The Program in African and African American Studies is working with faculty leaders of the University’s Challenge Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability to plan courses and opportunities that address the intersections of environmental science and race. Program leaders are planning to bring expertise to help selectively incorporate race research into interdisciplinary environmental study, particularly since environmental scholarship regularly engages issues of cultural difference in relation to environmental stewardship and policy.
Student Initiated Course: AFRICAM 40 Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology): The Color of Ecoliteracy
Student Leaders: Janani Balasubramanian and Matthew J. Miller (Learn more about the student leaders)
Faculty Sponsor: Michele Elam, associate Professor in English and Director of African and African American Studies
Course Description: As Stanford students, we're bombarded with buzzwords like “green,” “sustainability,” and “environmental justice,” and it's easy to take these concepts for granted. Ecoliteracy is the necessary foundation for positive interaction with the earth and its resources. In order to support and respect the environment, young people need to see the value of sustaining their surroundings, and be empowered to foster a relationship between themselves and the natural world. In certain areas, there is a disconnect between ideas of “environment” and “neighborhood” and the scarcity of environmental education and experiences widens the climate gap and achievement gap, especially between privileged groups and low-income communities of color.
This course will explore the so-called “third wave” of environmentalism, that engages the intersectionality of race, class, and other identity politics in our conceptions of the natural world. We will examine how to raise a generation of environmental stewards and assess the barriers to ecoliteracy, including prohibitive cost, lack of outdoor education, organizational mistrust, and the overall “whitewashing” of the green movement. What is the role of the university and academia in effective public service with environmental movements? How can we bring race and class back into the discourse of sustainability?