice – now considered a global movement and a matter of global concern – recognizes the “unequal impacts of environmental pollution on different social classes and racial/ethnic groups” (Mohai et al., 2009, p.405). Studies have shown that placement of toxic waste facilities and exposure to environmental pollutants disproportionately affect vulnerable social groups (such as people of colour, indigenous peoples, immigrants, women, minority and low-income communities as well as developing countries). Environmental justice studies emerged as a way in which to research, track, and monitor cases of environmental injustice. Research in this field considers the role that grassroots activists play in raising awareness and their means of enacting meaningful environmental and social change. Scholars also study and evaluate policy decisions that either improve or exacerbate existing conditions affecting at-risk communities. The environmental justice paradigm (EJP) attempts to “link environmental principles with historical and contemporary social and economic justice struggles … hold corporations accountable and to participate in the policy making process” (Taylor, 1997, p.53). In this course, we will be tracing a number of scholarly conversations about the Environmental Justice Movement, looking at literature from the US, but also from Canada and other parts of the world, discussing terms like environmental racism, environmental inequality, intersectionality, slow violence, and the environmentalism of the poor.

This multi-discourse approach to the provided topic provides a foundation for engaging thoughtfully with scholarly conversations and published research across a range of disciplinary perspectives. The course will entail writing about these research perspectives as well as producing research of your own.