The first step in research on “just environments,” writes Julie Sze, is to name the sources of the problems at the root of the poverty/injustice/environment nexus, rather than their impacts alone. By revisiting the history of the terms environmental racism, environmental justice/injustice, and environmental inequality, Sze demonstrates how the specificity of each term led to different research questions and approaches. In order to align public understanding of environmental problems and possible “solutions,” Sze argues that scholars must clarify the roots of environmental problems―for instance, racism, capitalism, and colonialism.
Julie Sze is professor of American studies at the University of California, Davis. She is also the founding director of the Environmental Justice Project for UC Davis’ John Muir Institute for the Environment. She received her doctorate from New York University in American studies. Sze’s research investigates environmental justice and environmental inequality; culture and environment; race, gender, and power; and urban/community health and activism and has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the American Studies Association, and the UC Humanities Research Institute. Sze’s book, Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice (The MIT Press, 2006), won the 2008 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize, awarded annually to the best published book in American studies. Her second book is called Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis (University of California Press, 2015). She edited Sustainability: Approaches to Environmental Justice and Social Power (NYU Press), which will be available in July 2018. She has written or coauthored 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has given talks in China, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Germany, France, and Italy.