The Incorporation of Religion into Sustainability

by: Christopher Ahrens

ahrens blog post

A hydrogeological map of the aquifer structure around the city of Mecca.
Picture credit to Muhammad Amin M. Sharaf

Recent efforts to incorporate religious imperatives into the realm of sustainability discourse has often been seen as a recent phenomenon manifesting out of fears of climate change and increasing popular awareness, but this narrative fails to understand the long-running interplay that various belief systems have had with the environment. In the case of Islam, this interplay is both significant and yet obscured by an expansive timeline and the methodological difficulties which come from the need to investigate a topic with few texts and even fewer archaeological indicators. To delve into this issue, as was my goal upon working with the Committee on Sustainability, I decided to formulate a unique means by which to enter into debate on the topic which applied aspects of Structural Anthropology, Textualism, and environmental modelling to form cogent historical claims.
What resulted from this mode of investigation are some interesting conclusions. Broadly, when one comes to the understanding that most supposed areas from which Islam could have originated, it becomes evident that the formation of conservationist sentiments regarding natural resources came not from immediate directives founded in primary sources, but rather from legal extrapolations made sometimes centuries later. In a continued attempt at testing the outer limits of the methodology that informed my claim as to the origin of Islamic environmental thought, I then continued the study by providing a perspective on the continued advancement of the concept through its interaction with texts. It is here that I advance the claim that the three major dimensions by which a modern understanding of environmental-religious praxis (Biocentrism, Anthropocentrism, and Theocentrism) is had is clearly reflected in Islam through the works of Al-Jahiz, Ibn Khaldun, and Ibn Hanbal.
Overall, I aim to pursue the popularization of a new mode of thought that transcends the boundaries of Islam or environmental history. In recent times, I feel that the extremes of Orientalist literary scholarship and historical skepticism have provided little framework for a continued study into pertinent religious topics. I find my project with the Committee on Sustainability to be my first step in contributing to the reduction of this divide, and the provision of another way forward.

Sharaf, Muhammad M. “Hydrogeology and Hydrochemistry of the Aquifer System of Wadi An Numan, Makkah Al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia.” AQUA Mundi, 2011.

October 29, 2018

Solar Spring Break 2018

by: Sam Laveson

spring break hark
After countless hours spent coordinating logistics, educating myself on solar energy and environmental justice, and fundraising, my big opportunity finally came! For a week in May, I flew to Sacramento, California, where I joined some other college students from across the country for “Solar Spring Break”. This is a program run through GRID Alternatives, an organization dedicated to making “renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities”. In this specific program, students spend a week around one of GRID’s offices going to low-income households and installing solar arrays rooftops.

Traditionally, colleges and universities form teams to participate in Solar Spring Break. However, because I was rather late finding out about this incredible opportunity and didn’t have enough time to organize a William & Mary team, I decided to join their inaugural Intercollegiate Team. There were only five of us, but we were a strong team, with presence from William & Mary, Texas Christian University, University of Nevada Reno, and a technical school in Colorado.

The solar-related portions of our week involved climbing up onto rooftops and starting from scratch to install solar arrays. There were professionals who guided us along through every step – from putting up flashings to connecting wires to prying up shingles to bending conduits. It was a great workout, and I did not need any prior experience to do a great job (which I did not have).

The technical and scientific components were complemented by further education on social and environmental justice. Before our program began, we all met through Skype a few times to discuss equality vs. equity; racial and ethnic diversity; and career paths in solar, among other things. During the program, the time that we were not on rooftops was spent learning about campaigning; putting together promotional materials to mail out; and touring ArchNexus, one of the world’s few LEED double platinum certified buildings.

Beyond all of this, there was ample time for us to bond as the inaugural Intercollegiate Team and make some awesome memories. While in Sacramento, we all lived together at a campsite and cooked all our meals collaboratively. We thoroughly enjoyed nightly campfires, cooking projects, a petting zoo, and some natural beauty at our housing site. We also enjoyed having Wednesday afternoon free to explore an art museum, the capitol building, and other attractions in Downtown Sacramento. Furthermore, we all kept miniature notebooks that we used to write notes to each other during daily reflections.

Should I participate in Solar Spring Break again, I would love to organize a William & Mary team to go to GRID’s office in DC and perform some more installations. Or, if not enough people from William & Mary are interested in / available to participate, I have also considered combining forces with other Virginia institutions to form a team. Alternatively, if I find myself too busy or unavailable to organize a team, then I will hopefully join an already existing team. Whatever ends up happening, I would love to be part of another Solar Spring Break to relive these experiences and have new ones.

October 17, 2018

Your Actions Have an Impact: The International Conference on Sustainable Development

– By: Joshua Panganiban

harkupon conference

In the highlands of Fiji, away from all the tourism, the village of Bukuya is powered by a micro-hydropower generator (SDG 7). This small project may have been funded by an international organization, but its majority of stakeholders are the residents of the village and 40% of them are women (SDG 4).

 

These are the stories from the developing world. These are the results of NGO’s, non-profits, consulting agencies, and governments all adhering to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) as released by the United Nations. The goal to end poverty, to improve well-being, for gender equality, etc all of these goals were made for a more sustainable world. This is the ambition of the United Nations, of 193 countries that pledged billions and billions of dollars to achieve their vision of a sustainable world by 2030.

Hosted in Columbia University, in the heart of New York City, the International Conference on Sustainable Development brings students, innovators, professionals, businesses, activists, world leaders together to assemble and share their ideas about making the world a more sustainable place.

I’ve had the amazing opportunity hearing educators share about making their university campus’ a living sustainable laboratory in Madrid, where environmental and cultural education follows them every step of the way. I learned the story about Julio, who linked a direct issue of sick children in one household. He showed us how to connect the community to university to the government. I saw how important international investment is to these small remote villages, but as well as the ethics involved with maintaining the area’s culture rather than being too influenced by foreigners. I heard Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, give her keynote address about the importance of maintaining our aquatic industries and ecosystems as good stewards of the Earth. All these are just small examples of the great works and projects that are helping millions of people in the developing world. There were too much knowledge and experiences, but not enough time, to take the entire conference in.

Nevertheless, my best experience isn’t meeting all these amazing professionals doing impactful work, nor is it listening to renowned world leaders giving speeches. The most important takeaway is meeting fellow undergraduate as passionate into sustainable development as I am. Whenever I find a student as young as me and I ask them their story about why they want to help people in countries where the bare essentials of water and electricity are a constant struggle in their daily lives, my heart grows. I find the greatest euphoria in meeting all these accomplished and passionate young people. As I put down their numbers and emails in my ledger, I smile knowing that eventually, it would be me — it would be him — it would be her, but more importantly be us that would be out there making the world a more sustainable place.

October 1, 2018

Looking Towards Spring Semester: Earth Week!

-By Julia Montgomery

image

For the past seven years, William and Mary has extended Earth Day in April to a week-long celebration where students come together for events that bring them outdoors and take a chance to reflect on issues of sustainability. Before coming to William and Mary, I had always considered Earth Day a chance to marvel over mother nature and appreciate all the things it has to offer. Now, I’ve learned that Earth Week can mean much more than that.

I have been co-chair of Earth Week this past semester along with the chair, Abby Davidson, planning what type of message we want to convey throughout the week. In past years, there is always a theme with the goal of opening up students and the community to topics that they may be unfamiliar with or be interested in learning more about. This past year, the theme was “The World Around Us” where students were able to participate in a Crim Dell restoration, clean up the James River, and sunset paddleboarding on Lake Matoaka. Combining
activities that give you the chance to enjoy time with your friends in the spring and reflect on the impacts that our habits have on the environment and how we can improve them is the main goal of Earth Week.

earth-week-2018-square

The theme for Earth Week 2018 will be Dinner Table Conversations: From Farm to Fork and Back
Again. This idea brings up questions of where our food comes from, how it is made, if we are eating the smartest things, and so much more. The COLL300 theme for the spring semester is sustainability, which ties in perfectly with the purpose of Earth Week. On Wednesday, April 18th, the school is welcoming Vandana Shiva. Environmental activist, author of over twenty books and scientific advisor are just a few of her titles. This will be a very exciting chance to hear the voice of a global scholar with a wealth of knowledge in several fields. Throughout the rest of the week, we wanted to bring in an opportunity to participate in a community service events that is environmentally aware and gives back to the community. We will have several other activities with the theme of sustainability and food to foster awareness and bring the community together,
all culminating with the Earth Day Festival taking place on April 21st.

Earth Week is a great opportunity for the campus to promote environmentally aware practices to the students and bring up deeper issues in society that need to be addressed. As a institution of higher learning, colleges can shape the ideals and mindsets that students walk away with when they graduate and go about making changes in the real world. Being exposed to these types of topics are important and Earth Week is a great way to integrate them into the daily lives of students. Our goal is to make it fun and educational and hopefully,
if we do it right, enough people will walk away choosing to make a difference that can have an impact on our environment here at William and Mary. So, when the week comes around in April, remember it’s more than just a chance to say “happy birthday mother nature!”. Take the opportunity to go out and learn more about what we can do to help our planet.

 Tagged:  , , , , , March 17, 2018

Mapping the Crim Dell

-By Erin O’Hara

We are tree people now. This semester, Maura Finna (2020), Kelsey Robarts (2017, SoB), and I continued a storied EcoAmbassador project, Crim Dell Mapping. We began the semester with maps and data left from the semesters before and took off running, identifying all of the trees in the Crim Dell. Our goal was to create a map of Crim Dell trees that could change and be used for many years to come. We created a skeleton and it’s up to future twamps to create an incredible body of work.

This is the map that was produced after Fall 2016.

This is the map that was produced after Fall 2016.

My favorite part of this project was learning how to identify trees. We employed the expertise of our advisor, Professor Beth Chambers, and used East Coast flora identification guides to name all of the trees with diameters of greater than four inches. Now I am able to identify many species of trees on campus and around Virginia, a skill that comes in handy sometimes.

My new favorite tree is a Sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis

My new favorite tree is a Sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis

There is also an ArcGIS desktop version, located in the Center for Geospatial Analysis at William and Mary database.

This is the ArcGIS Desktop version of our map.

This is the ArcGIS Desktop version of our map.

For further information on this project or for help using our data, feel free to contact me at eaohara@email.wm.edu.

erin 4

Trees-out, my fellow flora enthusiasts!

January 17, 2018

Cleaning the Crim Dell

-By Joshua Panganiban

IMG_2525

Ever been to a lake, especially man-made ones, and weren’t able to see your feet? Or even worse you could barely see inches down the brackish surface. Do you remember how you felt? There’s a certain uncomfortability associated with cloudy and dirty water, which makes areas like the Bahamas or Iceland with crystal-clear water extremely appealing. In the past, clean water was seen as a luxury, but in this technological and progressive day and age it’s the aesthetic norm in the developed world. Thus, the demand for materials that would cleanse water of its impurities is high.

Over the summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to assist Professor Randy Chambers in his research with denitrifying bio-polymers. Coming from Virginia Beach I had a vested interest in cleaning brackish and freshwater ecosystems since the city was basically built on a marsh. These bioplastics, commonly referred to as PHA, have the purpose of converting dissolved nitrates in the water to nitrogen gas by providing a conducive environment for denitrifying bacteria to grow. The reduction of nitrates are important since it prevents algae blooms which accounts for most of the dead waste floating in water. He told me there would be many different blends of bioplastics that needed testing. The end goal was to recognize which plastic was the most efficient as denitrification and commercially feasible. The good professor referred to the matting as a “billion dollar idea.”

I was ecstatic. Not only would I be able to help with research, but I could potentially be part of an important marketable sustainable technology. I really look up to people like Elon Musk who was able to capitalize and popularize sustainable tech.

I applied to the Committee on Sustainability’s Green Fee with the pitch that denitrification PHA could possibly clean the Crim Dell and restore it’s beauty. Thankfully, they graciously funded me. Fast-forward to late-May on the door steps of the Keck Lab. My research was about to begin.

I knew that I had to learn the proper techniques for testing the biopolymers in the lab. While Professor Chambers and I were waiting on the more bioplastic blends that were supposed to come in through the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) we ran some lab tests. During the lab incubation, I tested three different types of polymers and a control with the independent variable being the mix of the polymer.  The results of multiple trials favored the more pure form of PHA in the lab setting. Though the data was not consistent, more often than not denitrification was occurring at a faster rate in the samples with biopolymers than the controls.

IMG_2611

Professor Chambers decided that it would be best to play it by year since the PHA testing would be weather dependent and we were unsure when the additional bioplastics would arrive.To begin, we set up a testing area of silt walls to divide up the stream and bricks to slow down the water in the stormwater outlet in the Crim Dell. We referred to this area as “the floams.” Using stormwater management knowledge from a previous internship I set up sandbags along areas of high run-off and bricks to reduce the destruction of the floams during rain storms. Once the bioplastics arrived, I was tasked with making waffles out of these plastics and zip tying them together to form a mat. Yes, I put bioplastic in actual waffles irons (the ones used to cook food) and became a waffles-chef for a couple days. The VIMS faculty in charge of the project joked that I was the best bio-plastic waffle maker in the world since no else has ever made waffles out of the specific bioplastics we were using.

Over the course of four weeks, we ran from two to three tests each week. The results were very inconsistent. On some tests, I would see denitrification occurring. Other times, there would be an increase in nitrate levels. I was frustrated. I thought I was contaminating my samples when I brought them back to the lab, but Professor Chambers tested the samples himself and found similar results.

IMG_2667

There were a lot of factors as well that we thought could account for the inconsistency of the change in nitrate levels, but there wasn’t enough time to test any of them. After thirteen tests, we called the research inconclusive due to the inability for denitrification to be replicated on a consistent basis.

Even though little progress was made on the research itself I’m excited for more sustainable technology like the PHA matting to make its way into the future. Since PHA is a bioplastic with biodegradable properties it could potentially replace a lot of plastics in short-term materials such as erosion control matting or silt wall. This technology has the potential to reduce the amount of microplastic in our oceans while cleaning up water in our ditches. Hopefully, I will revisit the data I collected and re-test the biopolymer in the near future. In the meantime, I am still assisting Professor Chambers during the week in running tests on the new prototypes and mixes of plastics that VIMS continues to send him.

 

November 14, 2017

Herbarium? I Barely Know Him

-By Marly Saunders

Over this past summer, I did research in the W&M Herbarium every day through a green fee grant to develop protocols for digitizing our vast collection of plant specimens.

MSaunders_blog_post_pic

If you’ve never heard of an herbarium, you’re not alone. I’ve described herbariums to my friends and family as something like a library for dead plant specimens. Every specimen is painstakingly pressed, dried, labelled, carefully organized by taxon, and maintained in the herbarium. Herbaria may not be glamorous, but they play a crucial role in behind-the-scenes botanical research that can be applied to fields from agriculture to biotechnology to genetics. Universities, botanical gardens, and other institutions all around the world all have herbariums ranging in size from a couple thousand specimens to many millions. William & Mary has a mid-sized herbarium located in ISC 2, with more than 81,000 different plant specimens- and more are added every day. We have the most comprehensive collection of American southeast coastal plain plants, especially of taxa like Cyperaceae (the sedges). Beth Chambers, the curator of our herbarium, has been working on recording and geolocating every plant specimen in the collection into our online database so that the data can never be lost and each specimen can be located and used for research or education with ease.

Up until now, however, the herbarium has had no visual record of the specimens. Delicate plants would be shipped far distances to other institutions for researchers to see our specimens and their label data. Over the course of this summer I bought equipment, created an imaging station, and developed protocols for digitization of every plant specimen. After meeting with digitization experts at the University of Mary Washington, the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, doing extensive research, and testing the system by trial-and-error, I developed a protocol that generally follows the best practices of other institutions like ours but within the constraints of our unique herbarium needs, budget, and time allowances.

This fall, with the aid of these best practices, new equipment, and a team of dedicated volunteers, we are beginning the process of digitization and of putting the images online for access by researchers, students, educators, and the public. I would strongly recommend any aspiring undergraduate plants nerds to check out the herbarium, learn from Beth, and maybe even start volunteering with the digitization project!

October 22, 2017

Educating Sustainable Behaviors: The W&M Eco-Rep Program

~ By Maria Kanevsky

As an EcoAmbassador, for the past year I have been researching and trying to start an initiative for students to promote sustainability awareness in an “Eco-Representative Program”, otherwise known as the Eco-Rep Program. EcoAmbassadors each have a different project to focus on for the semester or the whole year, whether it be Crim Dell Restoration or leading Earth Week initiatives, and receive course credit for their project. All EcoAmbassadors meet once a month for class to report back on their projects, talk over sustainability as a whole, and discuss various readings related to sustainability.

For the first semester I mostly gathered my research. I talked to many faculty and students from other schools that already have their own version of the Eco-Rep program. I had some difficulties getting into contact with some schools, but most schools were excited to talk on the phone with me about their program. Each school was slightly different from the other in structure, but the main idea was still the same; to have Eco-Reps create sustainable programs and events to help educate their campus. There was one particular school where their program was breaking down, and taking those suggestions as things to *avoid* were especially helpful. Some schools have the funds to create the entire program within their sustainability department, and other schools have their Eco-Rep program integrated within other organizations, such as Residence Life or Greek Life, for additional support. I learned a great deal through all of the informational interviews, and there was a lot of information that I had to sift through.

Many options that other schools have were not going to be applicable to William & Mary, so in my project I tried to figure out what would actually work for our school specifically. The best idea that I could envision was an integration with Hall Council, where the dorm designated Eco-Rep would meet with Hall Council and help them to create events focused on sustainable dorm habits. After deciding on this idea, the next step was to try and involve those on campus. To encourage organizations to join in this program I wrote a manual detailing what an Eco-Rep is, the history of Eco-Reps, the goals of the program, and how the structure of the program would work. This was successful in the end, and now the Jefferson-Barrett Hall Council will be the first dorm to start the Eco-Rep program. Their Hall Council will be implementing a new executive position of “Eco-Rep” starting next school year, and will be following the ideas put forth in the Eco-Rep Program manual. I’m excited to help ensure that this first Eco-Rep role will run smoothly, and to hopefully see this role spread to the rest of freshmen dorms across William & Mary.

May 10, 2017

Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference – Student Summit

~ By Jennifer Dunn, Talia Schmitt, and Gracia Luoma-Overstreet

Members of the William & Mary Eco-Schools Leadership Initiative (ESLI) attended the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference-Student Summit held in College Park, Maryland and co-hosted by the American University Office of Sustainability and the University of Maryland Office of Sustainability. ESLI members had the opportunity to present our work on sustainability at W&M and in Williamsburg, learn from others’ presentations about their sustainability projects at their respective campuses, and gain valuable insight about best practices in sustainability.

The opening plenary speaker of the conference was Mr. Preston Mitchum, an impressive young lawyer and adjunct professor at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies who works to advance the reproductive and sexual rights of women and girls. He is extremely focused on social justice issues, and reminded the conference that sustainability extends beyond just environmental issues and must also encompass social justice issues in order to create a society that will be happy and healthy. While the ESLI members agreed that they desired more discussion about environmental justice within social justice, all felt that it was inspiring to hear Mr. Mitchum’s call to action on social justice issues in order to make the world a better place.

ESLI members presented our work on sustainability through environmental education to attendees of our workshop, explaining the importance of environmental education and how our work benefits both our volunteers and the students we teach. We demonstrated one of lessons about adaptations by teaching and playing a game called Adapt Like a Cat with workshop attendees and they thoroughly enjoyed the game and our teaching style. We also had an open discussion about environmental education experiences and shared ideas about possible lesson plans for the future.

The workshops later in the day that ESLI members attended were very insightful about other universities’ sustainability initiatives, prompting thoughts about how we could help make W&M more sustainable using other presenters’ methods. One presenter from Southern Connecticut State University shared how she and her team were able to negotiate with the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts on their campus to allow students to bring their own reusable mug to reduce waste from disposable drinking cups, something that W&M students wish we could do but have been told that we cannot. This campus’ efforts proved to ESLI members that this goal could be accomplished and provided insight on possible ways in which to do it. A student intern at University of Maryland’s Sustainability Office presented how UMD educated all freshman students about sustainability in a fun and informative way during their freshman year classes, prompting thoughts on how we could help support the Office of Sustainability and SEAC’s efforts to be included in freshman orientation seminars to educate students about how to live sustainably on campus and be aware of their impact on the earth. A teacher at Virginia Tech held a workshop about the philosophical aspects of sustainability and best practices for communicating sustainability in a way that is informative and convincing. This presentation was striking because it reminded attendees to think from the point of view of others, rather than from the environmentalist point of view, something that I believe all advocates for sustainability are sometimes guilty of.

The second plenary speaker was Ms. Brenda Pulley, Senior Vice President for Recycling at Keep America Beautiful. She shared her career path and the attitudes and methods that Keep America Beautiful have been using in order to successfully convince the American public that recycling is important and essential to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and a sound economy. Ms. Pulley was very encouraging to all attendees to continue to work on sustainability issues, providing a success story amid all the negative current events related to the state of the environment.

In conclusion, this conference was an excellent opportunity to discuss sustainability with peers coming from different perspectives and facing different challenges on their own campuses because of the open environment of the conference. ESLI members were able to discuss and share contact information with many of the conference attendees, and we hope to be able to broaden our network and W&M network of resources, examples, and ideas in order to make W&M a more sustainable campus for future members of the Tribe.

ESLI members having fun at SSCC 2017 From left to right: Gracia Luoma-Overstreet, Talia Schmitt, Jennifer Dunn

ESLI members having fun at SSCC 2017
From left to right: Gracia Luoma-Overstreet, Talia Schmitt, Jennifer Dunn

May 10, 2017

Got Some Lead, but We Ain’t Dead: Community and Innovation in Flint, Michigan

~ By Jennifer Ross

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the American Studies Association annual conference in Denver, Colorado. This year’s theme was “Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are”….so there was no way I could not write about what was going on in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Skyline of Flint, Michigan. Personal photograph.

Skyline of Flint, Michigan. Personal photograph.

In my paper, “We Still Call it Home: Complicating the Flint Water Crisis,” I focused on providing a different narrative of the Flint Water Crisis, one that was much more full, complex, and multi-faceted than the accounts provided by the media. I twined together our history of crises (deindustrialization, state and municipal recessions, pollution, arson) with our responses to them. Because of these crises, Flint has fashioned itself into a hub of innovation:

  • Individuals have been urban gardening since I was a child. Now urban gardens cover entire city blocks.
  • The Flint Farmers Market offers free vendor booths to youth gardening programs and both allows fresh fruits and vegetables to be bought with food stamps and doubles the amount of produce that can be bought per dollar.
  • At the height of the arson spree, neighbors fought fires with garden hoses to supplement the skeletal fire crews the city could afford.
  • Community organizations and the University of Michigan—Flint rehab houses for individual, community, and educational uses. One such example includes the university’s Urban Alternatives House, which is Platinum LEED certified and explores environmentally sustainable construction and operation strategies.
  • Phytoremediation, a process utilizing trees to draw toxins out of contaminated soil, is underway in Chevy in the Hole, one of the most polluted ex-industrial sites in the city.

Specifically regarding the Flint Water Crisis, it was Flint residents, charities, and churches who first began organizing the massive water collectio and distribution efforts that allowed people to pick up cases of bottled water. Often a semi trailer full of water would pull up to one of these organizations, a call for volunteers would go out over the radio, and people would flock to help unload and stack the water. It was also Flint residents who distributed water door to door when the National Guard deemed several neighborhoods too dangerous to enter. Additionally, people throughout the city have responded with creative ways of dealing with the enormous numbers of empty water bottles, particularly through art and protest. One local artist traces children’s silhouettes, fills the outline with water bottles, and lights the plastic with LEDs to highlight the importance of water to the human body. The University of Michigan—Flint Early Childhood Development Center turned empty bottles into hanging chandeliers painted by the two- and three-year olds. The chandeliers have been hanging in the Flint Farmer’s Market and were auctioned off for almost $3,000. Finally, UM-Flint dance instructors choreographed a stunning display of what the water crisis has meant for adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Water bottle chandeliers. Personal photograph.

Water bottle chandeliers. Personal photograph.

UM-Flint Spring Dance Finale. Courtesy Mlive.

UM-Flint Spring Dance Finale. Courtesy Mlive.

Attending this conference was a tremendous experience. For as much as Flint has been in the news, and for as egregious an affront to democracy and human rights the Water Crisis is, very few people are actually talking about it outside of the city, the state, and some activist circles. Thousands of scholars attended this conference, but mine was the only paper on the Flint Water Crisis.

It left me puzzled.

And it left me frustrated.

The Flint Water Crisis touches on issues which, at some point, communities across the United States and the country as a body must confront. Racist environmental justice policies continue to be implemented and carried out. The Rust Belt continues to decay and the soil and water contamination left by exiting corporations remains a hazard to the health and well-being of the residents both nearby and downstream. Neoliberal and austerity politics continue to ascend and become more normalized. And civil and human rights issues, including basic rights and necessities such as shelter, food, and access to clean drinking water continue to come under siege as local, state, and federal budgets are stripped of funding for infrastructural improvements and upkeep, environmental protection, and social safety nets. Perhaps most worrisome of all is the lack of productive and meaningful social criticism—quite simply, the absence of outrage—over the Flint Water Crisis.

What does this tell us about who deserves fundamental human rights, let alone civil rights? And how can we decry the human rights violations of regimes abroad when we are enacting violence against an entire population ourselves?

What does this tell us about our priorities as a country? And how can we, as a country, comport ourselves as the bringers of freedom, democracy, and wealth, when we invalidate local, elected governments through the implementation of “Emergency Managers,” and leave men, women, and children to suffer from the poisonous effects of lead?

And what does this tell us about the future? And how are we–how are you–going to respond?

About the Author 

Jennifer Ross received dual bachelor degrees in Honors English and History, as well as her Masters in English, at the University of Michigan-Flint. She is currently a second-year PhD student in the American Studies Program at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Jennifer’s research interests include the structure and function of state power, neoliberalism, disaster literature, and American empire. Her upcoming dissertation will investigate how the fiction of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina served to first build and then critique the nationalist narratives of the counter-terror state.

May 10, 2017

Previous Posts


About:

Welcome to Hark Upon the Green! This blog is a shared space for members of the sustainability community at William & Mary to write about sustainability topics on and beyond.

If you would like to contribute to the blog, contact sustain@wm.edu

Make sure to visit Sustainability at W&M for all of W&M's progress on sustainability efforts.

Catch up with William & Mary Sustainability on Twitter at WM_GreenisGold
and on Instagram @wm_sustainability

To learn what William & Mary's Environmental Law Society is up to, visit their blog at http://envirols.blogs.wm.edu/.

Archives

RSS WM_GreenisGold