Tools for Change: A Reading List

Editor’s Note: It’s EHN’s four-year anniversary this week! Like in previous years, we’ll be celebrating all week long by featuring new and exciting work every day to mark the occasion. Today, as part of our Tools for Change series, Ramya Swayamprakash shares some important environmental-related work and expertise of scholars and practitioners who identify as women, trans and/or nonbinary people.

Health, environment, and race

The pandemic is far from over. But the last two (long) years has surfaced more clearly the interconnections between race, environment, and health. When thinking of these intersections, eugenics often comes to mind. In “The Black Politics of Eugenics,” for instance, Ayah Nuriddin shows how African American leaders mobilized the language of eugenics in their scholarship on racial improvement. Jamie Marsella further explore this theme by looking at how eugenics has driven baby contests in the United States. Vanessa Gamble explores the lives of two Black physicians in their efforts to improve the health of Black Americans in the first half of the twentieth century.

With specific insights on the pandemic, Adrianne Gladden-Young argues how communities of color need to be engaged with as leaders and problem solvers. In the last two years, there have been numerous uprisings calling for greater racial justice in the U.S. healthcare system. Rachel R. Hardeman et al. argue how and why health inequities are rooted in larger structural issues. For one, Dierdre Cooper Owens considers the history of medical fictions about bodies of color, especially how physicians perpetuated these about black enslaved women in specific, and what this reveals about the connections between slavery, race, and American geneology.

Climate Change and Environmental Justice

That the climate is changing is not news. Nor is the fact that the change will need to be societal for our sanity and survival as a species. Conflict and climate change seem to be interlinked. Living Faulkner’s famous lines about the past not even being past, Minnie Rahman shows the interrelationships between racial capitalism, climate justice, and inequity in the climate crisis. The last few years have certainly brought into sharper focus how racial capitalism impacted communities of color who are, inevitably, at the receiving end of climate change and environmental injustice, especially when they are not the actors perpetrating harm. Carmen Gonzalez explores how the network of capitalist extation based on fossil duels, racial subordination, and environmental degradation impacts the understanding of climate justice and thence responses to the same. A New York Times ClimateHub panel explores, for instance, how climate justice indeed has to mean racial justice.

Climate justice is also about confronting western colonialism and its aftereffects. Lori Lee Oates, for instance, argues that colonialism and its aftermath is alive and well in the climate crises. Colonialism is far from a bygone relic of the past. In displacing people, material objects, and resources in the name of racial capitalism, Indigenous communities across the world have been left unrooted at multiple levels. According to Tamara Toles O’Laughlin rgues that ifwe can move that money from people who have caused harm to people who need it, that’s restorative justice.” O’Laughlin argues for climate reparations as a way to acknowledge and act on the ongoing harm of colonialism, debt, and extraction. Critical climate justice is another form of framework to help think about and address such inequalities. According to Farhana Sultana, doing so will gain both insights and actionable outcomes from solidarity with feminist climate justice.

Infrastructure, floods, and all things fluid

In a thought provoking and thoughtfully designed case study, Kimberly Rogers et al. offer interdisciplinary learning modules “aimed at training students in a transdisciplinary approach of complex problem identification and analysis.” Not only is the case study a tool for teaching, it also serves as an excellent model for reflecting on environmental and water pedagogies. How can scholars work through questions of infrastructure development in fast changing water-and-landscapes like Bangladesh and Pakistan due to climate change? Debjani Bhattacharyya, for instance, chronicles the pretext to the land-and-waterscapes people have inherited in the Bengal Delta. As Ayesha Siddiqi and others have argued, Pakistan’s recent flooding disaster is firmly rooted in a long history of structural inequalities, bad policy-making, and an emphasis on large-scale infrastructure projects, turning it into a climate catastrophe.

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This list is just a starting point to learn more about the environmental-related work and expertise of scholars and practitioners who identify as women, trans and/or nonbinary people, something we aim to showcase more of through our Tools for Change series.

*Cover image: Getty Images.

[*Cover image description: An illustration of two brown hands holding earth globe.]