Michelle Garvey on SUST 3017: Environmental Justice
A crucial, yet often-overlooked, component to sustainability studies is social justice. Spring 2018’s SUST3017: Environmental Justice course argues that no environmental challenge can be met without considering its effects on people—especially the most marginalized among us. Likewise, our social challenges also require careful deliberation over their ecological effects. As you prepare to become a change maker in your career or activism, make sure you’ve laid the foundation to approach the sustainability with the kind of intersectional awareness required of us in the twenty-first century.
Environmental Justice (EJ) introduces the movement for the fair treatment of all people with respect to environmental decisions primarily through case studies investigated in collaborative small group settings. During this introductory period, students will have the opportunity to both appreciate the ways race, gender, class, nation, sexuality, ability, and species impact environmentalisms, and put local, national, and global injustices into conversation with one another.
The course also appreciates that as scholars of sustainability, environmental justice approaches to popular controversies such as conservation, invasive species, population, GMOs, or carbon trading, for example, are too often lacking. EJ therefore devotes considerable time toward appreciating what differentiates environmental justice actions from other kinds of sustainability measures. In this sense, EJ builds students’ capacity for critical thinking.
Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, because environmental justice is an on-the-ground contemporary movement, SUST3017 immerses students in community and contributes student labor toward effecting real change. Our class will have the opportunity to explore a local environmental justice initiative through an experiential learning project. Further, students will be taught the skill of digital mapping—a key method of data collection and dissemination for the EJ movement—in order to produce usable research for a local EJ effort. Check out an overview of last year’s projects for more! (https://cla.umn.edu/gwss/news-events/news/gwss-3590-environmental-disparities-and-sustainability-wins-u-spatial-mapping)
I’m thrilled that Environmental Justice will be offered—for the first time!—through Sustainability Studies, and can’t wait to see how students contribute to this timely, urgent, and hopeful environmental movement.
Teaching Specialist, Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies
Institute on the Environment Educator Fellow
Note: SUST3017 meets the Diversity and Social Justice Liberal Education Theme.