2012-2013 Theme: Environmental Justice and Global Health

People who are directly impacted by the effects of environmental degradation are often found at the frontline of thought and action to prevent further compromise of the places that they live, work, and play.  These same people have also generally been disadvantaged socially, politically, and economically.  That those who are least well-situated to combat environmental degradation are forced to do just that has lead to an understanding of “environmental injustice” as a global problem in which poor, rural people, people of color, and other marginalized communities are disproportionately burdened by environmental destruction, exposure to pollution, and lack of access to adequate nutrition and clean water.  Communities that are vulnerable to the impacts of environmental problems are often socially and politically disenfranchised so don’t participate in decision making that directly affects the health and well-being of their families and communities, and are economical unable to directly change outcomes. 

Despite growing awareness of the problems of environmental injustice and related impacts on health and sustainability, many communities across the globe continue to be vulnerable or are being put at risk in new ways.   This year's CoE think tank will use our interdisciplinary strengths and practical experience to seek to tackle these complex issues.  Using complementary, yet distinct, disciplinary approaches to examine the connection between environmental justice and global health, we will explore case studies that span the globe (including mountain top removal in Appalachia; environmental activism in East Asia; the struggle for food justice in the US; and the plight of island communities in the face of global climate change).

2012-2013 Scholars' Research:

  • Michael Dorsey, Visiting Professor of Environmental Studies
  • Lori Gruen, Professor of Philosophy, and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Mary Alice Haddad, Associate Profesor of Government
  • William D. Johnston, Chair, Asian Languages and Literatures, Professor of History, East Asian Studies and Science in Society

Lori Gruen
Lori Gruen will use her time in the COE revisiting some of the environmental justice issues that she worked on a number of years ago with a particular focus on the complexities associated with holding some responsible for environmental injustice when there is an absence of direct causation of the environmental problems being faced. In addition to writing an article on this topic, Gruen plans to work on a projec that explores conflicts between wild animals and human populations as habitats shrink and development efforts aimed at empowering human communities increase. She will also contine to work with COE Environmental Philopsohy post-doc, Clement Loo, on a paper that addresses environmental injustice in the funding of environmental health research projects.

Gruen plans to coordinate an event in association with our COE Think Tank on the topic of Environmental Justice and Global Health.

Mary Alice Haddad
Political scientist Mary Alice Haddad will focus on cases across Asia, as she completes a manuscript that documents the successful strategies that environmental activists in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China are using to create positive change among governments, businesses, and citizens in their countries. The vast majority of environmental moveents in East Asia originate directly from concerns about human health. During the 2010-2011 academic year Haddad conducted field reserach in East Asia and found, to her great surprise, that the strategies that activitists as well as government officials claimed to be effective were remarkably simiolalr across undemocratic mainland China, newly democratic South Korea and Taiwan, and in the mature democracy of Japan. All of the strategies have been oriented toward promoting better environmental behavior by individuals, corporations, and/or governments in ways that would improve individual, community and global health.

William Johnston
William Johnston will use his time in the COE to pursue a photographic project of moutaintop removal (MTR) while at the same time continuing his research and writing on the history of cholera in nineteenth-century Japan. He will use large-format cameras to record the impact of mountaintop removal mining on the landscape, communities, and people on which the practice has an impact. Large-format photography, although a nineteenth-century technology, remains unsurpassed in its ability to record images, from mountains to portraits, with breathtaking detail and depth especially when combined with digital printing. (At present, large prints by Johnston that use this technique can be seen in the East Asian Studies Seminar Room.) The final product wil be an exhibition that features large prints, possibly as large as 40 inches high and over 66 inches wide, hopefully at the Zilka Gallery or similar venue on campus. while situating the images with accompanying textual information on the history of the environmental and public health impact of MTR. These images could then also be used on a website that would utilize the student projects from his seminar. When weather and teaching obligations would make continued photographic work impossible,, Johnston will continue work on an ongoing project on the history of cholera in nineteenth century Japan that focuses on the medical, publich health, and popular reactions to the disease through contemporary texts.