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Ghostworkers and greens: collaborative engagements in pesticide reform, 1962-2011

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Growers and the USDA showed increasing favor for agricultural chemicals over cultural and biological forms of pest control through the first half of the twentieth century. With the introduction of

Growers and the USDA showed increasing favor for agricultural chemicals over cultural and biological forms of pest control through the first half of the twentieth century. With the introduction of DDT and other synthetic chemicals to commercial markets in the post-World War II era, pesticides became entrenched as the primary form of pest control in the industrial agriculture production system. Despite accumulating evidence that some pesticides posed a threat to human and environmental health, growers and government exercised path-dependent behavior in the development and implementation of pest control strategies. As pests developed resistance to regimens of agricultural chemicals, growers applied pesticides with greater toxicity in higher volumes to their fields with little consideration for the unintended consequences of using the economic poisons. Consequently, pressure from non-governmental organizations proved a necessary predicate for pesticide reform. This dissertation uses a series of case studies to examine the role of non-governmental organizations, particularly environmental organizations and farmworker groups, in pesticide reform from 1962 to 2011. For nearly fifty years, these groups served as educators, communicating scientific and experiential information about the adverse effects of pesticides on human health and environment to the public, and built support for the amendment of pesticide policies and the alteration of pesticide use practices. Their efforts led to the passage of more stringent regulations to better protect farmworkers, the public, and the environment. Environmental organizations and farmworker groups also acted as watchdogs, monitoring the activity of regulatory agencies and bringing suit when necessary to ensure that they fulfilled their responsibilities to the public. This dissertation will build on previous scholarly work to show increasing collaboration between farmworker groups and environmental organizations. It argues that the organizations shared a common concern about the effects of pesticides on human health, which enabled bridge-builders within the disparate organizations to foster cooperative relationships. Bridge-building proved a mutually beneficial exercise. Variance in organizational strategies and the timing of different reform efforts limited, but did not eliminate, opportunities for collaboration. Coalitions formed when groups came together temporarily, and then drifted apart when a reform effort reached its terminus, leaving future collaboration still possible.

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  • 2011

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This is our land [untitled]: community-based environmental activism in the late twentieth century

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This dissertation examines the development of grassroots environmental organizations between 1970 and 2000 and the role they played in the larger American environmental movement and civil society during that period.

This dissertation examines the development of grassroots environmental organizations between 1970 and 2000 and the role they played in the larger American environmental movement and civil society during that period. Much has been written about growth in environmental values in the United States during the twentieth century and about the role of national environmental organizations in helping to pass landmark federal-level environmental laws during the 1960s and 1970s. This study illuminates a different story of how citizen activists worked to protect and improve the air, water, healthfulness and quality of life of where they lived. At the local level, activists looked much different than they did in Washington, D.C.--they tended to be volunteers without any formal training in environmental science or policy. They were also more likely to be women than at the national level. They tended to frame environmental issues and solutions in familiar ways that made sense to them. Rather than focusing on the science or economics of an environmental issue, they framed it in terms of fairness and justice and giving citizens a say in the decisions that affected their health and quality of life. And, as the regulatory, political, and social landscape changed around them, they adapted their strategies in their efforts to continue to affect environmental decision making. Over time, they often connected their local interests and issues with more sophisticated, globalized understandings of the economic and political systems that under laid environmental issues. This study examines three case studies in the rural Great Plains, urban Southwest, and small-town Appalachia between 1970 and 2000 in an attempt to understand community-based environmental activism in the late twentieth century, how it related to the national environmental movement, the strategies local-level groups employed and when and why, the role of liberal democratic arguments in their work and in group identity formation, the limits of those arguments, and how the groups, their strategies, and the activists themselves changed overtime. These three groups were the Northern Plains Resource Council in Montana, Southwest Environmental Service in Southern Arizona, and Save Our Cumberland Mountains in Eastern Tennessee.

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  • 2012

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Hydronarratives: water and environmental justice in contemporary U.S., Canadian, and Pakistani literature and cultural representations

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This dissertation examines cultural representations that attend to the environmental and socio-economic dynamics of contemporary water crises. It focuses on a growing, transnational body of “hydronarratives” – work by

This dissertation examines cultural representations that attend to the environmental and socio-economic dynamics of contemporary water crises. It focuses on a growing, transnational body of “hydronarratives” – work by writers, filmmakers, and artists in the United States, Canada, and the postcolonial Global South that stress the historical centrality of water to capitalism. These hydronarratives reveal the uneven impacts of droughts, floods, water contamination, and sea level rise on communities marginalized along lines of race, class, and ethnicity. In doing so, they challenge narratives of “progress” conventionally associated with colonial, imperialist, and neoliberal forms of capitalism dependent on the large-scale extraction of natural resources.

Until recently, there has been little attention paid to the ways in which literary texts and other cultural productions explore the social and ecological dimensions of water resource systems. In its examination of water, this dissertation is methodologically informed by the interdisciplinary field of the energy humanities, which explores oil and other fossil fuels as cultural objects. The hydronarratives examined in this dissertation view water as a cultural object and its extraction and manipulation, as cultural practices. In doing so, they demonstrate the ways in which power, production, and human-induced environmental change intersect to create social and environmental sacrifice zones.

This dissertation takes an interdisciplinary environmental humanities approach, drawing on fields such as indigenous studies, political ecology, energy studies, cultural geography, and economic theory. It seeks to establish a productive convergence between environmental justice studies and what might be termed “Anthropocene studies.” Dominant narratives of the Anthropocene tend to describe the human species as a universalized, undifferentiated whole broadly responsible for the global environmental crisis. However, the hydronarratives examined in this dissertation “decolonize” this narrative by accounting for the ways in which colonialism, capitalism, and other exploitative social systems render certain communities more vulnerable to environmental catastrophe than others.

By attending to these issues through problem water, this dissertation has significant implications for future research in contemporary, transnational American and postcolonial literary studies, the environmental humanities, and the energy humanities. It demonstrates the potential for a focus on representations of resources in literary texts and other cultural productions to better grasp the inequitable distribution of environmental risk, and instances of resilience on a rapidly changing planet.

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  • 2018

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From Frankenstein to District 9: ecocritical readings of classic and contemporary fiction and film in the anthropocene

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From Frankenstein to District 9: Ecocritical Readings of Classic and Contemporary Fiction and Film demonstrates how American studies methodologies, ecological literary criticism, and environmental justice theory provide both time-tested and

From Frankenstein to District 9: Ecocritical Readings of Classic and Contemporary Fiction and Film demonstrates how American studies methodologies, ecological literary criticism, and environmental justice theory provide both time-tested and new analytical tools for reading texts from transnational perspectives. Recently, American literary scholars have been responding to calls for collective interdisciplinary response to widening social disparities and species collapses caused by climate change in the new epoch recently being termed "the anthropocene." In response, I analyze canonical texts, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World in juxtaposition with Neill Blomkamp's South African science fiction thriller District 9 and contemporary US American novels such as Toni Morrison's Sula, William Faulkner's "The Bear" in Go Down, Moses and Richard Power's Generosity and The Echo Maker, to show how writers, filmmakers, and academics have been calling attention to dramatic climate events that consequently challenge the public to rethink the relationships among human beings to other species, and to ecological systems of low predictability, high variability, and frequent extremes. Rather than focusing solely on the "human," I examine how the relationships and livelihoods of multi-species communities shape and are shaped by political, economic, and cultural forces. As a whole, this dissertation seeks to make abstract, often intangible global patterns and concepts accessible by providing models for what I call "readings in the anthropocene" or re-readings of classic and contemporary texts and film that offer insights into changing human behavior and suggesting alternative management practices of local and global commons as well as opportunities to imagine how to live in and beyond the anthropocene.

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  • 2015

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Beyond the Anthropocene: multispecies encounters in contemporary Latin American literature, art, and film

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In the face of what many scientists and cultural theorists are calling the Anthropocene, a new era characterized by catastrophic human impact on the planet’s geologic, atmospheric, and ecological makeup,

In the face of what many scientists and cultural theorists are calling the Anthropocene, a new era characterized by catastrophic human impact on the planet’s geologic, atmospheric, and ecological makeup, Latin American writers, artists, and filmmakers today from various disciplinary and geographical positionalities are engaging in debates about how to respond ethically to this global crisis. From an interdisciplinary perspective that incorporates cutting-edge theories in multispecies ethnography, material ecocriticism, and queer ecology, this study examines multispecies relationships unfolding in three telescoping dimensions—corporealities, companions, and communities—in contemporary Latin American cultural production while uncovering indigenous and other-than-dominant epistemologies about human-nonhuman entanglements. I argue that contemporary cultural expression uncovers long, overlapping histories of social and environmental exploitation and resistance while casting the moment of encounter between individuals of different species as hopeful figurations of human-nonhuman flourishing beyond the Anthropocene. Instead of remaining hopelessly mired in the dire geographies of planetary decline, the works of Uruguayan writer Teresa Porzecanski, Mexican author Daniela Tarazona, Mexican textile sculptor Alejandra Zermeño, Argentine filmmaker Lucía Puenzo, Colombian installation artist María Fernanda Cardoso, Colombian poet Juan Carlos Galeano, Colombian graphic artist Solmi Angarita, and Brazilian poet Astrid Cabral dramatize a multitude of multispecies encounters to imagine the possibility of a better world—one that is already as close as our skin and as present as the nonhuman “others” that constitute our existence. These works imagine the human itself as a product of multispecies interactions through evolutionary time, multispecies companionships as formed around queer kinships, and biocultural communities as emerging through communicative, ethical encounters.

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  • 2017

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The “New Human Condition” in Literature: Climate, Migration, and the Future

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This thesis examines perceptions of climate change in literature through the lens of the environmental humanities, an interdisciplinary field that brings history, ecocriticism, and anthropology together to consider the environmental

This thesis examines perceptions of climate change in literature through the lens of the environmental humanities, an interdisciplinary field that brings history, ecocriticism, and anthropology together to consider the environmental past, present and future. The project began in Iceland, during the Svartárkot Culture-Nature Program called “Human Ecology and Culture at Lake Mývatn 1700-2000: Dimensions of Environmental and Cultural Change”. Over the course of 10 days, director of the program, Viðar Hreinsson, an acclaimed literary and Icelandic Saga scholar, brought in researchers from different fields of study in Iceland to give students a holistically academic approach to their own environmental research. In this thesis, texts under consideration include the Icelandic Sagas, My Antonia by Willa Cather, Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita, and The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. The thesis is supported by secondary works written by environmental humanists, including Andrew Ross, Steve Hartman, Ignacio Sanchez Cohen, and Joni Adamson, who specialize in archeological research on heritage sites in Iceland and/or study global weather patterns, prairie ecologies in the American Midwest, the history of water in the Southwest, and climate fiction. Chapter One, focusing on the Icelandic Sagas and My Antonia, argues that literature from different centuries, different cultures, and different parts of the world offers evidence that humans have been driving environmental degradation at the regional and planetary scales since at least the 1500s, especially as they have engaged in aggressive forms of settlement and colonization. Chapter Two, focused on Tropic of Orange, this argues that global environmental change leads to extreme weather and drought that is increasing climate migration from the Global South to the Global North. Chapter Three, focused on The Water Knife, argues that climate fiction gives readers the opportunity to think about and better prepare for a viable and sustainable future rather than wait for inevitable apocalypse. By exploring literature that depicts and represents climate change through time, environmental humanists have innovated new methods of analysis for teaching and thinking about what humans must understand about their impacts on ecosystems so that we can better prepare for the future.

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  • 2019

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Choosing Food Sovereignty: Climate Fiction, The Regenerative Power of Seeds, Intergenerational Food Education and United Nations Sustainability Agendas

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Anthropogenic factors contributing to more frequent and extreme weather-related events are displacing vulnerable populations and increasing the global number of food-insecure climate refugees. As food sovereignty is essential to combating

Anthropogenic factors contributing to more frequent and extreme weather-related events are displacing vulnerable populations and increasing the global number of food-insecure climate refugees. As food sovereignty is essential to combating climate change and ensuring sustainable futures – according to the Declaration of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda – it is important to examine accepted practices in the food industry that may threaten the sovereignty of vulnerable groups. The aim of this thesis is to explore two climate fiction novels – Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl – and how they demonstrate the connection between problematic practices in the food industry and lost food sovereignty. I also examine the novels through the lens of international documents such as the 2030 Agenda. Each novel, I argue, contributes to a growing awareness about the importance of protecting first rights to indigenous and local foods and land, or food sovereignty. The environmental humanities, and climate fiction specifically, are also contributing to a better understanding of the detrimental effects that lost sovereignty has on a people’s culture and the future sustainability of the planet. Climate fiction, as these novels illustrate, can provide case studies for understanding the inextricable link between humans and nature and allow people to imagine a better future. Placed within larger contexts that illuminate the current need for global campaigns for food sovereignty and United Nations agendas such as the 2030 Agenda, literature which demonstrates the human relationship to food can be used to enrich and strengthen application of the Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Through imagery of seeds and regeneration, Butler and Bacigalupi illuminate the critical role of seed-carriers, or bearers of food knowledge, in intergenerational food education and sustainability. Their novels demonstrate links between environmental injustices and food insecurities – violence and displacement of climate refugees in Parable of the Sower, and biopiracy and food totalitarianism in The Windup Girl – that help readers better understand the potential power of the SDGs for planning food futures.

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  • 2021

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A Good Food Journey Investigating the Wisdom of Regenerative Food Systems in Arid Regions

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Good food, or food that is good for people and planet, demands a different worldview and approach than the current industrial food system. As an ecofeminist researcher who values reciprocity,

Good food, or food that is good for people and planet, demands a different worldview and approach than the current industrial food system. As an ecofeminist researcher who values reciprocity, justice, and a holistic approach, my research investigates varying good food perspectives by integrating scientific evidence and practical experience. Specifically, I explore the opportunities climatic change have created for innovative and solutions-oriented small-scale food systems techniques in arid regions to define, identify, regulate and communicate good food and its related practices. A significant gap exists between current small-scale good food practices and how they can fit and be valorized into a wider food system. This dissertation combines social science and arts-based methodologies with the intention of digging deeper to understand what is required to support a food system that produces good food. This dissertation is broken down into three deliverables, bound by this introduction and a conclusion: (1) a theoretical research framework for regenerative food systems, grounded in biomimicry and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) defining and identifying good food and the systems that produce it, (2) a research paper that follows three traditional fermented foods in Arizona to contextualize their socio-cultural aspects within a regulatory framework and propose a way to make food governance more inclusive, and (3) an analytical autoethnographic exploration of the normative aspect of sustainability, and how it can be more regenerative. The narrative is an exploration through the author's past, present, and future in finding ways to instill more regenerative practices in their life in Arizona, as well as amplify the voices of others using podcasts. The dissertation aims to expand the field of food system sustainability to be more inclusive of diverse knowledge systems and arts-based methods in creating an understanding of good food in arid regions.

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  • 2021