Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Since uranium mines were first opened in 1944 in the Navajo Nation, the Navajo people and others living in the region have faced disproportionately high negative health and environmental outcomes. Purposefully kept ignorant of the harmful radioactive effects of uranium mining and milling, Navajo people across generations are continually affected by this environmental injustice. In this project, I will first evaluate uranium mining and milling in the Navajo Nation, with a close look into both current health and societal conditions of the people living in contaminated areas and also historical factors and context which contribute to this injustice. Then, I will address Yellowcake, a work of environmental fiction written by Ann Cummins whose father once worked in the uranium industry. This novel paints a vibrant image of life in the Navajo Nation, following the banal daily workings of two families, one Navajo and one Anglo-American, both of which have been impacted by the uranium industry, though to different effect. Through analysis of this work, we can better understand the role of literature and the humanities in communicating underrepresented environmental issues in mainstream media. Lastly, I will attempt a work of environmental fiction of my own in the form of short story, writing about the air pollution problem in Beijing while drawing upon my mother’s experiences in the growing up in the city for inspiration.

Big Bad Wolf

April 8th, 2017 | Posted by Victoria Grant in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Final Project Abstract

Top chain predators received a bad rap throughout history. People think of some predators as demons while others view them as unnecessary pests. Misconceptions on predators contributed to the downfall of many species. Because of past ideologies, many top predators face extinction today and environmental programs face opposition to helping bring back the old populations. I understand how people created the misconceptions of the past. Human and animal interactions were fairly new and people did not understand, or think to try and understand, how they impact the species around them and how those species contribute to the world around them. The problem of today is people still do not understand or refuse to understand the importance of many species. Despite the knowledge available in modern day society, people still hold incorrect ideologies on different species; creating setbacks in attempts to help populations. I want to conduct a study to learn about the misconceptions people have against different animals and attempt to create an educational tool to teach them the truth.


April 8th, 2017 | Posted by Nanki Singh in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I have always had a strange fascination with peoples’ interactions with their environment. However, for most of my life this understanding has been seemingly constrained to the one sided explanation of how the environment shapes human interaction and behavior. The telling of how human behavior and interaction impacts nature is typically exiguous if not absent. It is summed up in- the serious yet hackneyed-  Global Warming; Climate Change, Deforestation.

Understanding the environment itself is often a missing aspect of this discourse. Our focus lies within the narrow, yet complex realm of human factors, the human gains and losses and the human outcomes, the environment is just a background; nay a silent back-drop.

In this vein, I seek to understand the environmental effects of colonialism in India. To understand the intellectual and political decolonization of nature-its knowledge, practice, and history. The British Raj in India was not only accompanied but also supported by the exploitation of forests and environmental destruction for economic gains. Indian Independence brought a new life to the exploited people, but it forgot the exploited lands, waters, forests and wildlife. It ignored the crevasse left between local societies and their relationship with natural resources, that only continued to grow.

What were the specific modalities and methods that were used to colonize the environment and nature during the period of British colonialism in India? What were the environmental relationships and practices of the colonized population? Why were the “environmentally sustainable,” and nature-nurturing communities replaced?  In what ways has the separation of the categories of “nature” and “culture” itself been the construction of modernity? What was the aftermath of the environmental practices of the British in India- are these effects still felt today?

Answering these questions involves a holistic understanding, with a culturally specific view; it involves interweaving two mindsets, two peoples and two histories. I seek to explore the time after Mughal Rajas and their perennially colorful gardens and before the common man began living under a socialistic, republic, democratic government.

Kevin Bhimani Final Project Abstract


Tesla, Solar Energy, and the Next Wave of Innovation in the 21st Century


The world in which we live in today is essentially unrecognizable to an average citizen in the 1920s for example. The level of advances that we have seen in the past few decades has absolutely revolutionized our world. It has been a period in which we have seen the most rapid change in human history. What I will detail in this project is the new wave of innovation that we not only have begun to see, but will see in the future and how that will impact our environmental well-being. It seems like there has been a shift in ideology—before innovation was centered around the notion of pushing the boundary for the sake of advancing our knowledge and making our lives better and easier, whereas now much of the focus has shifted. We have started to look at how we can leverage this technology to ensure the long-term well-being of our planet. I will analyze how the intersection of economics, politics, and private companies dealing with products in electric cars, solar panels, solar roads, and more will shape our world in the future.


I will do research pertaining to this topic and then conduct a hands-on survey of students on key concepts and issues in order to gauge a better understanding of this and will then incorporate my findings into the final project.

Water is a basic right. It is essential for one to achieve the highest attainable level of health. Yet, 780 million people globally lack access to an improved water source (CDC 2017) — a source that is free from external contamination. This should not be the case. In a world where $5 trillion is traded on the market each day, it is unacceptable that not enough funding is going towards ending water crises worldwide. Nevertheless, many projects have taken place to combat the water disparity that favors high income households. This essay aims to explore the different solutions circulating around the globe, such as desalination in Israel, and make proposals for countries where action has stalled, such as a regulated privatization of the water supply in Mexico. Most of these solutions will describe ways that water usage has been reduced. Therefore, this study also explores the ways Duke University has cut down its water usage and how these methods can be applied elsewhere.


Works Cited

“Global Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.

The goal of culturally relevant pedagogy in teaching high school science is to create a sense of self in the content taught. Teachers can use science to investigate the differences between various cultures to make the content meaningful to all students including minorities. Scientific knowledge should be accessible, relatable, and applicable to every person across the whole globe regardless of skin color or cultural background. Many influential people and scientists from different backgrounds and cultures have shaped our scientific knowledge which has been overshadowed by the western designed textbooks. By implementing culturally relevant material into the science classroom we can support our students as agents of change for the unpredictable future of this earth.


A significant remnant of great depression era redlining is the disparity in the green spaces in different parts of Durham, and cities alike. This serves as an emblem of institutionalized discrimination due to the fact that the placement of trees and parks is based on decades old boundaries that were constructed to hinder the movement of African-American people. These boundaries continue to exist as an obstacle to African-American liberation due to the lack of green spaces leading to lower quality air, lack of biodiversity, and a decline in overall mental happiness. Through a stop motion video, the impact of this injustice is explained through voice over and visuals. This video serves as a demonstration of how already marginalized peoples will be the first to experience the powerful effects of environmental neglect.

Are “rebel” factions of government departments a contemporary form of political activism, or are today’s “rogue” Twitter accounts just novel iterations of a recurring trend in social movements? I review the historical precedent for government groups operating in subversive or counterproductive ways when members disagree with the views, decisions, or goals of the president and his administration. Then I trace the history of the “rogue” Twitter accounts that began to appear following Donald Trump’s inauguration, from their inception to the different identities and purposes that they have begun to forge for themselves. By understanding these activists as part of a long succession of rebellious government employees, we can paint a more complete picture of the complex interplay between presidential administrations and the rest of the executive branch as they are forced to reconcile contradictory or incongruent ideologies to achieve their various objectives.


April 6th, 2017 | Posted by Nanki Singh in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day

runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth

in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves

of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death,

in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.

And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood

this moment.

– Tagore (Translated from the Bengali poem ‘Praan’. Praan simply means life.)

The dots on the map -marking places where permaculture is being practiced- are multiplying, slowly but steadily. Although the permaculture edifice is an old one, it is beginning to see an increase in the awareness of its principles and benefits only today. What was once considered a lifestyle choice for a few, not too long ago, based off a set of ethics, principles and techniques, is now starting to look like a movement.

Permaculture sounds complex, in theory and in practice. And perhaps this is because its flirtation with the average human has always been so discreet. There are no lobbies, no demonstrations and certainly no fuss surrounding it. Yet, it is omnipresent, manifesting itself in so many ways, we just have no idea. And most of all, it works!

When I think of the word ‘Permaculture’ a weird notion comes to my mind. I think of innovation and I see the word ‘intrepid’ sitting next to it. And next to intrepid, it’s their distant cousin ‘creativity’. They must sit together on a bench, perhaps a loveseat, and it is their conversation that can make a change, that engenders exactly what permaculture is. Yet, in this time and age, why does a large segment of our society still remain so curiously resistant to innovation in this respect? Permaculture is after all a science. It is basic biology put into practice. Permaculture urges us, not to a rustic existence bound by rigid cultural constraints, but to local cooperative farming and industry, progressive education and renewed culture and creativity. As stated in the movie “Inhabit” the appeal of permaculture is that, it isn’t just allowing us to continue living by  maintain a status quo with the current levels of detriment we have caused to the environment. But, its ameliorating, healing and soothing to the earth, in addition to satisfying our needs and wants to a large extent. We have been asking for an answer, to scale back all the damage we have done, and the answer has been right in front of us all along. All that is left to do now is to act. Act before it is too late.

Large Scale Permaculture

April 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Riley Cohen in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

After watching the documentary Inhabit, I was thoroughly impressed with permaculture’s ability to produce different types of vegetation without the environmental harms of large-scale, commercial farms. However, I was left with one, very important question: how can permaculture be scaled so that it can nourish the world? After doing some research, I found it no surprise that many other people share my curiosity. Evan Wiig, the director of the Farmer’s Guild, claims that “there are many constraints on professional farmers that exist beyond production techniques,” to which permaculture pays too little attention, like land access, food safety regulations, labor costs, global competition, and fickle markets.” (Roman-Alcala) Given these constraints, it would be very difficult for permaculture to override the commercial farming industry, at least from a purely short-term economic analysis.


That being said, Wiig also claims that permaculture has a lot of potential. However, in order to fully utilize that potential, it is necessary for a major change in the way citizens of developed countries obtain their food to occur. In the book Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein discusses how commercial agriculture is not set up to maximize the yield per square acre, but is set up to maximize the yield per unit of labour. This is because, currently, less than two percent of the population of the United States of America is engaged in agriculture. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) The constraining factor here is sheer labour power. Eisenstein estimates that the U.S. would be able to feed its entire population without the use of pesticides or growth hormones if ten percent of the population was engaged in agriculture.


The question then becomes, is it feasible for one in every ten Americans to either be full-time agriculture employees or to considerable incorporate agriculture into their daily lives. The answer to this question depends on how you perceive the future of American culture. If we would like to continue the status quo, then the answer is no. There are way too many important economic sectors that cannot afford to transfer eight percent of all employees in the US to the agriculture sector. However, given that the current way we farm is not sustainable, we may have no choice but to change the way we obtain food.


Works Cited:


Alcala, Antonio Roman. “Can Permaculture Disrupt America’s Farm Landscape?” Civil Eats. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.


“Employment by Major Industry Sector.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 08 Dec. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.


Eisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. N.p.: Readhowyouwant.com, 2011. Online.