Distributed February 5, 2003
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Mary Jo Curtis

Race, Poverty and Environmental Justice

Provost’s lecture series on environmental justice opens Feb. 10

The Center for Environmental Studies and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America will co-sponsor The Provost’s Lecture Series on Race, Poverty and Environmental Justice, a semester-long program that will open Feb. 10, 2003, with a lecture by University of Michigan Professor Dorceta Taylor. Subsequent lectures will feature Darren Ranco (Feb. 24), Winona LaDuke (March 3), Robert Melchior Figueroa (March 10), Julie Sze (April 7), and Devon Peña (April 21). The lectures are free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Center for Environmental Studies and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America will co-sponsor The Provost’s Lecture Series on Race, Poverty and Environmental Justice. The new, semester-long program begins Feb. 10, 2003, when University of Michigan Professor Dorceta Taylor will speak on “Understanding Environmental Justice in Historical Context.”

Co-organizer Rachel Morello-Frosch, assistant professor at the Center for Environmental Studies and in the Medical School’s Department of Community Health, said the series will bring a respected group of scholars to campus to speak about their work on such diverse topics as asthma in New York City, the struggles for water rights among farmers in the Southwest, and the racial and class conflicts in urban park movements. All of the lectures are free and open to the public.

According to Morello-Frosch, “vibrant and diverse movements for environmental justice” have been emerging domestically and internationally during the last two decades, making environmental justice an important area of inquiry for environmental and ethnic studies.

“Struggles for environmental justice have compelled academics and policy-makers to rethink the relationships between community health, sustainable urban development and social justice in new ways that address the needs and concerns of communities of color and the poor,” she said. The lecture series will stimulate dialogue among students and scholars involved in research and advocacy on environmental justice issues, Morello-Frosch said. 

“Hopefully these lectures can catalyze further exchanges and even multi-disciplinary collaborations among academics and advocates who are doing important environmental justice work in various regions of the country,” she said.

The proposal for the jointly sponsored speaker series was developed by Morello-Frosch and Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, with the assistance of Professor of Sociology Phil Brown and Professor of Environmental Studies Harold Ward. It is being funded by the Provost. For more information, call (401) 863-3080 or 863-3449.

The lecture series will include:

Monday, Feb. 10, at noon
Urban Environmental Laboratory, 135 Angell St., Room 106

Dorceta Taylor, associate professor of sociology and African American studies, University of Michigan

“Understanding Environmental Justice in Historical Context: Race, Space and the Development of Urban Parks. The Case of Central Park”

Taylor will examine environmental justice in the historical context of the urban park movement and examine the relationships between several white ethnic groups as well as blacks and Chinese. She will also discuss how wealth and poverty affect environmental experiences and how the economic and political elite influence environmental policies.

Monday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m.
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Pembroke Campus

Darren Ranco, assistant professor of Native American studies/ethnic studies, University of California–Berkeley, and Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Vermont Law School

“Environmental Risk and Normative Science: A Penobscot Indian Critique of State Sanctioned Knowledge”

Ranco will discuss how one Indian nation became heavily involved in an upstream clean water act permit being written by the Environmental Protection Agency and how it resisted and critiqued the imposition of supposedly ‘a-cultural’ identities and knowledge that go along with environmental regulation in the United States.

Monday, March 3, at 7 p.m.
Salomon Center for Teaching, The College Green

Winona LaDuke, lecturer on native environmentalism, University of Minnesota

Convocation Speaker, Women’s History Month

Anishinabe, from the Makwa Dodaem (Bear Clan) of the Mississippi Band, LaDuke lives on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota and is working on a book about native environmentalism (South End Press). She is a spokesperson for the Chippewa people of Northern Minnesota, as well as an organizer of the Honor the Earth National Tour. She is also actively involved with the White Earth Land Recovery Project and the Indigenous Women's Network, both of which she founded.

Monday, March 10, at 5 p.m.
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Pembroke Campus

Robert Melchior Figueroa, visiting assistant professor of philosophy and religion, Colgate University

“Whose Environment? Which Justice?: Transforming Race, Place and Social Location”

The environmental justice movement in the United States has been grounded on promises to transform several major social movements – particularly the environmental movement and the civil rights movement. In his presentation, Figueroa will identify and discuss the transformative implications of environmental justice for ethnic and racial identity, notions of justice and environmental obligations.

Monday, April 7, at 5 p.m.
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Pembroke Campus

Julie Sze, Charles Gaius Bolin Fellow, Williams College, and American studies doctoral candidate, New York University

“Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Place, Power and Waste”

In her presentation Sze will examine New York City environmental justice politics, clean air and asthma activism, as well as how communities of color negotiate themes of race, place and identity in response to urban change, such as the privatization of garbage collection and energy deregulation.

Monday, April 21, at 5 p.m.
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Pembroke Campus

Devon Peña, professor of anthropology and American ethnic studies at the University of Washington, and coordinator of the Ph.D. program in environmental anthropology

“Autonomy, Equity and Environmental Justice”

Peña will draw directly from personal experiences working in the acequía communities, where residents have grappled with the need to address threats posed to their well-being by the disparate impacts of ecological degradation and to pursue the autonomy to control the direction of watershed management in their locale.