Lecture: "Reconciling Environmental Heritage by Transformative Justice: Confronting Environmental Racism Century after Century"

In this talk, Robert Melchior Figueroa will present dimensions of environmental racism from the perspective of critical race theory which provides insights into historical conditions that sustain environmental injustices. Figueroa then contextualizes the discriminatory consequences that recent environmental policies will have upon our environmental heritage. The talk will provide some overview of the current strategies available and those that need to be envisioned in order to address environmental racism and sustain the future of the EJM.

The Environmental Justice Movement (EJM) is established as a grassroots movement that addresses the inseparability of social justice and environmental conditions. Thirty years ago, the EJM claimed a signifying milestone with the released study Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States, sponsored by the United Church of Christ Commission on Racial Justice. The study investigated the ways in which environmental burdens, such as hazardous waste facilities and industrial toxics sites, are targeted at communities of ethnic and racial minorities, as well as poor communities, compared to white and/or affluent communities. The EJM broadly identifies environmental racism as the unfair and inequitable distribution of environmental burdens compounded by the underrepresentation of people of color in environmental decision-making.

Over the past 30 years, Toxic Wastes and Race has been repeated twice, and thousands of studies directly and comparatively continue to address environmental racism in the US. In recent years, communities like Flint, MI; Kettleman City, CA; and the Standing Rock Sioux, demonstrate continued struggles against environmental racism.

Robert Melchior Figueroa is Associate Professor of Environmental Justice and Philosophy at Oregon State University’s School of History, Philosophy, and Religion. He is also the Director of the Environmental Justice Project for the Center of Environmental Philosophy. He has written numerous publications on environmental justice since 1991, addressing conditions and cases of environmental racism in the U.S. and abroad. Figueroa has added a theoretical framework to environmental justice studies and expanded dimensions of justice to address indigenous environmental heritage, Latinx environmental identity, critical disability studies, climate refugees, refugee resettlement, climate justice, national and international environmental policy, ecotourism, environmental colonialism, and gender/transgender environmental politics. Figueroa is co-editor of Science and Other Cultures: Issues in the Philosophies of Science and Technology, with Sandra Harding (Routledge 2003). He is currently working on two books and is editing a book series on environmental justice.

Free and open to the public. This lecture is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Environmental Policy and Decision Making Program.


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