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Rethinking Sustainability Through Environmental Justice Discourse & Knowledge Production: Institutional Environmental Violence Through the Lens of the Flint Water Crisis

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Sustainability and environmental justice, two fields that developed parallel to each other, are both insufficient to deal with the challenges posed by institutional environmental violence (IEV). This thesis examines the discursive history of sustainability and critiques its focus on science-based

Sustainability and environmental justice, two fields that developed parallel to each other, are both insufficient to deal with the challenges posed by institutional environmental violence (IEV). This thesis examines the discursive history of sustainability and critiques its focus on science-based technical solutions to large-scale global problems. It further analyzes the gaps in sustainability discourse that can be filled by environmental justice, such as the challenges posed by environmental racism. Despite this, neither field is able to contend with IEV in a meaningful way, which this thesis argues using the case study of the Flint Water Crisis (FWC). The FWC has been addressed as both an issue of sustainability and of environmental justice, yet IEV persists in the community. This is due in part to the narrative of crisis reflected by the FWC and the role that knowledge production plays in that narrative. To fill the gap left by both sustainability and environmental justice, this thesis emphasizes the need for a transformational methodology incorporating knowledge produced by communities and individuals directly impacted by sustainability problems.

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2019

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Disconnected: investigating the social and political conditions shaping Mexico City's air quality regulatory environment

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Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables

Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables contributing to this persistent problem. A historical background reveals current programs and policies implemented to improve Mexico’s City air quality. Mexico City’s current systems, infrastructure, and policies are inadequate and ineffective. There is a lack of appropriate regulation on other modes of transportation, and the current government system fails to identify how the class disparity in the city and lack of adequate education are contributing to this ongoing problem. Education and adequate public awareness can potentially aid the fight against air pollution in the Metropolitan City.

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Date Created
2018

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Governing Climate Change Adaptation Through Insurance: Complexity, Risk and Justice Concerns?

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Climate adaptation has not kept pace with climate impacts which has formed an adaptation gap. Increasingly insurance is viewed as a solution to close this gap. However, the efficacy and implications of using insurance in the climate adaptation space are

Climate adaptation has not kept pace with climate impacts which has formed an adaptation gap. Increasingly insurance is viewed as a solution to close this gap. However, the efficacy and implications of using insurance in the climate adaptation space are not clear. Furthermore, past research has focused on specific actors or processes, not on the interactions and interconnections between the actors and the processes. I take a complex adaptive systems approach to map out how these dynamics are shaping adaptation and to interrogate what the insurance climate adaptation literature claims are the successes and pitfalls of insurance driving, enabling or being adaptation. From this interrogation it becomes apparent that insurance has enormous influence on its policy holders, builds telecoupling into local adaptation, and creates structures which support contradictory land use policies at the local level. Based on the influence insurance has on policy holders, I argue that insurance should be viewed as a form of governance. I synthesize insurance, governance and adaptation literature to examine exactly what governance tools insurance uses to exercise this influence and what the consequences may be. This research reveals that insurance may not be the exemplary adaptation approach the international community is hoping for. Using insurance, risk can be reduced without reducing vulnerability, and risk transfer can result in risk displacement which can reduce adaptation incentives, fuel maladaptation, or impose public burdens. Moreover, insurance requires certain information and legal relationships which can and often do structure that which is insured to the needs of insurance and shift authority away from governments to insurance companies or public-private partnerships. Each of these undermine the legitimacy of insurance-led local adaptation and contradict the stated social justice goals of international calls for insurance. Finally, I interrogate the potential justice concerns that emerged through an analysis of insurance as a form of adaptation governance. Using a multi-valent approach to justice I examine a suite of programs intended to support agricultural adaptation through insurance. This analysis demonstrates that although some programs clearly attempted to consider issues of justice, overall these existing programs raise distributional, procedural and recognition justice concerns.

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Date Created
2020

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Reimagining Sustainability: Acknowledging and Removing Barriers to Sustainability in Poor Marginalized Communities of Color

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Sustainable communities discourse, literature and initiatives have essentially excluded poor marginalized communities at a time when sustainability efforts require more stakeholders and stakeholder involvement. The families in poor marginalized communities of color in the United States are struggling to meet

Sustainable communities discourse, literature and initiatives have essentially excluded poor marginalized communities at a time when sustainability efforts require more stakeholders and stakeholder involvement. The families in poor marginalized communities of color in the United States are struggling to meet basic needs (food, medicine, shelter, safety). Additionally, in these communities there is a disproportionate level of forced mobility to prisons, jails and detention centers. These communities are unsustainable. This dissertation is comprised of three articles. I present in the first article (published in Sustainability Journal) an argument for a definition of sustainability that includes recognition of the major, complex and persistent problems faced daily by poor marginalized communities of color (African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American) including those connected to mass incarceration and high recidivism. I also propose a system-of-communities conceptual framework. In my second article, I explore sustainability assessment tools and find them to be inadequate for measuring the progress toward sustainability of poor marginalized communities with high incarceration and recidivism rates. In order to fill this gap, I developed the Building Sustainable Communities Framework and a Social Reintegration, Inclusion, Cohesion, Equity (Social R.I.C.E.) Transition Tool, a qualitative interview guide (a precursor to the development of a community sustainability assessment tool). In the third article, I test the utility of the Building Sustainable Communities Framework and Social R.I.C.E. Transition Tool through a community-based participatory action study: The Building Sustainable Communities-Repairing the Harm of Incarceration Pilot Project. Three types of participants were included, formerly incarcerated, family members of formerly incarcerated and community members. The Restorative Justice Circle process (based on a traditional practice of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples) was also introduced to the groups for the purpose of having discussions and sharing personal stories in a safe, nonthreatening, confidential and equitable space. During the study, data was gathered for reflexive thematic analysis from two participant groups, in-depth interviews, focus groups and short qualitative surveys. The findings reflect the community is in dire need of a path to stability and sustainability and needs the knowledge and tools to help them make collective community decisions about present and future sustainability issues.

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Date Created
2021