Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Indigeneity: relating to native species (naturally occurring outside of human manipulation), indigenous people (more original to an area relative to newcomers/settlers), political movements (to redress colonial oppression relating to economic marginalization, racial discrimination, and territorial disposition), and indigenous knowledge (the knowledge of human and non-human interactions in a certain region over generations).

Photo taken by me of Nonnie Egbuna

The most intriguing aspect of this word to me was the idea of human and environment interconnectivity. Often times, it is difficult to associate individual actions with the entirety of environmental issues, and this thought process stems from the notion that the environment and the human are in separate spheres. Under the definition of indigeneity is the acknowledgment of that indigenous people play a vital role in the ecology of the areas in which they inhabit. This idea parallels the undeniable truth that the lives of humans impact the environment and in turn the environment impacts the lives of humans.

Through this photo I portray this relationship through obvious visual depictions of the environment and the human. The attitude of my subject (Nonnie) is one of praise representing not only a connection to the environment, but a careful, mutualistic attitude towards the earth that we inhabit. An inclination that would prompt behaviors that promote sustainability and protection. The overwhelming presence of green in this photo depicts a tone of health and growth for the environment, as well as, for Nonnie. Together the subjects – Nonnie and the vines – portray a mutualistic relationship model for the human and the environment that includes growth and health for both parties.


Work Cited

Adamson, Joni; Gleason, William A.; Pellow, David N.. Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: NYU Press, 2016. Ebook Library. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.

There is one common mechanism of causality, with respect to an urban population that – owing to increasing rural-urban migration – is shifting along virtually every axis- the Environment.

The Environmental issue is like a rope: at first it seems to be one thing, one entity, until you start teasing the ends, and then it begins to fray. And perhaps this is its most challenging aspect: there’s no one problem, which means there’s no one solution. Factors combine and connect: forces intersect and amplify, and people all around the world, regardless gender, caste and creed are affected. Today, more than ever before there is a need for extensive discourse on environmental affairs that plague not only us, but also future generations to come.

But why are we suddenly so aware of environmental issues? Let’s be honest, just for a second. Do we really care if the Balinese Tiger sub specie has gone extinct? Does it perturb us in the slightest, to know that the glaciers in the Himalaya’s are melting? I didn’t. You probably didn’t either. But our purposeful ignorance, can’t help us when we get sick. When someone we love falls sick.

For 3 years, I worked in a slum area in New Delhi. A curiously isolated enclave, it is a land without time, populated by rickshaws, street dogs, and narrow winding lanes. The vicinage was plagued with disease, delinquency and despair. The stench of urination and unbathed bodies would remain in my clothes as a staunch reminder even after I left. Open sewers served as a cesspool for multiple diseases, and as a swimming pool of sorts for the children that lived there. Cows, pigs and dogs lived in close contact with the people, there was open defecation and toxic garbage. Disease lingered in the air, just waiting for a chance to strike. I grew close to a girl, she was unsure of her age, but no more than 17 at the time we met. She was a wife, a mother, and a victim. A victim of our apathy, a victim of our ignorance, a victim of the disaster we are all responsible for. The water they got there was infected by pollutants, and her baby contracted diarrhea. Uneducated and unaware, she lost her child. Her husband works as causal labour in a cement factory, and has carcinoma of the lungs. Almost everyone in this tiny slum is living with TB or has latent TB. Yes, some might argue that adequate treatment might have saved her baby, and yes it might have. The husband should be wearing a mask and, the government should have more effective prevention strategies. If you’re asking these questions, I’d compare you to a goldfish in a bowl. Putting forward questions, only to do nothing about them, refusing to accept the reality that is.  Why did the child have to fall sick in the first place? Why are people living in such hell holes?

The lack of access to potable water, living in a toxic dumping ground and being subjected to every kind of pollutant is a reality that exists for many. It’s the best option, when no alternative exists. This made me aware of the dichotomy that exists in my society, and society’s globally. A certain segment of society chooses to be ignorant of the environmental issue, yet contributes the most to its detriment. The other segment bears the repercussions, and they are shunned in oblivion. However, there isn’t much time before both segments face the reality of the latter- and then it will be too late. We need to understand and show the correlates of health and the environment beyond a statistical abstraction. While basic Economics dictates, that correlation does not necessarily entail causation- it is a fact, that when Health and the environment are concerned it is.

I look around me now, almost ever other person I know is sick. Sick with a disease that is preventable. A disease they wouldn’t have contracted, had we stopped sweeping the environmental issues under the carpet, a long time ago.


Communication is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the human condition, and the most imperative tool in combatting the global obstacles due to a deteriorating Environment. Who caused this problem? We did. Who is bearing the repercussions of this problem? We are (along with the poor plants and animals). Who can ameliorate this problem? We can. But who is the “We”?  Is it the activist, whose voice blares on the TV? Is it the tree hugger in the forests of Rajasthan? Or the guy smoking Marijuana who can’t shut up about the “beauty of extensive green”? “We” is them, its you and me. We need to leverage a broad scientific education against a critical appreciation of culture to fully explore the nascent capabilities of policy and advocacy of Sustainability and Ecology.

Companies are, and are becoming environmental activists, simply because it makes profitable business sense. It is naïve to think otherwise. TV personalities have the weight and sometimes the will to do better for the world we live in. I suppose Democracy is hogwash, when the powerful don’t get their way.

While it may be easier for them to be heard by more people, it does not negate the effects ordinary citizens have on the environment. One famous man never created the problem, and it is not going to take one famous man to solve it. When I think of the word ‘activist’, I see the word ‘intrepid’ sitting next to it. And next to intrepid, it’s distant cousin ‘intelligence’. They must sit together on a bench, perhaps a loveseat, and it is their conversation that can make one into a good activist.

In his book “Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere”, Robert Cox highlights the myriad of channels and conduits through which “Diverse Voices” relay specific needs and challenges in real-time, to the authorities who make decisions. According to him this “landscape of communication” is as varied and multifarious as the ecology of the Galapagos or the Amazon. According to Cox, human communication is in itself a form of symbolic action, and this is rightly so. The spectrum ranges from ordinary citizens to environmental groups to corporations. It is this very discourse that ultimately shapes our beliefs, ethics and actions. However, advocacy must be translated into action. Cox opines the “Linking of Social Justice to Environmental quality” as seen in Environmental Justice, and promoting sustainability.

Simple and comprehensible policies are the most effective for societies evolving politically, demographically, and economically. I often wonder, with all the pieces in place, how do welfare states – founded on the principles of equality, social justice and democracy – display such inequities in Environmental issues and access to health care; how do we combat the systemic and institutional forces arrayed against the weaker section of society? Why are nations of engineers, doctors and activists, so curiously resistant to sustainable innovation? What we cannot do is stagnate, cling to the models of the past: because the future is now, and we are accountable. We can make a difference- we is you and me.



Cox, Robert, and Phaedra C. Pezullo. “Chapter 1 Studying/Practicing Environmental Communication.” Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016. Print.

History is a very important aspect of most disciples that study human behaviour. Ecology interestingly encompasses both the study of human behaviour on the societal level and on a personal level. Therefore history is integral to understanding not only the large-scale patterns of humankind’s impact on the environment, but also our personal virtues, actions, and opinions concerning what it means to be eco-friendly. Without history, we are forced to look at the status quo isolated from all the events that explain why the present is so. History illuminates dimensions of positions, injustices, and actions that would otherwise be lost. For example, studies show that discrimination against non-whites continues in the housing market. Examined in isolation, one can easily be led to think that this is not telling of a larger and deeper issue of discrimination in our society. However, given the context of slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc., discrimination in the housing market can be seen as a symptom of larger-scale racism in America. History allows us to overcome this myopia.

Specifically in relation to the environmental studies, history allows us to be aware of how certain opinions and positions concerning the environment have arisen. For example, when discussing corporations and lobbyists, Cox uses history to show how the emergence of “greenwashing” (misleading advertising that claims a product promotes environmental values) is actually another form of corporations masking their real environmental impact. Overall, the use of history in environmental studies will add more dimensions to our discussions on current injustices.


Cox, Robert, and Phaedra C. Pezullo. “Chapter 1 Studying/Practicing Environmental Communication.” Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016. Print.

Dewan, Shaila. “Discrimination in Housing Against Nonwhites Persists Quietly, U.S. Study Finds.” New York Times, 11 June 2013.


January 27th, 2017 | Posted by Riley Cohen in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Name: Riley Cohen

Hometown: Montreal, Canada

Major: Economics/Computer Science

Three topics/ideas/issues that intrigue me: Philosophy, History, basketball

Most interesting bit of news I read today (or lately): France has banned free refills on sugary drinks

Economy – Ryan Bronstein

January 27th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Bronstein in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The economy in its most used sense is far too specific. In the United States, perhaps due to the concurrent financialization of its institutions, the term “economy” is primarily associated with the market. By market, I mean the exchange of what Robert Costanza calls “built” capital, referring to human artifacts that have become a part of our daily consumption. Nevertheless, the economy is so much more than that.  It surrounds our society like an atmosphere, and much like Earth’s atmosphere, we are contributing to its pollution. In discussing economics, far too frequently are non-monetary based forms of capital disregarded. These forms include natural, social, and human capital, and include the most basic needs of life such as oxygen.  However, if these forms of capital are so important, why are they not being treated as such?

There are a lot of possible answers to this question, however it is most important to understand why it must be asked in the first place. These forms of non-built capital are not being protected.  As Costanza explains, an economy is meant to run on a sustainable scale, distribute resources fairly, and allocate resources efficiently so as to maintain asset values. Yet, as the values of our water and air degrade from pollution, it is foreign exchange rates and interest rates that receive the most protection on a given day.  The market has come to epitomize the economy, and as long as it does, the economy cannot efficiently perform its intended, more ecological role.


Works Cited

Adamson, Joni; Gleason, William A.; Pellow, David N.. Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: NYU Press, 2016. Ebook Library. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

The term ethnography is centered around understanding the culture, customs, and way of life in a community, and as such this keyword is deeply connected to the field of anthropology. Deborah Bird Rose, author and professor in Environmental Humanities at UNSW, describes the diverse movements that have arisen around how a researcher conducts ethnography amidst our rapidly changing world. These movements are strongly connected to numerous other keywords discussed in class, such as globalization, where communities who previously did not have access now have the ability to communicate and interact with those of other cultures and share customs and ideas.

The cornerstone of this article is its emphasis on “multispecies ethnography”. Research has shown that many communities of indigenous peoples are intricately entangled with the surrounding world of nonhuman beings, a facet of life that is rapidly altering due to climate change. A student in our class mentioned the importance of the food chain in the animal kingdom, and how extinction of one species could drastically impact an entire ecosystem. Social interactions, whether they be human to human, animal to animal, or animal to human, will likewise become altered. In applying this knowledge to ethnography, one realizes that climate change not only affects human health, but also our social relations with each other and with the nonhuman world. We are all coping with death and the enormous loss of biodiversity we’ve grown attached to, as a result, the environmental humanities are becoming more necessary to describe both our changes and nonhuman changes in behavior.

I believe that the following picture represents how the vibrancy of interactions of living beings with one another, whether they be plants or primates, has faded due to human history on earth.

Works Cited

Adamson, Joni, William A. Gleason, and David N. Pellow. “Education.” Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: New York UP, 2016. 89-92. Print.

UniversalPartnership.org. Web. 27 Jan. 2017. <http://universalpartnership.org/exploring-human-nature-part-2/>.

The chapter in the book Keywords for Environmental Studies pertaining to my keyword, “animal”, addresses the doctrine surrounding the boundaries of the term, specifically whether or not it includes humans. From one perspective, humans dominate the earth, have developed sophisticated oral and written languages, and are by far the most powerful living species. However, there is no question that humans evolved from other animal species, so where is the boundary set?

While this question is heavily explored in the book, the reading reminded me of a previous study I did on Sikhism. Followers of this religion believe in the process of reincarnation after death, or rebirth into another physical body. Sikhs encourage morality through the promise of attaining a union with God in heaven. At a grassroots level, a soul is cycled throughout a hierarchy of beings until it behaves well enough to escape the pains of life on earth. However, if the being that the soul occupies has immoral behavior, it is reborn after death in another physical body, albeit one of a so-called lower species.

The Sikh concept of reincarnations brings about an ethical debate over the value of species. The religion does not define specific animals that are higher or lower than others, but souls can occupy one of three tiers (from highest to lowest): humans, animals, and plants. Thus, not only do Sikhs place the highest value on humans whereby they are the closest beings to holiness, but they give a clear separation between humans and other animals.


Works Cited:

Nagaraj, Anil Kumar Mysore, Raveesh Bevinahalli Nanjegowda, and S. M. Purushothama. “The Mystery of Reincarnation.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 55.Suppl 2 (2013): S171–S176. PMC. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

“Reincarnation.” Reincarnation – SikhiWiki, Free Sikh Encyclopedia. N.p., 1 June 2007. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

Education- Mary Osborn

January 27th, 2017 | Posted by Mary Osborn in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Environmental education is not just learning about the environment but using every aspect of society to promote awareness of environmental needs and issues. Mitchell Thomashow talks about how the foundation of hope is at the core of learning and teaching (90). Without some sort of a hope for the future or an inspiration for something bigger, I would not have a job as a teacher. I want to instill in my students that they matter and their actions matter. Being a science teacher is about more than just teaching my students about osmosis and ribosomes but how to be critical thinkers and question the world around them. I want to instill the awareness that Thomashow talks about how there is a “sense of grandeur and wonder that accompanies this awareness. With greater appreciation of the magnificence of the biosphere, people would be more inclined to protect and preserve what they have grown to love” (89). Fostering this awareness is not only a job for science teachers but for everyone.

Thomashow talks about four broad categories as a curricular foundation which include biosphere studies, social networking and change management, the creative imagination, and sustainability life skills (91). All of these categories reinforce one another and can be implemented into everyday careers and services. We can enact change wherever we go in whatever we do by fostering awareness of our human connection with the biosphere in every one we meet. Taking this to heart, I will make an effort to encourage awareness in my students, friends, and other people I know to make my contribution to environmental education.


Works Cited


Adamson, Joni, William A. Gleason, and David N. Pellow. “Education.” Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: New York UP, 2016. 89-92. Print.

green: a definition?

January 27th, 2017 | Posted by Jessica Marlow in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Green. A seemingly simple, unassuming word, consisting of only five letters, four unique.

However, given time, thought, and consideration, the seemingly simple word loses its simplicity. Perhaps by virtue of  its initially simplicity, the term “green” becomes fluid, a word which has no definite definition, no concrete sense of being. Even Merriam and Webster, who since 1828 have faithfully defined English terminology in dictionary form, struggle to pinpoint the meaning of green. In fact, green serves as a noun, verb, adjective, and even name, totaling over a dozen different definitions. My personal favorite is the first listed for green as a noun, reading as “a color whose hue is somewhat less yellow than that of growing fresh grass or of the emerald or is that of the part of the spectrum lying between blue and yellow.”

However, in everyday life, we rarely think of green in such poetic terms. Rather, for some, words such as “life,” “forest,” and “mother nature” come to mind for some. For others, green brings back images of childhood toys such as “dinosaur” or possibly “obnoxious lime green closet” for those who went through a neon faze during middle school, or perhaps you are one of those who contemplate in more abstract terms and who would cite “happiness,” “peace,” or general “good feelings” as green. **All of the above terms are responses from gender and racially diverse college freshman at Duke**

The term green has long possessed this subjective, highly variant identity. In Germanic languages associated with vitality, in Greek and Latin associated with sickness, in Britain as a “piece of public or common grassy land situated near a town or college,” green has a multitude of meanings. Recently, there has been an evolution towards seeing green in a more ecological light, hence its inclusion in Keywords for Environmental Studies. However, the term green remains ever changing, ever adapting to the person, situation, or perspective in which it is viewed as is the color associated with the environmentally friendly movement. Both are human constructs privy to change. Perhaps in the years to come, green will find another definition completely distant from the environmental movement and perhaps the rainbow sheen of oil on water will take its place. Only time will tell.

Adamson, Joni, William A. Gleason, and David N. Pellow. Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: New York UP, 2016. Print.

“green.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2016. Web. 26 January 2016.