Environmentalism meets social justice in ENST 232

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After researching topics from farming to fracking, students in ENST 232: Environmental Justice presented their findings at a poster session in the Ho Atrium on December 8.

The class, taught by Professor April Baptiste, explores how social justice and environmental issues intersect. Athena Bender ’17 and Shana Shapiro ’19 analyzed the effects of urban agriculture by looking at four community gardens in low-income areas in Detroit, Mich.

“Urban agriculture is a racialized resistance movement,” said Bender. “When community gardens are run by black and brown citizens in poorer communities, participants specifically cite them as empowering.”

Some students researched how environmentalism and social justice clash over the issue of fracking. “Environmental Justice for All?” by Alison Lepard ’17 and Emily Ix ’19 explored how New Yorkers across the socio-economic spectrum have responded differently to the state’s fracking ban.

“Depressed communities along the New York-Pennsylvania border feel betrayed by the ban,” said Lepard. “It’s good for the environment, but damaging to communities that depend on the fracking industry for income.”

Others in the class focused their research on food deserts in urban areas, environmental racism, and how communities organize politically around environmental issues.

Baptiste was inspired to assign these research projects to her students after she traveled with seven other professors to several Midwestern cities to study food, community, and culture.