In a review of the West’s top Environmental Philosophy programs, High Country News recently featured the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies Program as “one of the strongest interdisciplinary environmental studies programs in the nation.”
Read the full article here.
We are pleased to announce that the Office for Research and Innovation has awarded Sarah Wald a New Junior Faculty Research Award. New Junior Faculty Research Awards are designated to support a new faculty member’s research program as they begin their appointment here at the UO. Dr. Wald joined the University of Oregon this year as the first joint hire between the Environmental Studies Program and the department of English.
To read more about Dr. Wald and her research interests, please click here.
Many students entering the University of Oregon think of Environmental Studies as a potential major from the day they arrive, but Adrian Robins was not one of them. He initially planned on studying psychology, so when he and a friend signed up for an introduction to environmental humanities, it was as a freshman year elective. “I wasn’t expecting what happened,” Adrian remarks. “I had taken a class in environmental science in high school, but reading people like Emerson and Leopold in ENVS 203, and learning about [organizations dedicated to food sovereignty], something about that woke me up and made me want to do more with my life.”
Adrian has since taken the opportunity to not only continue his classroom studies in the field of environmental studies, but to actually visit the field. He travelled to India for a study abroad program, where he learned from subsistence farmers. “I hadn’t really thought about alternate ways of dealing with food before because I’d never had the chance to see subsistence (plus it’s easy to ignore when you go to the supermarket for everything), but there are communities where the crop is everything, and control of that crop is critical.” This perspective has led him to a devoted interest in food sovereignty and the fight to protect it—including some time after his study abroad program with Navdanya, one of the organizations he first heard of in ENVS 203.
Food sovereignty and the importance of crop diversity has also followed Adrian into his thesis work. He is now a senior, graduating in June, and is in the process of gathering information about local seed saving networks. He is interested in the hows and whys that influence which seeds farmers choose to save. A number of crop varieties, he explains “are extinct or going extinct, and it’s a form of biodiversity that I think people don’t really pay attention to. But we’re heading to big changes environmentally, and the only way to ensure that we have food in the future is to have a diverse number of crops that can potentially survive.” Although Adrian initially planned for an environmental studies major, this focus on the applications of ecology to agriculture has led him to pursue a major in environmental science, with a minor in biology.
Many students have a similarly windy path through their college experience, and Adrian enjoys helping them out: he works currently as an Ecopeer, a position he has held for a year an a half, where he has the chance to advise undergraduate peers about the Environmental Studies Program. “It’s a pretty complicate major because we’re so interdisciplinary and it’s a big program, but I think my brain just works well with scheduling and organizing. Plus, I’ve liked my work because I’ve made a lot of connections to my peers in ENVS.”
Now that his undergraduate schedule is mostly set, what is Adrian planning for his own future? It’s a bit early to decide, but he’s considering agriculture-oriented positions with the Peace Corps or—perhaps—applying for a Fulbright scholarship to go back to India. Stop by the main ENVS office to chat and learn more!
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
Ezra Markowitz, who graduated from the University of Oregon with a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, Studies & Policy, joined the faculty of UMass Amherst this fall as an Assistant Professor, and is completing his first course, entitled “Environmental Decision-Making.”
Dr. Markowitz has always been interested in both psychology and environmental issues, although it wasn’t always clear how to merge them. He entered his undergraduate studies at Vassar College knowing that he wanted to major in psychology, and quickly became active within the school’s student environmental group. However, Markowitz explains that “they didn’t immediately seem to mesh. It wasn’t until my third year that my advisor in psychology told me ‘you know, you can combine those two interests of yours.’”
By the time he began looking for graduate schools he knew he wanted to study sustainability and decision-making, but “it wasn’t really clear how to do that in graduate school because there weren’t many programs available on the East coast. It ends up that the University of Oregon had what I was looking for, so it won out.” In Markowitz’s mind, Environmental Studies’ resources worked well with his professional goals because he was focused in his interests: “I get a lot of prospective graduate students looking at the program, and what I tell them is that it’s a really great place for people who have a good sense of what they want to study. Which is not everybody. But for me, the U of O gave me that support to explore and figure out on my own what had already been done in this new field, and what needed to be done.”
This interdisciplinary training, in which Markowitz drew from multiple departments to round out his education, also prepared him for his experiences after graduating. After defending his dissertation, he spent a year as a postdoctoral research associate with Princeton University’s Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty, where he worked with a group of political scientists, climate scientists, philosophers, and economists on the question of how to communicate scientific uncertainty regarding environmental change problems, both to policy-makers and the public. “It was a perfect extension of being at the U of O, he recounts, “because it was an incredible multi-disciplinary group. We certainly had challenges in terms of how to all talk and work together, but it was exciting. I spent the year running studies and finding that contrary to popular belief, you can actually increase people’s trust in climate scientists and in science more generally by being more open about the uncertainties that exist.”
Markowitz did get the chance to study among peers, though, when in 2013 he was invited to the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. “For the first time in my life I was around people who do pretty much what I do. Everybody was a behavioral scientist doing environmental stuff, which was cool.” The group does much of its work on individuals’ decision-making under uncertainty, so “it was a nice flow from my work at Princeton.”
His position at Columbia University could have lasted for three years, but Markowitz was browsing faculty job postings and noticed one advertised by UMass Amherst “for something like human decision-making in environmental conservation. So I figured it was a pretty good fit.” It was: after a lengthy interview process, Markowitz found himself with a tenure-track position in a location that he is excited to explore. “I hadn’t applied to many jobs,” he admits, “but this seemed right for me. It’s in a place that reminds me a lot of the Willamette Valley in terms of politics and the physical layout of the valley around the river, with little mountains all around. I really did enjoy my time in Oregon.”
At UMass, Markowitz expects to keep his steady focus on how to blend research with practical application. Not only will he continue to offer consulting to policy groups outside of academia, he remains dedicated to investigations that support smart activism. “I don’t necessarily have the tools to put my findings into practice, but my goal is always for the research that I’m doing to be both practical and applicable. I want to help inform the work that’s happening on the ground.”
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
The Ecotone: The Journal of Environmental Studies at University of Oregon is soliciting submissions for our 2015 issue. The Ecotone is the annual interdisciplinary journal produced by the graduate students of Environmental Studies. (To view the 2014 issue, click here!)
Graduate students and faculty in any department are invited to submit work for review. Submissions may include academic work, creative writing, journalism, visual art, book and film reviews, and interviews.
The deadline for all submissions has been extended to 5:00 pm on Saturday, January 31st, 2014. Email questions and submissions to Katrina Maggiulli at email@example.com.
An article about ELP’s 2013 environmental education projects has recently been published by Clearing, the Pacific Northwest Journal of Community-based Environmental Literacy Education. Not only does the article offer a summary of each project, but features collaborative writing by the undergraduate students who participated.
Where does your drinking water come from? This central question drove the trajectory of several of last year’s Environmental Leadership Project programs, which focused on helping students develop a connection to the sole source of their drinking water, the McKenzie River. “The two main goals of the new EE effort,” writes ELP Co-Director Katie Lynch, “were to: 1) create a year-long program for UO students interested in EE careers (that would provide them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to develop and implement place-based, experiential programs) and 2) develop age-appropriate, engaging MyMcKenzie curricula for local youth, grades 1-8, that promotes the stewardship of the McKenzie River.”
One EE project, Critters and Currents, strove to give elementary school students a sense of connection and kinship with the McKenzie River watershed, while another, Canopy Connections, helped students climb 90 feet into a Douglas fir.
To read more, please visit Clearing here.
KHSU Radio’s Econews recently aired an interview with ENVS Affiliate Faculty Theresa May about her powerful new book Salmon Is Everything: Community-Based Theatre in the Klamath Watershed. A new resource for educators teaching environmental education, Native studies, the humanities and performing arts, it tells how theatre artists worked with tribal communities to create documentary theatre about the salmon crisis in the Pacific Northwest. After a devastating fish kill on the Klamath River, tribal members and theatre artist Theresa May developed a play to give voice to the central spiritual and cultural role of salmon in tribal life. The book contains the complete script of “Salmon Is Everything” with production information, as well as insightful essays about arts and activism, the role of salmon in Native culture. This interdisciplinary book bridges knowledge in science, social studies, and theatre arts by showing students how the arts can help us understand diverse cultures and care for our environment.
To listen to the interview, click here. Dr. May’s interview begins roughly 3/4 of the way through the program.
Recent University of Oregon graduate Shahnaz Mooney is featured in this fall’s issue of Cascade, the magazine of the UO college of arts and sciences. Not only did she complete double majors in environmental studies and philosophy, but her thesis, which explores the ethics of feeding antibiotics to animals in industrial farming, was awarded the college’s interdisciplinary thesis award. She has always been fascinated by epidemics, which drove the subject of her research: she notes that “80 percent of (US) meat randomly tested . . . shows traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria” like salmonella and E. coli. The threat to public health is very real, she argues, and her work offers suggestions for preventing a global epidemic.
To read more about Shahnaz Mooney, her research, and experience at the University of Oregon, please visit Cascade‘s website here.
In January of 2014, the Environmental Leadership Program’s River Stories Team asked itself two questions: “what if we could listen to our water source?” and “what would the McKenzie River tell us?” What followed was an intensive process involving 30 interviews with McKenzie River community members, multimedia products drawing on text, photography, audio, and film, and four major community events where the students showcased their work.
The McKenzie River cascades 90 miles from its headwaters at Clear Lake to its convergence with the Willamette River in Eugene; its cold, clear waters are home to McKenzie Red Sides, endangered Chinook Salmon, and countless other species. Together with community partners including the Lane County Historical Museum, McKenzie River Trust, and the McKenzie River Drift Boat Museum, students operated under the conviction that storytelling matters, and that stories about the McKenzie can help preserve its unique heritage, promote stewardship, and draw residents from the greater Eugene area into a closer and more communicative relationship with their only water source.
An ongoing exhibit at the Lane County Historical Museum, scheduled to run until January 2015, is currently serving as the team’s capstone collaboration. “McKenzie River Stories” showcases the work of the team by featuring stories of the original McKenzie River drift boat builders, stories and audio clips from current residents, vivid river photographs and video footage, and a white water boat made by Woodie Hindman for Prince Helfrich. The team describes the many voices featured as similar to “one of the many springs and streams that converge in the McKenzie River; before we can hear the ripples echo, we must first step in.” In the exhibit, the River Stories team encourages visitors to think about their own connection to the McKenzie and how to sustain a conversation with their water source.
Supporting the main exhibit, the team has also installed “River Stories” around town at water fountains and other locations where people interact with the McKenzie. These posters feature photography and quotes about the river and further the team’s goal of promoting awareness, connection, and stewardship of the McKenzie River. To hear these stories and for more information, please click here.
The River Stories Team has also emerged from their experience with a new respect for how difficult some stories can be to access. “Countless unheard voices along the McKenzie River,” they write, “resound in the shadows of the stories that rise to the surface. Many historical and social factors combine to create these silences, but if considered thoughtfully, they can be as transformative and as revealing as the oral histories we do hear . . . For instance, the indigenous names for the river have been dislocated, replaced by the name of a passing fur trader. Our team acknowledges that we have only skimmed the surface of the depth of stories that exists at the intersection of people and place along the McKenzie River.”
What is your McKenzie River story? What if you could listen to your water source? Stop by the Lane County Historical Museum for a chance to explore with the students of UO’s Environmental Leadership Program.
ELP is currently recruiting students for winter and spring of 2015. Click here for more information.
ENVS Core Faculty Kathy Lynn has coordinated the development of the Climate and Traditional Knowledges Working Group, and served as a contributing author to the Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives.
The Third National Climate Assessment issued in May 2014 contained a chapter dedicated to the impact of climate change on tribal peoples. In light of the increasing recognition of the significance of traditional knowledges (TKs) in relation to climate change, a self-organized, informal group of indigenous persons, staff of indigenous governments and organizations, and experts with experience working with issues concerning traditional knowledges (The Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup – CTKW), felt compelled to develop a framework to increase understanding of issues relating to access and protection of TKs in climate initiatives and interactions between holders of TKs and non-tribal partners.
The Guidelines were originally developed to inform the Department of Interior’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science (ACCCNRS) in May 2014. An annotated bibliography is also provided for reference and further information. These Guidelines are not intended to promote the exchange of Traditional Knowledges. Rather, they are to increase understanding of the role of and protections for TKs in climate initiatives, provide provisional guidance to those engaging in efforts that encompass TKs and increase mutually beneficial and ethical interactions between tribes and non-tribal partners. The Guidelines are a work in progress and intended to spur active deliberation and discussion for further development. For more information and a question/comment form, visit: http://climatetkw.wordpress.com/.
ENVS core faculty Scott Bridgham has recently been featured in The Oregonian. The article discusses research he and his team are conducting which investigates the impact that climate change will likely have on the Northwest’s native prairie plants. The study involves three sites spanning the coasts of Oregon and Washington; predictions “suggest that the Washington plot’s site will become more like Southern Oregon and that Southern Oregon will be more like California come the turn of the century.” How will native plants cope with these changing conditions? Dr. Bridgham is using infrared lamps and irrigation to simulate the future, and his results may well offer a glimpse into what we can expect from the next 100 years.
To read the full article, please click here.
We are delighted to announce that a paper co-authored by ENVS core faculty Trudy Ann Cameron has been awarded “Best JEEM Paper” of 2014 by the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. The Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is widely considered the best field journal of its field, so this award is quite the honor!
Cameron’s paper, co-authored by J.R. DeShazo of UCLA, is entitled “Demand for health risk reductions.” It presents a new model for measuring individuals’ willingness to pay for health risk reduction measures (for example: expenditures on medical research or environmental regulation). “Understanding the value people place on health risk reductions,” the authors write, “can help us decide upon appropriate levels of regulations for road, workplace, and household safety, or how much we should spend on publicly supported health care.” They argue that their model can help gauge that value by providing one estimate for subjects’ response to varied illness risks, rather than forcing researchers to focus on a single risk of death at a time.
A complete copy of “Demand for health risk reductions” can be found here.
ENVS alumni Wen Lee and Chris Stratton are getting married, and they’re doing it in an unusual way: by train. The couple is no stranger to the rails, having travelled 60,000 miles over the past five years, and as they began planning their wedding and honeymoon, they decided to combine the two in an epic cross-country train trip. Instead of asking relatives to travel for them, they are doing it the other way around. Over 30 days, they are holding four receptions in four far-flung locations: Lawrenceburg, KY, Boston, MA, Los Angeles, CA, and Oakland, CA. The journey has not only saved on airfare and carbon emissions, but has allowed them to include relatives who would otherwise not be able to attend a reception in California, including Chris’ 90 year old grandfather and 96 year old grandmother.
Wen and Chris’ adventure is currently being featured on Amtrak’s blog, which you can access here. Reading through their interviews, it’s clear that the train is more than their means of getting from place to place, but an experience in its own right. They enjoy being “unplugged” while they travel, and between games of backgammon and conversations with fellow travelers, they have been enjoying spectacular views of the Sierras, the Rockies, the plains, and the Appalachians cruise past their window.
ReNews, the newsletter of the Environmental Studies Program, was established in 2013 when faculty, staff, and graduate students decided to separate out the two main functions of the program’s journal, The Ecotone: that of a journal and that of a newsletter. While initially a short bulletin, The Ecotone has matured into a journal that serves as a space for interdisciplinary academic dialogue and creative expression. ReNews was created to provide an annual report to alumni, donors, prospective students, and general supporters and friends about the Environmental Studies Program, people, and accomplishments.
To view ReNews, please click here for an easy-to-read online magazine format.
ENVS doctoral student Sierra Deutsch has been selected to receive a Graduate Fellowship for International Research through and endowment to the Oregon University System by the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff). Sylff Fellows demonstrate a sustained commitment to international concerns and pursuits, exemplify broad vision as well as a focus on a specific issue, and exhibit leadership in collaborating with others in cross-cultural contexts. The fellowship of $12,000 is given for one academic year of full-time pursuit of a graduate degree in an Oregon University System institution. Dependent upon the individual fellow’s status within the graduate program, fellowship monies may be applied to tuition and fees, living expenses, research costs and travel associated with the conduct of research, and other expenses related to graduate study.
The 2014 issue of The Ecotone has arrived! The Ecotone is the journal of the Environmental Studies Program and is created by graduate students at the University of Oregon. It provides a venue for communication and exchange within and beyond the Environmental Studies Program among undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and facilitates cross-campus dialogue between disciplines and departments.
The Environmental Studies Program is excited to welcome Sarah Wald as our first joint hire with the department of English. She is set to begin teaching in both departments this fall, and is also excited to engage with the new ENVS-affiliated Food Studies Specialization.
Dr. Wald’s interest in environmental studies began when she herself was an undergraduate, during the global justice protests against the WTO in Seattle in 1999. The rhetoric of the movement intrigued her: “‘Teamsters and Turtles, together at last,’ was one of the slogans,” she recalls. “I wanted to know why it was so strange to imagine environmentalists and labor activists working together. Why weren’t mainstream environmentalists more engaged with the issues facing working people and people of color?” This sort of questioning triggered her involvement in the field, and she also believes that it sustains her current research, which strives to link Race and Ethnic Studies with environmental cultural studies.
Both inform a manuscript she is currently completing, entitled ‘To the Farmer in all of us’: Race, Nature, and Citizenship in Representations of Californian Farmers and Farmworkers. In it Wald mines newspaper articles, pamphlets, novels, and short stories for twentieth and twenty-first century Asian American and Latina/o voices, asking the questions: what have been the representations of Californian agricultural laborers, how do cultural understandings of nature “shape the racial gate-keeping of the nation,” and “what do these works tell us about the ways we imagine nature and landscape in relation to nation and the ways we racialize that relationship?”
Wald is excited about the opportunity to continue this scholarship at the University of Oregon, and as a professor affiliated with the Food Studies Specialization, she is interested in how a focus on producers of food, rather than consumers, might help develop the sustainable food movement. “Documentaries like Food, Inc.,” she explains, “tell us that we can vote with our dollars. Promoting consumer citizenship has all sorts of ideological consequences that we don’t often consider, though. Emphasizing consumption as the primary way to exercise political power privileges those with more money. If you vote with your dollar, those with the most dollars have the most votes. It also suggests that privatization (rather than federal regulation) is the solution to environmental ills, worker exploitation, and food safety.”
As a result, Wald wants to find a way to prioritize producers’ voices, and she believes that the UO’s focus on collaborative engagement with the food communities of Eugene and Springfield is a valuable tool for getting there. Not only do such partnerships pair activism with academics, they prompt important questions: do we best reduce pesticides by buying organic, or by increasing regulation? What issues are important to consumers, and are they different than those important to producers? Which voices are currently prioritized? “There’s a lot of inspiring scholarship and teaching happening in the program around issues of race and ethnicity and environmental justice,” Wald explains. She expects that this focus meshed with community engagement can be a powerful mix.
Such perspectives will inform her teaching next year, including a graduate course entitled Ecocritical Approaches to Race and Ethnicity and Food Matters. In the mean time, she is currently settling in to the city and is looking for recommendations for hiking and biking close to town. Please join us in welcoming her to Eugene!
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
ENVS major Francesca Varela hasn’t even graduated college yet, but she has already published her first novel. Call of the Sun Child became available March 7 through Homebound Publications—a work of young-adult fiction whose protagonist, Sempra, comes of age within a post apocalyptic society that has shut her and her community within a sealed, sustainable dome. In this world, the sun has grown so intense as to force the dome-bound humans to become nocturnal, and the most horrible punishment is to be cast out in exile. Nevertheless, Sempra begins to wonder: what is outside the dome? “When she and her childhood friend, Alden, discover a forbidden book, she begins to question the facility, and, with it, everything she has ever known.”
Call of the Sun Child draws on environmental themes, so it comes as no surprise that Varela engages with the environmental studies community here at the UO. She originally intended to be an English major, but has found that a concentration in ENVS, paired with creative writing, has allowed for broader interests: she has taken classes in geology and restoration ecology, and particularly enjoyed a two week-long class during the summer when she got on-the-ground field research experience.
“I really like to be out in the field, but I also like writing,” Varela explains. “I don’t see the two as separate, and I think literature is important as it gets people interested in environmental issues.” What’s more, she often gets her best creative ideas while she’s outdoors. In the case of Call of the Sun Child, she thought up the first nugget that would become her story about a year before she began writing, while she was looking at the moon. She began thinking about the possibility of a nocturnal society, and the rest of her apocalyptic adventure followed. All in all the book took about six months to write, including one summer vacation.
Moving forward, Varela intends to continue her engagement with both fieldwork and literature. She already has ideas for another book, and after graduation, hopes to find a job with an environmental nonprofit, or perhaps even at a National Park. In the meantime she’s looking forward to her last year of school, her interests in figure skating and violin, and trips to Opal Creek, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier.
The New York Times recently held a discussion regarding why Americans are less concerned about climate change than people in other countries, and ENVS core faculty Kari Norgaard participated as a guest blogger. She offered the opinion, informed by her research at the University of Oregon, that “this is not because climate skeptics reject climate science, but because people who say they are concerned about climate change ignore it. Thinking seriously about climate change brings up disturbing emotions, including fear about the future, a sense of helplessness, and for many Americans – guilt.”
To read more, please visit the full discussion here.