Environmental Justice, Conservation and Racial Justice

The Center for the Environment has long-term interest in supporting research in, and programming on, aspects of environmental and social justice with particular emphasis on how research on topics ranging from systems of governance over environmental resources, to the right to live in safe and healthy communities to promotion of healthy ecosystems, and how these issues overlap and intersect.

Below, you will find a range of ways in which the Center promotes these goals through programming, research and educational events.

Land Acknowledgement

Purdue University is located in the traditional homelands of the Woodland People. We honor and appreciate these Indigenous caretakers which include the Bodéwadmik (Potawatomi), Lenape (Delaware), Myaamia (Miami), and Shawnee People.

2021 Symposium: Next Steps – Environmental Justice, Climate Change, and Racial Justice



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 is working 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 effort is being led by Professor of Anthropology and recent Associate director of the Center for the Environment, Laura Zanotti.  This Purdue event is being 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 symposium will include experts in areas such as intersectionality, racial justice, decolonization, law and environmental policy as well as the arts, and will be 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, and (4) Conflict, Disaster, and Climate Change. We will also have facilitated working groups sessions on Friday afternoon focused on these four areas as well as the New Carbon Economy.

The conference will feature guest speaker Dr. Carlton Waterhouse, Professor of Law at Howard University. 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.

The impetus for this event comes 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 webpage.

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

**Registration for the Symposium is required and available by clicking here**

Symposium Schedule

March 25

12:00 – 12:30 pm


Land Acknowledgement

Conference Opening (Dr. Laura Zanotti, Conference Host, Dr. Tim Filley,  Center for the Environment, Remarks)

Opening Performance Latrice Young

12:30 – 12:45 pm

Break - Virtual Lounge Open

12:45 – 2:00 pm

Panel I: Dimensions of Environmental Justice and the Midwest

2:00 – 2:15 pm

Break - Virtual Lounge Open

2:15 – 3:30 pm

Panel II: Pollutants, Toxins, Health and Justice

3:30 – 5:00 pm


Undergraduate and Graduate Poster Symposium

Digital posters/presentations live

6:00 pm

Environmental Justice Film Screening
Sembradoras de Vida (Mothers of the Land)

 March 26

11:00 a.m – 12:15 pm

Panel III: Gender, Inclusion, and Justice

12:15 – 12:30 pm

Break - Virtual Lounge Open

12:30 – 1:45 pm

Panel IV: Conflict, Disaster, & Climate Change

1:45 – 3:20 pm

Facilitated Concurrent Working Group Sessions

3:30 – 5:00 pm

Keynote Lecture Professor Carlton Waterhouse

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

Environmental Justice Events

2020 Lunch & Learn Series

Virtual Lunch & Learn: Environmental Justice, Local and Global Struggles

Dr. Mangala Subramaniam presented our first virtual Lunch & Learn event of the Fall 2020 semester on September 9, focusing on the complicated links between local and global struggles for environmental justice as communities confront state and global institutions. She drew on her own, and collaborative, work to engage with the topic in terms of gender and its intersections with class, caste, race, as well as the need for integrating the technical and the social to adopt an interdisciplinary lens in studying environmental justice.

Virtual Lunch & Learn: Environmental Justice and Public Health, Exposure and Other Stressors

Continuing the Center for the Environment’s year-long program of conversations about intersections between environmental and social justice, Dr. Ellen Wells, Center affiliate and Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health, spoke on some of the history and scope of environmental justice as a critical environmental and public health concern. She also discussed in detail her experience in interacting with a community facing environmental justice issues in East Chicago, Indiana.

Virtual Lunch & Learn: Intersections between Environmental Justice & Indigenous Rights

Building on the Center for the Environment’s year-long program of conversations about intersections between environmental and social justice, Dr. Laura Zanotti, Center Associate Director and Professor in Anthropology, highlights frameworks of environmental justice and ways they have been mobilized at both sites of global environmental governance and in national contexts to support Indigenous Peoples' rights. Reflecting on collaborative partnerships with Mebêngôkre-Kayapó Peoples, she details current threats facing Indigenous Peoples rights in Brazil and pursuits for justice.

Environmental Justice Film Series