Purdue University

Next Steps: Environmental Justice, Climate Change, and Racial Justice

Welcome to the website for Purdue’s Next Steps - Environmental Justice, Climate Change & Racial Justice Symposium, which took place virtually on March 25 & 26, 2021.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge the traditional homelands of the Indigenous People which Purdue University is built upon. We honor and appreciate the Bodéwadmik (Potawatomi), Lenape (Delaware), Myaamia (Miami), and Shawnee People who are the original Indigenous caretakers.

About the Symposium

Today, almost 250 years after the founding of the Constitution, and almost 50 years after the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we are faced with multiple injustices occurring simultaneously as environmental destruction, climate change, and development adversely impacts communities of color and reinforces systems of oppression and dispossession. These interlocking issues present critical challenges that need to be addressed from a multitude of perspectives.

The Center for the Environment worked with several organizations on campus and in conjunction with several Indiana institutions of higher education (Notre Dame, IUPUI, IU Bloomington, Indiana State University) to organize this free two-day virtual, regional symposium. This combined effort was led by Professor of Anthropology and former Associate Director of the Center for the Environment, Laura Zanotti and was co-organized and supported by Purdue’s Climate Change Research Center, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, Purdue’s Honors College, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies within the College of Liberal Arts, the Asian American and Asian Resource and Cultural Center, the Patti & Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance, and Purdue's Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership. The Honors College Visiting Scholar Program and the Black Cultural Center provided support and collaboration to invite distinguished guests. 

The Symposium included experts in areas such as intersectionality, racial justice, decolonization, law and environmental policy as well as the arts, and was composed of four panels organized around the following themes:

  1. Dimensions of Environmental Justice and the Midwest
  2. Pollutants, Toxins, Health and Justice
  3. Gender, Inclusion, and Justice
  4. Conflict, Disaster, and Climate Change

There were also several working groups sessions on focused on the four main areas as well as the New Carbon Economy.

The conference featured guest speaker Dr. Carlton Waterhouse, recently appointed as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Land and Emergency Management, Office of Land and Emergency Management in the Environmental Protection Agency. Professor Waterhouse is an international expert on environmental law and environmental justice, as well as on reparations and redress for historic injustices. He recently testified on the importance of reparations for African Americans before the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.  He is a Fulbright research scholar and is a board member of the Environmental Law Institute.  His views have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets.

Watch the recording of Dr. Waterhouse's keynote address here.

The impetus for this event came from the Center’s long-term interest in building sustainable and just communities through the work of the Center’s signature research area on this topic.  To learn more about this group, visit their page on our website.

If you’d like to help  the Center for the Environment support more activities like this one, consider donating to the Center.

Environmental Justice Resource List

This round-up offers a curated resource list for scholars, practitioners, students, and activists interested in intersections among environmentalism, conservation, justice, and racism. Organized conceptually and thematically, this is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather one of many resources available that can generate new conversations in the classroom, in workshops, and across communities.

We thank the many contributors who provided feedback and suggestions for this document. This work was initiated by members of the Building Sustainable Communities Signature Research Area, Center for the Environment, Purdue University. Contributors included environmental justice scholars, activists, and artists from Purdue University and beyond. A special thanks to Zhao Ma, Malik Raymond, Melissa Poe, Shannon McMullen, Teresa Mares, Andrew Flachs, and Jennifer Johnson for their comments and contributions. Laura Zanotti served as the resource curator