Above image: Erin Moore's Pipeline Portals | Photo credit: David Paul Bayles

Environmental and Social Justice in the Unfolding Wake of the Pandemic

As the pandemic presses on, our democracy is challenged, and unprecedented fires and floods devastate communities around the world, it is clear that we won't be returning to "normal" life. So much of what we hold dear is threatened—a livable planet, our health, hard-fought progress toward social and environmental justice. There is a lot to mourn in the unfolding wake of the pandemic, yet there are also great opportunities and choices.

Arundhati Roy thinks about this time as a portal. She writes:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it. (Financial Times, April 3, 2020)

In the winter of 2021, Environmental Arts and Humanities offered a course (EAH 411/511) that explored Roy's idea of the pandemic as a portal. We invited scholars and creatives from various disciplines in the arts, humanities, and environmental sciences to share their highest vision of environmental and social justice, think about the crucial steps we can take as individuals and communities to bring that vision to life, and share stories of how this new paradigm is already taking shape. Every week, students talked with a renowned guest speaker and attended the speakers' keynote lectures via zoom. Throughout the course, students thought creatively and critically about how to integrate intersectional justice into their own scholarship and careers. The class explored questions like: If the pandemic is a portal between two worlds, what ideas do we need to carry over the threshold to build a just society? How can we seize this moment, even as we grieve, to re-image a world that is deeply rooted in environmental and social justice? What principles and stories will guide us? How might the natural world be a source of courage and inspiration for the long journey ahead?

Lectures Available Online

We recorded the keynote lecture for the class, and we invite you to watch and share them freely. The speakers in the series came from many perspectives including writing, philosophy, and history to architecture, music, and filmmaking. Kim Stanley Robinson

"Some Lessons from the Pandemic for Dealing with Climate Change"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, the Anarres Project for Alternative Futures, the Corvallis Public Library, and Grass Roots Books & Music

Erin Moore

"Design and Resistance: Pipeline Portals"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative and OSU's Office of Sustainability

J. Drew Lanham

"Coloring the Conservation Conversation"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, the Corvallis Public Library, the Corvallis Audubon Society, Greenbelt Land Trust, and the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition

Mazin Jamal and KJ Song

"Let Me Be a Good Ancestor: Rooting Social and Environmental Justice in Song and Spirit"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative

Michael Paul Nelson

"Welcome to the Center for the Study of an Uncertain Future: A Tour"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative

Elizabeth Sawin

"Multisolving Our Way Forward: COVID-19, Health, Justice, and Climate Protection"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative

Bathsheba Demuth

"Portrait of a Summer on Fire: Covid, Climate Change, and the Ties that Bind Us"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, the Corvallis Public Library, and Grass Roots Books & Music

Vanessa Raditz

"Queer Resilience in the Era of Climate Change"
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Co-sponsored by OSU's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, the Corvallis Public Library, and Greenbelt Land Trust

Learn More About the Speakers

Bathsheba Demuth is an Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University. An environmental historian, she specializes in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. Her interest in northern environments and cultures began when she was 18 and moved to the village of Old Crow in the Yukon. For over two years, she mushed huskies, hunted caribou, fished for salmon, and otherwise learned to survive in the taiga and tundra. Her prize-winning first book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (W.W. Norton) was named a Nature Top Ten Book of 2019 and Best Book of 2019 by NPR, Barnes and Noble, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal among others. A 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Demuth is starting work on her second book, a biography of the Yukon River watershed from colonization to climate change. From the archive to the dog sled, she is interested in how the histories of people, ideas, places, and other-than-human species intersect. Her writing on these subjects has appeared in publications from The American Historical Review to The New Yorker.

Mazin Jamal is a member of Thrive Choir, a diverse group of vocalists, artists, activists, educators, healers, and community organizers who join together in big harmony. Members unite to build equitable systems where we can flourish as individuals, as communities, and as a planet. Jamal is also the executive director of Holistic Underground, a leadership and organizational development agency for social movements and businesses.

A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, J. Drew Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature, which received the Reed Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Southern Book Prize, and was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal. He is a birder, naturalist, and hunter-conservationist who has published essays and poetry in publications including Orion, Audubon, Flycatcher, and Wilderness, and in several anthologies, including The Colors of Nature, State of the Heart, Bartram's Living Legacy, and Carolina Writers at Home. An Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher at Clemson University, he and his family live in the Upstate of South Carolina, a soaring hawk's downhill glide from the southern Appalachian escarpment that the Cherokee once called the Blue Wall.

Erin E. Moore is an associate professor in the Department of Architecture and in the Environmental Studies Program and is Head of the School of Architecture and Environment in the College of Design at the University of Oregon. Moore works in teaching, research and creative practice on the life cycle environmental context of building construction and on the ways that buildings shape and reflect cultural constructions of nature. In the face of serious global challenges, Moore believes that it is especially important to develop aggressive, creative innovators who can connect the power of design with good science and rigorous ethical thinking. In her own teaching, Moore works to bring together processes of design and innovation with the science of sustainability in collaborations with chemists, ecologists, and biologists.

Michael Paul Nelson is an environmental scholar, writer, teacher, speaker, consultant, and professor of environmental ethics and philosophy. He currently holds the Ruth H. Spaniol Endowed Chair of Renewable Resources, and serves as the Lead-Principal Investigator for the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Long-Term Ecological Research Program at Oregon State University. He is also the philosopher in residence of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project in Lake Superior, the longest continuous study of a predator-prey system in the world. Michael's research and teaching focus is environmental ethics and philosophy: from the concept of wilderness to topics in the philosophy of ecology, from hunting ethics to theories of environmental education, from topics in wildlife ecology and conservation biology to questions about science and advocacy and the ecology and politics of wolves. He is the author of many professional and popular articles, and the author or editor of four books in and around the area of environmental ethics including: The Great New Wilderness Debate (1998), The Wilderness Debate Rages On: Continuing the Great New Wilderness Debate (2008), American Indian Environmental Ethics: An Ojibwa Case Study (2004), and the award-winning book Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril (2010) with Kathleen Dean Moore.

Vanessa Raditz (they/them) is a queer cultural geographer, educator, and culture-shifter dedicated to community healing, opening access to land and resources, and fostering a thriving local economy based on human and ecological resilience. Vanessa is currently the director of the collaborative documentary film Fire & Flood: Queer Resilience in the era of Climate Change, rooted in their lived experience of the 2017 fires in Northern California and relationships with queer and trans folks in Puerto Rico. Vanessa received their Master of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences from UC Berkeley, and currently studies in the Geography PhD program at University of Georgia. Vanessa is part of the founding collective of the Queer Ecojustice Project, educating and organizing at the intersection of ecological justice and queer liberation.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a science fiction writer and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is a New York Times bestselling author who has written more than 20 books including, most recently, The Ministry for the Future. His work often explores ecological themes, and in 2008 he was named one of Time magazine's "Heroes of the Environment." He serves on the board of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and lives in Davis, California.

Elizabeth Sawin is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Climate Interactive and an expert on solutions that address climate change while also improving health, well-being, equity, and economic vitality, and she is the originator of the term "multisolving" to describe such win-win-win solutions. Beth writes and speaks about multisolving, climate change, and leadership based on systems thinking to local, national, and international audiences. Her work has been published in Non-Profit Quarterly, The Sandford Social Innovation Review, U.S. News, The Daily Climate, System Dynamics Review, and more. She has trained and mentored global sustainability leaders in the Donella Meadows Fellows Program and provided systems thinking training to both Ashoka and Dalai Lama Fellows. Since 2014, Beth has participated in the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, a continuing dialogue on issues of climate change and sustainability among a select group of humanities scholars, writers, artists, and climate scientists. Beth is also a member of the advisory board to the Kresge Foundation's Climate Change Health and Equity Program. A biologist with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Beth trained in system dynamics and sustainability with Donella Meadows and worked at Sustainability Institute, the research institute founded by Meadows, for 13 years. Beth has two adult daughters and lives in rural Vermont where she and her husband grow as much of their own food as they can manage.

KJ Song (they/them) is co-artistic director of Thrive Choir, a diverse group of vocalists, artists, activists, educators, healers, and community organizers who join together in big harmony. They are also a member of the City of Refuge UCC Praise Ensemble, a radically inclusive ministry of restoration based in Oakland. An avid songcatcher and ceremonial theater creatrix, they are committed to singing in an interconnected culture rooted in joy and justice. Regarded internationally as The Voice Doula, KJ supports facilitators, public speakers, and musicians to embody their voices and empower their audiences through sacred vocal work.