This interdisciplinary course examines the reality of systemic environmental inequalities in the United States and globally, with particular attention to the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in the 21st century. Theoretical frameworks include environmental justice, ecofeminism, human-nature dualisms, agency, and intersectionality.
Climates of Resistance familiarises students with the myriad ways in which racism is manifested in contemporary environmental policy and practice—and the multiple means through which marginalised communities respond to and transform unjust realities.
The course begins by introducing the concepts of intersectionality and systemic injustice in order to help students position themselves within the reality of environmental racism and current structures. The course’s three main units are then structured around key pillars in the environmental justice movement: distribution, recognition, and participation. This framework allows the class to consider:
- Who benefits from environmental resources and services?
- Who bears the cost of environmental risks and harms?
- Who has their needs and desires considered in human-nature interactions?
- Who holds power in environmental decision-making?
- Who implements and enforces environmental policies?
Students will explore these questions in a variety of contexts and can choose to focus on particular issues and/or marginalised communities through their assignments. Case studies range from anti-gold mining efforts in Pascua-Lama on the Chilean border with Argentina to Black-run community gardens in urban Detroit; guest speakers represent communities and issues as wide-ranging as Amazigh fog-harvesting in Morocco and legal environmental advocacy work by sovereign First Nations in Canada. Students will also consider how representations of nature-minority relations in popular culture may improve or intensify environmental racism while visiting Pocahontas’ burial site and speaking with a reindeer herder from the Sámi community that inspired Frozen’s Kristoff.
Ultimately, the course equips students to understand the (un)fairness of our current environmental system—and how both processes and outcomes might be changed.
This course may also be registered as GEO 300.1.
Department: Native American and Indigenous Studies
Semesters: Fall, Spring