Events & Media

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Environmental Justice

"Applied Environmental Justice: History and Practice"

Mary B. Collins, PhD
Bren School Alumna
Postdoctoral Fellow

National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center
University of Maryland

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

After graduating last June, Mary Collins returns to the Bren School to share the history of environmental justice and its consequences. It's a story that every Bren student should know.
— Sarah Anderson, faculty host

Environmental inequality has been defined as focusing on the broad dimensions of the intersection between environmental quality and social hierarchies, addressing structural questions related to unequal distributions of power, resources, and environmental burdens. In seeking to remedy this, the social movement for environmental justice (EJ) emerged. This movement reached the White House in 1994 with the signing of Executive Order 12898, requiring the EPA to create an Office on Environmental Equity. Despite roadblocks, EJ milestones to date are numerous, ranging from influential grassroots organizations to formalized research and direct influence on national governmental policy. Although sometimes minimal, every state has at least some policy or legal precedent in place to address EJ issues. The EPA defines EJ as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Dr. Collins' talk will address the history of EJ in the United States and the practice of EJ today, with a specific focus on activity in California.

Biography: Mary Collins is an environmental sociologist interested in environmental inequality, a concept that she defines broadly as the inequitable distribution of both environmental privileges and problems across social groups. She tends to take a quantitative, systems-based approach in seeking to learn more about the sociopolitical factors and social problems that influence the creation of ecological harm and environmental injustice. Her most recent work attempts to explicate the societal mechanisms that allow heavy users and economic beneficiaries of the environmental commons to impose the consequences of environmental degradation on disadvantaged populations. By linking these two faces of inequality, her work contributes to the ongoing conversation in sociology about the nature of environmental injustice while elucidating the social systems and correlates that govern the distribution of environmental resources. Her hope is to emphasize not only what sociology has to contribute to the study of human-environmental interactions, but also what the study of the physical world can contribute to the broader field of sociology.

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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