This is an upper division elective for our Environmental Studies majors. For Environmental Science majors, this course may count towards their required upper-division “studies” (i.e. social science or humanities) course. The course also serves as an elective for two minors – Black Studies and American Studies – as well as the Global Health major. It has been a very popular course, with long waiting lists each semester. The course is limited to juniors and seniors at Allegheny College, a selective liberal arts college.
I present Environmental justice (EJ) as both a mode of scholarship and a social movement. We begin with an introduction to EJ as a social movement, and an introduction to ways of thinking about justice, especially within the context of class and racial inequity in the U.S. With this foundation, we read some of the classic EJ studies and begin to understand the patterns of environmental injustice within the U.S., and to form explanations for those patterns. We spend a little bit of time at this point brainstorming ways that individuals and groups intervene in these patterns and processes. After we’ve explored the more classic facility siting and toxics topics in EJ, we turn to a series of case studies that typically include about three of the following: food justice, native American EJ, parks and greenspace, e-waste, unnatural hazards, hydrofracking, nuclearism in the U.S. West, natural resources, or women and EJ movements. To combat the sense of helplessness and despair that many students face at the end of the semester, we spend the culminating two weeks discussing reasons for hope within the EJ movement.
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