PA 5243: Environmental Justice in Urban Planning & Public Policy

3 Credits

Environmental racism can be defined as policies and practices that result in communities of Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPoC communities) being overexposed to environmental harms and being denied access to environmental goods. The environmental justice (EJ) movement in the United States was birthed in the 1980s with the aim of ending environmental racism. Early EJ activism was led by Black rural communities protesting the disproportionate presence of toxic waste facilities in their neighborhoods and Latinx migrant farmworkers who were overexposed to harmful pesticides. Central to the course is the understanding that structural racism, in the form of social, political, and economic forces, has denied BIPoC individuals and communities their rights to live in clean environments and access natural resources that allow communities to build and maintain their physical, mental, emotion, and fiscal health. Although the course focuses on race and racism, it takes as axiomatic that racism is intertwined with other systems of oppression including, but not limited to, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. The course begins by tracing the history of the EJ movement and unpacking the terms “racism” and “justice.” The main body of the course will focus on a series of issues that EJ scholars and activists address including pollution, greening, transportation, disasters, and climate change. The course ends with discussions and reflections on our roles, responsibilities and possibilities as public policy and planning scholars, researchers and practitioners to work towards ending environmental racism and achieving EJ for all. The required “readings” for the course will include academic journal articles, news stories, governmental policies, podcasts, videos, poetry, and short stories. This will allow us to understand the theoretical and methodological approaches to EJ activism and research and explore popular and creative forms of knowledge about EJ which will add depth to our understanding and analysis of relevant plans and policies. Our time together in the classroom will primarily be a mix of lectures, group discussions, in-class exercises, and occasionally guest speakers. While we will reflect on some international issues and materials, we will largely focus on EJ in the United States.

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