Café Scientifique: Race & Environmental Justice
Thursday, November 8, 2012
From 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Café Scientifique Topic #26 Race & Environmental Justice: Bridging the Gap Between Us with Tom Macias, Associate Professor, Sociology, UVM.
An ECHO Afterdark event for the 21+ crowd on November 8, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
How do our social connections to people different from ourselves affect our attitudes towards environmental issues? Suggested donation $5. Cash bar opens at 6.30 p.m., discussion begins at 7 p.m.; light hors d’oeuvres sponsored by VT Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society.
A bio by Tom:
My interest in sociology most likely began during my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica and Argentina. There, I was struck by the socially constructed nature of everything around me. Living outside the United States for a few years drew my attention to how things such as race and ethnic categories, social class status and consumer-based lifestyle expectations are inseparable from the particular histories, social relations, and cultures in which they’re found. Even within the U.S., the social, economic and political contrasts between Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up, and Burlington, Vermont where I work and live, are striking.
My sociological research began in the Southwest where I’ve written about environmental justice issues surrounding forest management in northern New Mexico, and the multigenerational context of ongoing Mexican immigration in Santa Clara County, California and Maricopa County, Arizona. In each of these three contexts, Mexican-origin identity means something very distinctive, ranging from long established rural communities with claims to centuries-old Spanish land grants to recent arrivals and the targets of heated anti-immigrant politics in a sprawling desert metropolis.
Since my arrival in Vermont, my research interests have shifted somewhat with a stronger focus on the effect of consumer behavior on environmental outcomes. I am particularly interested in how efforts at conservation might reduce human impacts on the natural environment. My more recent publications concern the role community social ties, sometimes referred to as social capital, work to support local agriculture and alternative forms of transportation. An underlying theme in my research is that in a world where market forces see individuals in society as primarily a consumer source of profit, people fare much better when they have a variety of people to rely on for information, friendship and mutual support.
Questions to ponder:
1. How do differences along the lines of race and social class affect overall concern for the environment in society?
2. How do our social connections to people different from ourselves affect our attitudes towards environmental issues?
3. Are the social and personal benefits we receive from using and disposing a laptop computer worth the social and environmental costs they incur?
4. In which ways are our decisions as consumers informed by an understanding of the social and environmental impacts of our behavior?
5. How might a more equal society allow us to be a more sustainable society?
6. What are the relative merits of technological versus social and community-level approaches to solving our current environmental crisis?
Guests are encouraged to bring their own questions!