Spring 2020 | Issue No. 1
THE UNDERGRADUATE ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNAL OF BERKELEY
ISSN 2693-1451 (print)
1 3 5 9 13 17 20 23 27
Letter from the Editors Jasmine Chen, Sarah Belle Lin, and Shehla Chowdbury Section Divider: Editorials A Disposable People: Climate Change and Indigenous Rights Briana Zhuang A Rising Form of Environmental Activism: Litigation TiďŹ&#x20AC;any Liang Home Forever Lost: A Closer Look at the Impact of the 2017 Tubbs Fire Grace Sandel In a Move Towards Sustainability, is PLA Truly the Best Option? Fallon Funseth To Southeast Asia: A Dumpster for Developed Countries Da Eun Jung Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Interconnection with Nature: An Enduring Societal Polemic Jessica Stubbs Environmental Activism at UC Berkeley: Perspectives of Two Student Leaders on Campus Grace Sandel
Table of Contents
This picture depicts a group led by Reverend Joseph Lowery marching against the toxic waste dump proposed by the state of North Carolina in Warren County, one of the few predominantly black counties in NC at the time. This event marks a pivotal point in the beginnings of the environmental justice movement in 1982.
ISSN 2693-146X (online)
Issue No.1 Bettmann / Getty Images Section Divider: Research Articles Gentriﬁcation Amid Contamination: The Redemption of Treasure Island Ariel Gans Empty Promises of Sustainable Certiﬁcation: Palm Oil Commodity Fetishization in Indonesia Annie Wang Indigenous Rights and Climate Change: An Analysis of Global Environmental Governance Briana Zhuang Agroecology Framework to Empower Smallholder Farmers: Improving Kenya Tushar Narula The Margins of Metamorphosis: Rethinking the Entomological Art of Maria Sibylla Merian Ariel Hoage Exploitation and Rehabilitation: California’s Prison Fire Camps Madeleine Fraix Demographics of Environmental Responsibility: Who Keeps Up? Edith Lai Afterword
EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief/Jasmine Chen Editor-in-Chief/Shehla Chowdhury Managing Editor/Anna Ho
Senior Editor/Sarah Belle Lin Senior Editor/Celine Yang Staﬀ Writer/Briana Zhuang Staﬀ Writer/Fallon Funseth Staﬀ Writer/Annie Wang Staﬀ Writer/Tiﬀany Liang Staﬀ Writer/Grace Sandel Staﬀ Writer/Jessica Stubbs Staﬀ Writer/Ryan Bada
Staﬀ Writer/Da Eun Jung Staﬀ Writer/Miracris Villanueva Staﬀ Writer/Iris Wu Staﬀ Writer/Ana Cano-Garcia Staﬀ Writer/Ashley Soliman MARKETING Member/Jeremy Chang Member/Kenia Anahi De La Cruz Garcia
Member/Edith Lai Member/Lilian Zhang FINANCE Director/Charity Liu Member/Ryan Chen Member/Pauline Carbonell TECHNOLOGY Director/Rebecca Lin
29 31 39 43 47 53 63 68 74
letter from the editors Dear Reader, Let’s take a step back and look at the state of our planet. The earth’s current carbon dioxide levels have risen to 400 ppm (parts per million), a level last seen during the mid-Pliocene, approximately 3 million years ago. At the current rate of increase in CO2, we will hit 500 ppm within 50 years, leading to temperature rise of more than 3 degrees C (5.4 F) — a level that would cause more frequent extreme weather and global sea rise. We are reaching a tipping point. Now we’re seeing stronger, longer, and earlier natural disasters on a yearly basis. In our home state of California, we’ve seen fires ravage our communities, with neighboring towns experiencing the fallout of toxic smoke and ash. Due to the state’s neglected power lines, cities across the state have been subjected to electricity shut-offs, resulting in blackouts that put a halt to social and economic activity. But are we past the point of no return? We’d like to challenge the narrative of hopelessness and apathy. Perennial’s story began in Fall 2019 as the brainchild of two undergraduate students who saw the need to amplify the diverse work of Cal’s environmental community. Students and Berkeley community members make significant contributions to a variety of environmental issues, but too often these accomplishments have not been visible to the wider campus. Our peers at Cal’s premiere environmental blog, the Leaflet, have made a significant impact in increasing environmental conversations on campus. However, there still remained a gap. While most other disciplines at Cal have journals dedicated to showcasing the academic work of their undergraduates, the ESPM (Environmental Science, Policy, and Management) department did not. At Perennial, we have sought to fill this gap. We seek to provide an open and accessible platform for the student community, publishing editorials written by Perennial’s passionate staff and academic papers from Berkeley’s environmentally-minded undergraduates. As Cal’s only undergraduate environmental journal, Perennial hopes to encourage student action and scholarship, inspire discussion on solutions to our planet’s most critical issues and promote diversity of thought and identity in the environmental sphere. We hope our environmental journalism shares stories that intrigue our readers, and that our academic research papers take readers behind the scenes of the complex processes of the stories we share. The journey to launching this, our first issue, has been fraught with challenges. In the fall of 2019, Perennial’s first semester as an official student organization, UC Berkeley,
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like many across the state of California, dealt with the difficulties of the seemingly annual California wildfires and the following PG&E power outages. While campus remained closed for only a few days, the ramifications of this lost time on students were felt throughout the semester. At the time, we felt the loss of predictability and the delays brought on by these fires were the worst we would face. Yet, Spring 2020 brought us the global COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has changed our way of life, wreaking havoc, especially on already vulnerable communities. UC Berkeley was forced to transition to remote learning. This change left many students, ourselves included, in a state of disarray. Perennial was forced to adjust – to reconsider what our semester would look like and to ask ourselves how to continue while ensuring the wellbeing of our staff. However, despite these difficulties, we have persevered. Our incredible staff showed immense dedication to our mission. Impassioned with the desire to share their stories and to highlight the injustices of environmental racism, our staff has worked diligently through disaster and quarantine. The publication of this issue during this time of crisis is a testament to the impressive resilience of young people committed to seeing change in their lifetimes. With a theme of “justice,” this issue will delve into the deeper distributive concerns behind environmental issues. In the face of climate change, wildfires, and pollution, it is often the most vulnerable groups — especially people of color and low-income communities — that bear the heaviest burden. As you read the following 14 articles, we challenge you to rethink these environmental issues — who bears the burden of environmental damage? How can we center equity in solutions? We are at a crucial moment in history. There are two paths in front of us: status quo or rapid change. Our generation is increasingly aware of the urgency and importance of making the right decision. You can see this in the way we protest and demand change from the top. On the Berkeley campus, we have also seen incredible reforms, including the decision to divest from all fossil fuels. Please don’t wait in silence for these shifts to happen. We hope that after reading this issue, you are more confident and prepared to continue these discussions and to take action — every conversation, every vote, and every small effort can make a difference. Sincerely, Jasmine Chen, Sarah Belle Lin, and Shehla Chowdhury
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Based on The Giving Tree Illustrations by Shel Silverstein
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A Disposable People Climate Change and
Photo credit: Yulia Nesterova, Impakter
By Brianna Zhang Along the vast Louisiana coastline in the American Deep South, saltwater creeps inland, foot by foot, into territory occupied by indigenous tribes. In recent decades, the ocean has swallowed farmland and stolen hunting areas; for the indigenous tribes that rely on these lands to survive, there have been massive consequences. The United States is now home to its first group of environmental migrants, with the quickening effects of climate change making certain that there will be more. In the coastal Southern state of Louisiana, climate change is dramatically altering the landscape and territory in which many indigenous groups reside. By 2050, scientists predict that rising sea levels will eradicate a portion of Louisiana’s coastline the size of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. The impending disaster is destroying indigenous peoples’ special connection to their land, affecting their cultural practices, their means of living, and their community cohesion. Unlike other marginalized groups in the United States, indigenous peoples have a special connection to their ancestral homeland. “When it comes 5
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to indigenous rights, there’s always a direct connection between an indigenous population and the land they claim as their homeland,” Professor Darren Zook, a lecturer in human rights at the University of California, Berkeley, explained, “indigenous identity is actually drawn from the land.” For generations, indigenous populations have relied on their water and land not only as ties to their ancestors, but also to feed and sustain their people. The website of Louisiana’s United Houma Nation features the following quote: “The United Houma Nation today is composed of a very proud and independent people who have close ties to the water and land of their ancestors.” Therefore, when the effects of climate change begin to alter the land, there are drastic effects on the community and culture as well. In Louisiana, a coastal state, indigenous groups mainly rely on fishing, hunting, and farming to live. With recent and rapid changes in the landscape, two groups in particular have seen their ways of life disrupted with important consequences for tribal sovereignty and cultural preservation. The United Houma Nation in particular has maintained a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and economy
for generations, relying mainly on fishing, hunting, and farming for subsistence. However, recent threats from the climate have affected each of these practices and more. Due to the changing climate, many species have altered their migra-
timental destruction also has important implications for the cultural practices of the group. “For our Island people, it is more than simply a place to live. It is the epicenter of our Tribe and traditions. It is where our ancestors survived after being displaced by Indian Removal Act-era policies and where we cultivated what has become a unique part of Louisiana culture,” the website reads. With the dramatic loss of land and involuntary change of lifestyle, many members of the tribe have chosen to resettle elsewhere, leaving their communities and culture. For the remaining tribe members, this outward migration threatens their tribal sovereignty and their ways of life.
tion patterns, arriving later and later each year and diminishing the window of time in which the Houma people can hunt. Ocean pollution caused by agricultural runoff and oil drilling has furthermore killed or poisoned marine life in the area, diminishing not only the volume of seafood harvested but also the size and health of the individual fish. Similar sources of pollution have also affected the land, with salt water runoffs killing vegetation and forcing the Houma people to limit their farming to raised garden beds.
Photo credit: Julie Dermansky
Another Louisianan tribe, the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Native Americans, or IJC Tribe, also shows how climate change has affected cultural practices and community cohesion. The IJC Tribe has lost over 98 percent of their ancestral homeland since 1950; what was once a beautiful and rich 22,400-acre island has become a 320-acre strip predicted to be fully submerged by 2050. Like the quandary faced by the Houma tribe, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and coastal flooding, exacerbated by irresponsible oil and gas extraction practices, have destroyed the landscape of the island. And as the IJC website proclaims, this environ-
Maureen Lichtveld, a professor in environmental health policy at Tulane University, is currently working with the United Houma Nation to research and address these crucial issues posed by the changing climate. Lichtveld cited movement away to be one of the Nation’s primary concerns. “Some members move and some members don’t, creating a destruction of cohesion,” Lichtveld explained. “To some extent they lose touch with what their cultural heritage is.” As members leave, they take with them intangible aspects of their culture and traditions — as forced resettlement due to climate change continues, the displacement will affect the tribes’ ability to retain their culture. Spring 2020 / Perennial
In conversation, “environmental migrant” and “climate refugee” are commonly used to describe these affected peoples. In fact, many news articles use “climate refugee” as the term to define these peoples’ situations. However, in law, these groups fall into an uncertain category. Though they are recognized as people in need of help, they don’t yet have the same types of legal protections as refugees. In fact, neither “environmental migrant” nor “climate refugee” is a legally operative terms to define people that have been displaced due to climate change. The international legal definition of a refugee, stemming from the 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention, requires some type of identity-based persecution, such as race or religion, to elicit refugee status. Under international statutes, a person cannot be persecuted by the climate, so a “climate refugee” cannot legally claim refugee status.
Additionally, as Zook clarified, the nature of climate change as an issue, with its widespread and complex causes and effects, renders it unsuitable for a modern legal framework, which is focused on direct attribution of harm. “Climate change is a wrong but we can’t attribute it to anyone,” Zook said. “We have a peculiar situ-
“[Indigenous groups] are against being called climate refugees,” Dr. Lichtveld said, “rather, what they want to focus on is the notion of movement.” ation where we have a harm done to people, but there is no direct attribution. You have the harm being done on the land, but you don’t have any way for legal recourse.” The legal infrastructure is simply not in place to protect affected groups. Therefore, indigenous tribes affected by climate change have limited resources available to them.
“By the letter of the law, there’s no such thing as a climate refugee,” Zook explained, “You’d have to either add an Optional Protocol to the Refugee Convention or write a whole new convention.” Moreover, indigenous groups themselves do not want to be called climate refugees. “They are against being called climate refugees,” Dr. Lichtveld said, “rather, what they want to focus on is Experts believe that the complexity and severity of the issues at hand elicit the need for innovative the 2020 notion of movement.” Spring / Perennial
policy solutions — with our current trajectory, climate change and its effects on humans will continue to worsen.
identify the sources and address those sources but also have tools for people to be more resilient.”
Lichtveld suggests a public health framing to combat the effects of climate change on people. “We need, as a country, to develop policies on climate and its effects with public health as the driver, rather than a specific ecological or environmental issue. I think with public health as the driver and prevention as the goal, we will have climate policy that is science-driven, making science work for communities.” By employing a public health framework to address climate issues, the proposed policy will be preventative rather than reactive — helping communities prepare and prevent rather than retroactively respond or play clean-up.
These two tribes’ stories offer important instances illustrating the specific and devastating effects that climate change has on indigenous tribes. Their connection with their homeland, the pillar of their social, economic, and cultural practices, is at risk of being completely destroyed. Nothing in the existing legal framework, both national or international, offers protections for groups affected or displaced by climate change.
“We need a proactive strategy in identifying the sources of contamination just like we do with other environmental substances and environmental health contaminants,” Lichtveld explained. “We need to
Facing this massive threat, the IJC Tribe poses an important, impending question to government officials and people in power: “If we can be viewed as a disposable people, with our lands left to perish and our way of life with them, who is next?”
Sea Level Change (inches)
Relative to 1880
Global Average Sea Level Change Since 1880 - US Global Change Research Program Spring 2020 / Perennial
A RISING FORM of
ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM ronmental struggles, as they biologically relate to many natural flows and disturbances, resulting in their dominant environmental advocacy. Many push this further to advocate for social and legal protections to safeguard this biological vulnerability such as reproductive freedom and maternal health rights.
Historically and culturally, women have tended to predominantly fulfill roles in agricultural production and household administration, providing the main source of nourishment for families and communities. Currently, women produce 60 to 80 percent of food in the global south and remain critical in collecting and storing water, securing fuel sources, and managing agricultural lands (Owren, 2012). These profound responsibilities have further bonded women to the environment as entire communities depend on women’s collaboration with the natural world. This induces women to often notice environmental problems more quickly and exigently as they interact with the environment in situations of considerable closeness and regularity (Merchant, Ecology 242). To many women, this instills a cogent and personal responsibility to preserve and respect nature. But, some argue that this historical proximity to nature can be interpreted as environmental dependence which often drives women to reach into divergent fields (Blum 9). Both reproductive abilities and enduring labor positions of women provide powerful insight into how an innate closeness to nature manifests in multifarious characteristics, belief systems, and courses of action.
ate this connection asserting that it inculcates characteristics of strength and guardianship resulting in the construction of women as protectors of the environment. This, in many ways, is essentialism which is the view that all entities are defined by a certain set of physiological characteristics. Essentialism in this innocuous manner is used as a tool to bolster the idea of women being uniquely and dynamically related to nature as a way to uplift women’s capacity to interact with the environment.
On the other hand, essentialism has the potential to and currently is employed in our society at a detriment to women and the environment when utilized for repressive purposes. It can be facile to assume that women’s biological relation to nature inherently makes their essence sympathetic to the environment. However, this is a dangerous generalization as essentializing women to blanket characteristics restricts their capacity for change and individuality. It also provokes the question “do women have a special relationship to nature that men cannot share?” that ecofeminist Carolyn Merchant challenges (Merchant, Ecology 243). If, according to this essentialist perspective, all individuals assigned as women at birth have inherent fixed “feminine” characteristics, then men, sexually non-binary, or transgender individuals must inherently lack sympathy and regard for nature. According to environmental philosopher Kenneth Worthy, personal connections to nature in modern times are more profoundly established by occupation, leisure activities, and location rather than by biological sex. Declaring that a woman is one specific thing excludes others and subjects women to an inaccurate, socially-derived notion that restricts their freedom. Reconciling these two seemingly similar but powerfully divergent concepts (essentialism and woman’s “special connection”) has been an enduring polemic.
Do women have a special relationship to nature that men cannot share?
The dichotomy between essentialism and thoughtful understandings of women and nature has long been steeped in misconstruction. On one hand, the interrelatedness of woman and nature “turned upside down becomes the source of women’s empowerment and ecological activism” (Merchant, Radical Ecology 482). Many celebrate
by TIFFANY LIANG
The phrase environmental activism brings to mind organized strikes with big, colorful posters, campaigns against plastic bags and straws, and activists lobbying Congress and trying to get signatures for petitions. But perhaps what is less noticeable is the climate change battle raging on in courtrooms, on legal pads and through law professionals. It manifests as a rising form of environmental activism — litigation. According to “Global Trends in Climate Change Litigation: 9
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One way to comprehend the “special connection”
2019 Snapshot,” a policy report by Joana Setzer and Rebecca Byrnes, more and more legal battles have been levied as a means to hold governments and corporations environmentally accountable. 28 countries have seen climate-related lawsuits, and more than 75 percent of these cases have been filed in the U.S. The U.S. is perhaps at the epicenter of environmental lawsuits due to its culture of litigation and onslaught of cases against the Trump administra-
tion’s environmental deregulation efforts. One current notable example is California v. Chao, in which California is fighting to retain its ability to set its own emission standards for automobiles, which are more stringent than federal standards. California was granted this right through a waiver under the Clean Air Act, but the Trump administration revoked it. While this lawsuit is still ongoing, the overwhelming majority of such cases against the administration have been won so far.
In recent years, more outcomes of cases have been pro- rather than anti-environmental regulation. Compare that to 19902016, where according to a 2018 study published in Nature Climate Change by McCormick, for every one U.S. environmental lawsuit that led to improved or strengthened policies and laws — for example, the 2007 case Massachusetts v. The Environmental Protection Agency set
judges have become more likely to accept human-rights arguments and scientific evidence presented in court and are more inclined to “give a decision that is bolder.” Even so, environmental litigation isn’t so easily won and has its limitations. Robert Kagan, a retired UC Berkeley law professor, says that litigants who can show how a specific law was violated have the best chance of the judge ruling in their favor. On the other hand, cases in which the arguments are too general or reference laws that are more vague are less likely to win. That means the success of environmental lawsuits largely depends on pre-existing laws that target climate change; if such legislation is lacking, lawsuits themselves cannot directly create new laws. Additionally, climate change litigation can be costly,
In recent years, more outcomes of cases have been prorather than antienvironmental regulation.
the precedent that the government should bear the responsibility of regulating greenhouse gases — 1.4 others had the opposite effect, where the outcome promoted more lenient climate change policy. In an interview, Setzer attributed this change to the numerous cases mounted against the Trump administration’s deregulation efforts as well as the overall increased public awareness of climate change: “There’s more awareness about climate change, about [its] causes and consequences, and judges are not immune to that.” As such,
time-consuming, and, according to Kagan, not as good at inciting the amount of change in laws or policy as lobbying and public demonstrations.
terview that there is a greater chance of making a difference in doing so as governments have the power to regulate citizens, corporations, and other levels of government. Additionally, Setzer explained that many governments have a constitutional duty to look after the welfare of its citizens, so it is easier for plaintiffs to establish that the government must do something rather than prove causality and attribution to a company. That constitutional argument is prominently utilized in Juliana v. U.S., which was first filed in 2015 on behalf of a group of 21 children. They are suing the U.S. government for allowing and even subsidizing the use of fossil fuels, which has caused environmental consequences that infringe upon their right to life, liberty, and property. In an interview, Andrea Rogers, the head attorney for the plaintiffs, emphasized that their aim is to challenge the system and set constitutional standards.
. . . governments have a constitutional duty to look after the welfare of its citizens. . .
To maximize the effectiveness of litigation, most litigants target the government. According to the policy report, 85% of U.S. environmental cases are filed against the government. Setzer notes in an in-
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Kelsey Juliana, a lead plaintiff in the climate change lawsuit against the federal government, at the Supreme Court in September. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
If the case is successful, that could mean massive cutbacks in the use of fossil fuels, a revision of policies and regulation, and even a flood of other lawsuits. Juliana v. U.S. is a highly ambitious case that has experienced many delays in the past four years due to institutional roadblocks and bureaucratic stalls. 11
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“For many people who follow the case closely, the fact that the case has survived so long is already a victory,” Setzer said. Kagan also acknowledges the difficulty in winning such a case, stating that the constitutional argument is vague and courts are “reluctant to move too quickly.” Because legislative power is reserved to Congress, the courts are wary of
overstepping their jurisdiction and legislating from the bench. Is environmental litigation still worthwhile? Kagan thinks so. While lawsuits do not directly create policy change, they could bring important publicity. “The key to political action is that a lot of people care,” Kagan said. When politicians notice that many people care
Ideally we want to see Congress passing laws that are enforced, we want to see civil society involved in projects on the ground.
about an issue, they are more likely to try to do something about it. Furthermore, even just the threat of being sued can be a motivator of change, as Setzer pointed out,“[Corporations] are considering now more seriously the risk of litigation because there are reputational issues and just the cost of defending the cases and how long they take.”
However, environmental litigation alone is not enough. “We should still prioritize other types of action,” Setzer said. “Ideally we want to see Congress passing laws that are enforced; we want to see civil society involved in projects on the ground. We ideally don’t want to see all of these resources being spent writing petitions and paying lawyers to go to court.”
Join the fight against climate change by participating in political action (such as contacting lawmakers and joining well-funded activist groups), volunteering for environmental projects, and even simply being a more environmentally-conscious consumer — all actions anybody can take without needing an attorney.
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HOME FOREVER LOST A Closer Look at the Impact of the 2017 Tubbs Fire
BY GRACE SANDEL
Current environmental concerns such as
the climate crisis and environmental justice have complex implications. As a result, they are often difficult to grasp. One way environmental issues can become more accessible and digestible is through film. Films centered on specific aspects of a broader environmental issue can boost public awareness and prompt civic action and hopefully, social change. The San Francisco Green Film Festival showcases a selection of environment-centered films each year. This year’s festival boasted a diverse collection of films, with focuses
ranging from water technology in Nevada to sustainability in the chocolate industry. Despite the variety in subject matter, all of the films reflected the festival’s 2019 theme: home. Whether the filmmakers focused on one house, a whole city, or even the entire planet, each film encapsulated the festival’s central question: “What does home mean to you, and how can we work together to protect it?” Derek Knowles and Spencer Seibert, as filmmakers and Bay Area residents, explore how the concept of “home” can change overnight, with vulnerable populations being disproportionately affected. Their documentary “After the Fire” shows the devastating aftermath of the 2017 Tubbs Fire.
Derek Knowles/“After the Fire” Spring 2020 / Perennial
The fire ripped through three different counties for almost an entire month, which dramatically altered Sonoma County, destroyed physical infrastructure, and changed residents’ perception of Sonoma as home. The Tubbs Fire became the most destructive fire in state history at the time. In California, wildfires become quantified by the media as the number of structures burned and lives lost. “It just changes how you, as a viewer, process information,” said Knowles. “For me, I relate to human experience.”
Health states that climate change and the resulting natural disasters disproportionately affect vulnerable groups such as impoverished communities, the elderly, and minorities. A sizable portion of Sonoma’s elderly population is vulnerable to natural disasters that result from climate change. According to U.S. Census data, 19.7 percent of Sonoma County’s population is over the age of 65. Santa Rosa’s newspaper The Press Democrat profiled 22 Sonoma County victims lost in the Tubbs Fire. Eighteen of those victims were over the age of 65.
Knowles and Seibert tie the human experience into the discussion of wildfires by providing a glimpse into the lives of Sonoma residents Gilham, Chris, and Maribel (last names were not provided in the film). Knowles found that the topic of justice is inextricably linked to the nexus of humanity and natural disasters. “I think what I saw in Sonoma — it’s not a surprise — but it’s often the most vulnerable, the most marginalized people that have to pay the greatest price,” said Knowles.
Life-changing events such as wildfires and natural disasters act as a wake-up call and bring people face-to-face with the harsh reality of their newfound situations. Gilham came to the realization that it is increasingly difficult for artists like himself to survive in Sonoma. When talking about moving from Mexico to Sonoma, Maribel simply said, “I chose this place for my daughters and their future. But I’m not so sure anymore.” Chris reflected a similar sentiment of worry and uncertainty about whether his son will be able to make a living and survive in their town.
In the weeks after the Tubbs Fire, Chris’ 88-year-old father died from prolonged smoke exposure. Maribel, who works in restaurants, struggled to find work after the fire because the restaurants remained closed. The blaze left Maribel out of work for a month and struggling to pay rent. Gilham, a sculptor in Sonoma, lost his artwork along with his home. “I was immediately struck by the different ways in which this [fire] was impacting different people,” explained Knowles. Inevitably in the aftermath of the fire, Gilham, Chris, and Maribel all began to question the viability of Sonoma as a home for themselves and future generations. Chris explained how people saw Sonoma “as this untouchable paradise.” The Tubbs Fire challenged this conception of Sonoma as the fire altered both the physical appearance of the land and the residents’ attitudes towards their community. “Some people had their homes destroyed completely and that is an unimaginable kind of trauma. It’s just a litany of things both emotional and logistical that you have to pick up the pieces from,” explained Knowles. A 2016 paper from the journal The Nation’s 15
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At one particularly profound moment in the film, Gilham walked over to his mother’s hibiscus plant on his property that was badly burned in the fire. He checked the roots and determined “it will come back.” Just as the hibiscus will regrow, the audience hopes Sonoma too will recover and be a stable home for Chris, Gilham, Maribel, and their respective families. However, hearing “it will come back” also brings the return of something more ominous to mind. The Health, Wildfires & Climate Change in California report published by UC Berkeley’s CITRIS Policy Lab and Banatao Institute in October 2019 explains California’s wildfire problem is increasing as the state becomes hotter and drier due to climate change. Many believe that California needs to treat wildfires as an environmental justice issue and respond to natural disasters appropriately and equitably. Knowles pointed out that “as climate change becomes more and more ubiquitous, it’s always going to be the people already struggling to just get by that are going to feel
Derek Knowles/“After the Fire”
“It’s often the most vulnerable, the most marginalized people that have to pay the greatest price.” Derek Knowles/“After the Fire”
it first.” Steps need to be taken to ensure that the rise of frequent and intense wildfires does not coincide with an increase in the intensity of the impact on vulnerable groups. “Historically, we don’t do a great job in this country of protecting vulnerable people anyway and that’s why they’re vulnerable,” said Knowles. The lack of protection for people of color, low income, and frontline communities throughout history makes rectifying inequality even more difficult. Knowles hopes “After the Fire” will “increase our empathy and understanding of what’s going to be a frequent occurrence for a lot of modern people, in the world, and in this country. Hopefully, that just provokes some continued action around combating climate change.”
The San Francisco Green Film Festival provides a platform for both international and local directors to showcase their environmental topics of interest. Films that focus on the impact of the climate crisis on communities can create public awareness and start a dialogue around environmental justice. “After the Fire” is especially powerful as a local project focusing on deeply rooted communities and relevant subject matter like the widespread symptoms of climate change. Such films can profoundly affect audiences by shining a light on the often hidden aspects of familiar concepts, like “home,” and how homes continue to be threatened — and vulnerable populations disproportionately so — across California.
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Mocha Cocounut Iced Coffees by Spices in My DNA
“Having a straw paired with your drink shouldn’t inherently have to be bad.”
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In a Move Towards Sustainability
Truly the Best Option? BY FALLON FUNSETH
Earlier today, I went to Star-
bucks. Before my name was called, I thought of getting a straw — but ultimately decided otherwise. Upon receiving my drink, I realized I hadn’t needed one in the first place—the drink came with what looked like a clear version of a coffee shop lid. It turns out, in the beginning of 2018, Starbucks committed to phasing out its plastic straws worldwide by 2020, replacing them with a recyclable lid instead. If you’re from the Bay Area, this isn’t an unusual sight to see. With demand from consumers and local governments, many companies are attempting to buckle down on their waste goals and meet the needs of newly passed local ordinances. In fact, a plastic straw ban went
into effect in San Francisco on July 1st, 2019, which prohibited the use of single-use plastic straws and compostable plastic straws made out of PLA. PLA, or polylactic acid, is touted as a great alternative to regular plastic. Although PLA items are composed of biodegradable materials, this so-called “compostable” plastic can only be composted in certain facilities. On most PLA cups, bowls, or utensils, the fine print on the items reads: “Commercial facilities only, which may not exist in your area.” In order for PLA foodware items to completely break down, they must come into contact with water and temperatures over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If these conditions are not met, little to no degradation will occur. This means that
if these straws are littered, put into the wrong bin, or thrown into waterways, it is very unlikely that they will break down — creating the same harmful effects as regular plastic. When considering alternatives to plastic, switching to PLA seems like a shift in the right direction. PLA items appear to offer the convenience of disposable foodware with none of the waste involved. However, because of their strict post-consumer breakdown instructions, they’re not as sustainable as they might appear to be. Looking towards San Francisco’s ban on PLA, it then becomes obvious that corporations, companies, and cities should be sourcing items (and straws in particular) that don’t just have labels or words inscribed on them saying “compostable.” These items should
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actually do what they promise without the fine print involved. For many companies and businesses, aligning themselves with sustainability efforts and ordinances isn’t the main issue when retreating from single-use plastics. In fact, that’s the easy part, especially with handy purchasing guides that detail the acceptable types of foodware. Bans and attempts to better the environment aren’t new to San Francisco or Berkeley. The difficult part is implementing educational initiatives about PLA and compostable plastics, such as informing restaurants what they should be purchasing in order to comply withthe city’s ordinance.
Overall, Lenier says that there isn’t yet a push for reusables. She believes that once there is greater student awareness surrounding the use of PLA, greater action — such as banning PLA — will follow
“I have seen businesses and retailers tell me with full confidence, ‘Oh, I’m compliant, I’ve got compostable plastic straws,’ just because they saw the word ‘compostable’ and thought it was fine. Understandable, but confusing,” said Hillary Near, Commercial Zero Waste Analyst for the City of San Francisco, when asked whether or not it is easy to comply with the city’s ordinance.
Having a straw paired with your drink shouldn’t inherently have to be bad. Consumers should feel like they are making good choices when grabbing their favorite drinks, and businesses should be able to comply with sustainability efforts as well. By finding alternatives that work effectively without the need for extra caution, we can take single-use plastics and materials such as PLA out of circulation.
Near also mentions that complying with the city’s ordinance requires a larger shift in culture. “There’s the aspect of training staff to not automatically provide a straw. That part is, I think a nuance that fewer businesses are consistently implementing.” Ultimately, Near expresses that the ordinance is one of many, but the end goal and what is to be mirrored in future ordinances with the City of San Francisco is that “reusable, is better.”
A solution to ending consumer waste already exists in reusables, and creating a push towards them is urgently needed. For instance, Vessel is a reusable drinkware company that supplies free stainless steel cups to several businesses in Berkeley and Boulder. Both Lenier and Near mention this company as an example of the kind of infrastructure that offers a solution to the larger waste issue at hand. Vessel provides reusable cups to consumers, with the expectation that they will return the cup to a Vessel location sometime in the near future. Their goal is to keep the cycle of reducing waste and reusing containers going.
Unlike San Francisco, Berkeley has not phased out PLA and tableware made from the material still is often offered by vendors on campus. Sage Lenier, a UC Berkeley senior and leader of the Zero Waste DeCal, agrees with Near’s point that education on environmental issues and materials like PLA are extremely important when it comes to creating a larger cultural shift towards a renewable and regenerative future. Lenier acknowledged that it is problematic that 19
PLA is still common on Berkeley campus, but it is not easy to implement a system-wide ban — we should work within the system that we are currently in to make changes. “There’s nothing in the United States that we could buy right now in bulk for thousands and thousands of people. There’s a market already for PLA, and we can only purchase,” said Lenier. “Cal’s official take is that we are hoping to move towards reusables, rather than simply just anything.”
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However, Vessel is only a start given they operate on small local scales. Ultimately, collective action taken by the government, businesses, and consumers is needed to achieve a paradigm shift towards sustainability. This can and will make all the difference in a world where environmental issues are human rights issues.
© SergeyZavalnyuk—iStock/Getty Images
BY DA EUN JUNG Every year, a total of 2.12 billion tons of waste is produced globally. This is enough to fill tens of thousands of trucks; if these trucks were lined up, they would circle around the globe two dozen times. The amount of waste we produce — not just plastic, but of everything not recycled or recyclable — is astronomical and directly contributes to climate change. Even though we might never see our trash after we throw it out, 2.12 billion tons worth of waste has to end up somewhere. For decades, this “somewhere” was China. It was the trash dumping ground for high-income countries until it finally shut its borders to waste in 2018.
Now, these high-income countries are sending their waste to Southeast Asia. But these countries also don't want their junk, making these shipments illegal. Not only does this destroy these countries’ environments and damage their people’s health, but this action also makes it clear that not all countries are viewed as equal in the eyes of high-income countries. China’s policy that triggered it all In January 2018, China implemented the “National Sword” policy. This effectively banned the import of recyclable objects like plastic to address the overwhelming amount of contaminated and non-processable materials that flowed into the Spring 2020 / Perennial
country. “Recyclable” trash usually ended up in landfills and/or harmed China’s environment. Given that China had been importing over half of the world’s recyclable waste before, countries everywhere faced a problem: what should they do with their trash? How high-income countries have tried to address the problem Many countries, especially high-income ones, do not have recycling facilities that can support the amount of recyclable waste they produce at an affordable cost. Recycling facilities in the United States, for example, just can’t operate with the same profit margins without charging cities more for their services post-“National Sword” policy implementation. Not wanting to raise taxes or cut other programs for recycling services, some cities have decided to stop collecting certain types of recyclable materials. Other cities have started to burn waste for energy instead, releasing more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, into the air. Rather than attempting to improve domestic recycling facilities, the U.S. and other high-income countries have turned toward an alternative solution to their problem: finding other countries to export their recyclable waste. In the six months after China stopped importing foreign waste, the U.S. shipped about half of its plastic waste to Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Other high-income countries followed suit, turning this region of the world into the new global waste dumpsite. Pushback from the “rubbish bin” countries In response to the unwanted trash flowing into their territories, Southeast Asian countries have been pushing back against high-income countries like the U.S. and those in the European Union. Between mid-2019 and early 2020, Malaysia returned more than 150 ships full of waste to its 13 owners, including the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Since passing policies similar to China’s “National
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Sword” to ban plastic waste import, Malaysia has started to send illegal shipments of waste back to its origin. Other countries like Indonesia and the Philippines have also taken similar initiatives to address the situation. The underlying power dynamic between high and low-income countries High-income countries’ act of shipping unwanted waste products to these low-income Southeast Asian countries is problematic on many levels. Some of the waste is toxic or otherwise not recyclable due to contamination by other types of waste. Thus, these countries are environmentally harmed as this trash is being put into landfills. The health of people living in these countries is also compromised by actions like the illegal burning of this waste to handle the overwhelming volume of trash, which creates poisonous fumes. The current relationship between the countries that are shipping such waste illegally and the countries that have to deal with the negative consequences associated with these dumps signifies a more troubling issue of an unequal power balance. This issue is reproducing the always-existing, implicitly-propagated understanding that Southeast Asia and its people are somehow inferior to the “developed” countries. In reality, these “developed” countries have historically had the most economic and social advantages, which they now leverage to keep their status and position. Although the Southeast Asian countries struggling with this trash dump phenomenon are now independent nations, they have a long history of Western colonization. That they need to fight to maintain their environmental, health, and social status on the world stage because of the actions of high-income countries (which include many of these once-colonizing countries) suggests that these Southeast Asian countries are not seen as equals. Re: Pushback from the “rubbish ban” countries Fortunately, change has been occurring. Western countries are becoming more conscious of their actions. The reduction of plastic has been occur-
Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet
ring on a global scale. Although the U.S. government has not acted significantly on a federal level, progressive cities like San Francisco and Seattle have implemented policies to reduce plastic usage. Individual companies like Trader Joeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s have taken the pledge to reduce plastic packaging too. In other countries, national-level action plans have been created and implemented to control plastic waste, increase
recycling, and reduce micro- and single-use plastic usage. If these efforts materialize into actual change, the future may look hopeful. While plastic waste will most likely continue to exist to some extent, maybe its volume will decrease enough so that other countries donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to be burdened by the consumption of privileged countries.
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Women’s Interconnection with the Environment An Enduring Societal Polemic by JESSICA STUBBS A staggering female majority champions modern environmental revolutions and sustainability movements. Yet, this pervasive and seemingly intuitive trend has not been thoroughly explored. Women’s capacity for reproduction has long tied their biological identity to the symbiosis of the natural world. Similarly, their historical and cross-cultural roles as agricultural producers and home managers have linked them to the land in which they cultivate. These powerful connections, however widespread, do not categorize women, instead they are vehicles for women to define their own distinct essence and impact on the world. Some consider the acknowledgment of women’s intimate relationship with nature to be essentialism–the reduction of all women to a ubiquitous socially-constructed set of attributes. In reality, it allows for multi-layered analysis of 23
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the diverse and copious interactions between women and the natural world, far beyond their presence in environmentalism. Women’s biological and historical interrelatedness to nature fortifies a “special connection”, in ecofeminist professor Noel Sturgeon’s words, that women share with the non-human natural world (Merchant, Ecology 242). This “special connection,” no matter how individually potent, provides women the opportunity to engage with the world in dynamic and reciprocal manners. Monthly reproductive cycles, pregnancy, childbirth, rearing and raising young are biological processes that “ground women’s consciousness in the knowledge of being coterminous with nature’’ (Merchant, Ecology 216). Some assert this makes women increasingly sympathetic to envi-
ronmental struggles, as they biologically relate to many natural flows and disturbances, resulting in their dominant environmental advocacy. Many push this further to advocate for social and legal protections to safeguard this biological vulnerability such as reproductive freedom and maternal health rights. Historically and culturally, women have tended to predominantly fulfill roles in agricultural production and household administration, providing the main source of nourishment for families and communities. Currently, women produce 60 to 80 percent of food in the global south and remain critical in collecting and storing water, securing fuel sources, and managing agricultural lands (Owren, 2012). These profound responsibilities have further bonded women to the environment as entire communities depend on women’s collaboration with the natural world. This induces women to often notice environmental problems more quickly and exigently as they interact with the environment in situations of considerable closeness and regularity (Merchant, Ecology 242). To many women, this instills a cogent and personal responsibility to preserve and respect nature. But, some argue that this historical proximity to nature can be interpreted as environmental dependence which often drives women to reach into divergent fields (Blum 9). Both reproductive abilities and enduring labor positions of women provide powerful insight into how an innate closeness to nature manifests in multifarious characteristics, belief systems, and courses of action.
ate this connection asserting that it inculcates characteristics of strength and guardianship resulting in the construction of women as protectors of the environment. This, in many ways, is essentialism which is the view that all entities are defined by a certain set of physiological characteristics. Essentialism in this innocuous manner is used as a tool to bolster the idea of women being uniquely and dynamically related to nature as a way to uplift women’s capacity to interact with the environment. On the other hand, essentialism has the potential to and currently is employed in our society at a detriment to women and the environment when utilized for repressive purposes. It can be facile to assume that women’s biological relation to nature inherently makes their essence sympathetic to the environment. However, this is a dangerous generalization as essentializing women to blanket characteristics restricts their capacity for change and individuality. It also provokes the question “do women have a special relationship to nature that men cannot share?” that ecofeminist Carolyn Merchant challenges (Merchant, Ecology 243). If, according to this essentialist perspective, all individuals assigned as women at birth have inherent fixed “feminine” characteristics, then men, sexually non-binary, or transgender individuals must inherently lack sympathy and regard for nature. According to environmental philosopher Kenneth Worthy, personal connections to nature in modern times are more profoundly established by occupation, leisure activities, and location rather than by biological sex. Declaring that a woman is one specific thing excludes others and subjects women to an inaccurate, socially-derived notion that restricts their freedom. Reconciling these two seemingly similar but powerfully divergent concepts (essentialism and woman’s “special connection”) has been an enduring polemic.
Do women have a special relationship to nature that men cannot share?
The dichotomy between essentialism and thoughtful understandings of women and nature has long been steeped in misconstruction. On one hand, the interrelatedness of woman and nature “turned upside down becomes the source of women’s empowerment and ecological activism” (Merchant, Radical Ecology 482). Many celebrate
One way to comprehend the “special connection” Spring 2020 / Perennial
Photograph by Mulugeta Ayene/AP
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of women and nature while preventing essentialization is by addressing and then demobilizing harmful social constructions actively propagated by a male-dominated society. The explanation that “humans are biologically sexed and socially gendered” can help deconstruct this tension (Merchant, Radical Ecology 482). Women are closely interrelated to nature because of their biological capacity for reproduction and historical context, but it is the societal applications of these truths, cultivated by patriarchy, that leads to adverse essentialism. Women’s reproduction has been perpetually and systematically “bruised by derogatory patriarchal attitudes” and used to legitimize the oppression of women (Merchant, Ecology 216). Men have enslaved the female womb and used reproduction to further their own ends by the process of essentialism — defining what they believe women should be in accordance with their biological ability. This “special connection” has been used “in the service of domination to limit their social roles to childbearers, child-rearers, caretakers, and housekeepers,” but not without objection and resistance (Merchant, Radical Ecology 483). The global phallocracy exploits the relationship by fabricating a repressive characterization of all women to exert and maintain power over “both women and nature as mutually subordinated spheres of life” as investigated by Worthy. To recognize women’s intimacy with nature while avoiding this malignant essentialism, one must look beyond androcentric social constructs to understand that the “special connection” does not define women, rather it allows many women to define their individualistic and dynamic self in the natural world.
fluidity and complexities of women and nature. Women are actively achieving this by confronting and dismantling destructive essentialist conceptualizations through the envisionment and manifestation of divergent gender roles, political practices, employment routes, and ideational expression.
The intimate relationship between women and the earth is a channel for varied and ample interactions, whether it be through environmental advocacy or searching for legal protections to defend their environmental vulnerabilities. The ability to reproduce empowers women to choose diverse paths for their own lives, communities, and the population as a whole. Their historical and cultural relation to nature as agricultural providers and managers of household operations provides an understanding of the multifaceted ways of interacting with the environment. However, the multiplicity of interactions provided by this “special connection” can only be fully explored when male propagated social constructionism is abandoned for a holistic understanding of the Spring 2020 / Perennial
Environmental Activism at UC Berkeley
Left to right: Lina Munoz-Avila, People's Climate March, Joe Brusky, Benjamin Kay, Adi Gaskell
Perspectives from Two Student Leaders on Campus By Grace Sandel
deeply intertwined,” explained Xu.
The UC Berkeley climate strike on September 20th of 2019 brought over a thousand people together, united by the urgency for climate action. Year-round, numerous student organizations and individuals engage with environmental activism. The environmental community at UC Berkeley comprises students with diverse backgrounds, voices, and interests — making students particularly disposed to consider the justice and human facets of each environmental issue. Sarah Xu and Gabrielle Ambayec are students actively involved in UC Berkeley’s environmental community. Both exemplify a dedication to addressing environmental issues while keeping environmental justice values at the forefront.
As the Community Engagement Associate at SERC, Xu works on the SERC membership program and organizes environmental events for the community. Through the membership program, Xu provides opportunities for students to get involved in SERC. The events organized by Xu also provide a chance for others to learn about environmental topics and how to get involved. Her interest in environmental issues began in high school with Model United Nations. “I learned so much about international climate change policy through the research I did for different policy simulations and it really sparked my interest,” said Xu. Later in high school, Xu’s interest shifted towards climate advocacy and her interest was solidified during her first year at UC Berkeley. “I really got involved with the day- to-day work of climate advocacy at UC Berkeley when I lived in the Global Environmental Theme House freshman year,” explained Xu.
Sarah Xu, a third-year Environmental Economics and Policy major, is the Community Engagement Associate at the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC). SERC seeks to “strengthen the collective effectiveness of the sustainability community” and provide the resources necessary for students to create an “equitable, socially just, and resilient future.” Xu’s primary areas of interest are environmental justice, international environmental policy, and the impact of mining on climate change. “All three of these issues are
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Xu is also involved in the Students of Color Environmental Collective (SCEC), which engages in environmental justice issues through advocacy and their conference for students of color interested in environmental issues. Provided by Sarah Xu
Reflecting on environmental
activism on campus, such as land deforestaXu noted the solidarity tion, pollution, land buyof the Mauna Kea outs, etc.,” said Protectors at UC Ambayec. At a young Berkeley with COLA age, Ambayec did not (Cost of Living Adjustrecognize those issues as ment) during March of environmental injus2020. Mauna Kea tices, but Ambayec Protectors at UC explained, “it has always Berkeley is a student been in the back of my community advocatmind.” Similar to Xu, ing for the university Ambayec began directly to divest from the conworking in environmentroversial telescope tal justice and advocacy project sited for once she came to univerMauna Kea, a mounsity. tain sacred to indigenous Hawaiians. EnviDecember 2019, Provided by Gabrielle Ambayec In ronmental advocacy Ambayec hosted an enviand social justice are closely connected on ronmental justice community space event. The campus, often intersecting. Xu mentioned Sage aim of the event was to provide a chance for Lenier, Sarah Bancroft, and Dante Gonzalez as discussing environmental justice and sharing of notable students dedicated to environmental personal experiences with environmental injusactivism. “Students for Climate Action, led by tices. Amabyec’s presentation on environmental amazing folks like Sage Lenier and Sarah Bancroft, justice introduced attendees to “new movements have been the driving force for large collective and figures that they hadn’t considered before action, and Dante Gonzalez who has worked tirewhen thinking about environmentalism and envilessly to raise the voices of those usually left ronmental activism,” said Ambayec. For Ambayec, behind in environmental activism,” said Xu. the event was a success because the attendees gained a new perspective. “I would definitely As the environmental movement grows at UC want to recreate this event in the future,” added Berkeley, Xu hopes for strengthened advocacy and Ambayec. increased solidarity among the social justice movements. “This is especially important as we Climate Justice Week 2019 and the student leaders see the institutional cracks in our systems widen involved stood out to Ambayec. According to and grow in response to COVID-19 and issues like SERC, “Climate Justice Week aims to create an the Green New Deal gain more broad traction,” intentional space to engage the wider UC Berkeley explained Xu. community on the intersections of climate change and social justice.” A host of workshops, docuGabrielle Ambayec, a second-year Molecular Envimentary screenings, panels, rallies, and art builds ronmental Biology major, is the Environmental related to environmental topics all occur during Justice Associate at SERC, which entails facilitating this week. “The visibility of the climate justice community educational programs relating to movement, the rally held in Sproul Plaza during environmental justice topics. At these events, Climate Justice Week 2019, for example, is incrediAmbayec educates others about environmental bly empowering,” said Ambayec. “There’s always justice and provides a space for discussion and going to be more potential to build upon the reflection. Ambayec was exposed to environmenamazing precedent that has already been estabtal injustice as a child, watching and reading lished by students in the past, so to watch it reach stories about the Philippines, where her family is new heights in the coming years and continue to from. “I would see photos of solid waste flooding include new voices into the community would be into residential areas, of children swimming in amazing,” said Ambayec. water filled with trash, as well as read stories about the displacement of peoples due to factors Spring 2020 / Perennial
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Gentrification Amid Contamination: The Redevelopment of Treasure Island AUTHOR: Ariel Gans
ABSTRACT: Treasure Island’s environmental conditions, paired with its complex geography, position it at the junction of military brownfield site redevelopment, urban gentrification, and displacement. Using Treasure Island as a case study, this project engages the stakeholders of the Treasure Island Redevelopment Project to uncover how redevelopment decisions are made, who is included and excluded, and why, and to shed light on larger processes of military base redevelopment and displacement in high value land areas. The following analysis finds that the different ideas of what “successful” redevelopment looks like lead to conflict and exacerbation of social issues, environmental issues, and displacement.
INTRODUCTION Across the Bay Area, brownfield sites are contributing to and are symptomatic of community decline—particularly in issues of disease, crime, education, and unemployment (Bonorris xiv-xv). On top of this, these spaces are often heavily polluted and located in economically poor communities of color, making their remediation and reuse inordinately complicated (“Overview”). Treasure Island, a 393-acre, man-made, former naval base in the San Francisco Bay is a modern-day example of this. The island is severely contaminated from over 50 years of use by the U.S. Navy, is rapidly shrinking due to sea-level rise and subsidence, and has held low-income subsidized housing since 1997—when the Navy leased it to the City of San Francisco. In 2017, the City of San Francisco signed a contract to construct up to 8,000 upscale housing units on the island starting in 2018, which will displace the majority of its 1,800 residents to move-in another 20,000 to 25,000 (qtd. in Brinklow). Its residents, as of 2012, comprised the third most diverse neighborhood in the U.S.: seventy percent were minorities, and the majority were low-income (Kolko). This paints a picture in which low-income people of color are living in subsidized housing in close proximity to toxic waste on an island that was declared safe by the City of San Francisco. It is known from extensive research, however, that racial and ethnic minority groups and low-income communities have significantly poorer health outcomes than other communities in America due to systematically higher rates of exposure to environmental hazards and social stressors such as poverty, poor housing quality, and social inequality—all of which are present on Treasure Island (Morello-Frosch et al. 879). The cumulative effects of these conditions
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must be properly addressed by legislators and decision-makers through policies that carefully consider individual susceptibility and social vulnerability. Thus, using Treasure Island as a case study, in the following paper I will evaluate what the history of decommissioning and redevelopment on Treasure Island can tell us about stakeholder processes and associated outcomes in developing former military bases in urban areas. METHODS I collected my data primarily online from peer-reviewed online research databases, reputable news sites, and national organization and corporation webpages—all of which were either primary or secondary sources. I also conducted an interview with Sheridan Noelani Enomoto, a Community Organizer and Policy Advocate with the grassroots organization, Greenaction, who I found and selected using a mini snowball sampling method from interviews I conducted for my previous iteration of this project on Berkeley zoning laws. Noelani Enomoto supplied valuable primary data and provided an additional perspective for me to interpret my results. I also attended the April Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) Board of Directors meeting at Treasure Island and independently photographed the Treasure Island community. These pictures are primary sources and are listed in Appendix B. RESULTS When the Navy left Treasure Island and leased it to the City of San Francisco in 1997, it left behind the former houses of naval families, which the city reopened as low-income subsidized housing despite health concerns and lingering toxicity (Environmental Protection Agency 22). Noelani Enomoto, who works closely with the community leaders and residents of Treasure Island as part
of her role in Greenaction, says that the inherited buildings, many of which were built in the 1940’s, have varying amounts of asbestos, mold, periodic power outages, and neglected structural challenges such as leans and damaged foundations. She has heard this from dozens of residents, but it is not documented elsewhere in the research pool. However, given the frequent use of asbestos by the U.S. Navy until the 1970s, and the prevalence of asbestos in 139 of 145 buildings found in the 1997 and 2015 Environmental Impact Reports on former naval base Bayview-Hunters Point Shipyard (which was sold with Treasure Island), it is reasonable to believe that the residents’ accounts of asbestos in Treasure Island’s buildings is reputable as well (“Hunters” 21-2). According to Rachel Morello-Frosch, Professor of Environmental Health Science at the University of California, Berkeley, policymakers struggle to recognize that a lack of habitable housing in neighborhoods is just as legitimate of an environmental stressor as polluted air or water is (Morello-Frosch 879). One’s environment includes that in which they live, work, and play in; thus, asbestos contamination, mold, and dangerous infrastructure are all environmental justice concerns in the built environment, particularly in poor communities of color (Bonorris xv). Another layer of Treasure Island’s environmental history is its years of naval experimentation using chemical fires and nuclear explosions, the residual waste and contamination of which are highly radioactive. While this experimentation is not public knowledge, the City of San Francisco and Treasure Island residents are well-aware of it, which became clear at the TIDA meeting on April 16, 2020 (City and County of San Francisco). Evidently, the Navy left over 1000 markers around the island to mark areas where waste materials with radioactive isotope Radium-226 were buried. Radium-226 was frequently used by the navy on ships and submarines to paint gauges, dials, and decks and make them glow-in-thedark. Its waste, however, constantly emits radiation and is highly linked to multiple forms of cancer, kidney damage, and birth defects. Even still, Radium-226 poses severe health risks when it contaminates groundwater and air supplies, as it enters into drinking water and can be breathed in excessively via the atmosphere (Illinois Institute for Environmental Quality, Chicago 63). Today, it is the source of 99 percent of all radiological contamination on Treasure Island, contaminating thousands of cubic yards of topsoil at 400 times EPA exposure limits in some places (Sabatini 1). This long-standing contamination makes Treasure Island physically unsafe and uninhabitable without serious remediation. Its exact degree of contamination is not publicly known, perhaps deliberately so, but its samples and estimates indicate the presence of unbelievably severe envi-
ronmental hazards. The third layer in Treasure Island’s environmental history is its threatening sea-level rise and subsidence. According to a study by University of California, Berkeley researcher, Glen Martin, landfill zones are the most vulnerable Bay Area regions to rising sea levels, and are sinking at an alarming rate due to soil compaction (Martin 1). Treasure Island is suffering from both effects: the island’s buildings and roadways are sinking as much as 12.7 millimeters per year, while sea level is rising by one to three millimeters per year (Martin 2). As explained by University of California, Berkeley researchers, Manoochehr Shirzaei and Roland Bürrgmann, the northwest corner of Treasure Island is experiencing significant subsidence due to a combination of landfill compaction and stream outflows into the Bay—which deposits considerable amounts of silt and mud that subside as they compact and dry out (Shirzaei and Bürgmann 6). Such findings stress the importance of land subsidence considerations in future Bay Area planning, since it will magnify the impacts of future king tides and 100-year storms as climate change further exacerbates extreme weather patterns (see Appendix A, Figure 1). In 1997, despite Treasure Island’s hazardous housing, contamination, and climate risk histories, the City of San Francisco exercised the 1994 Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act, which permitted it to “solve” its homelessness issues through forcing the poor and people of color from its streets onto the otherwise uninhabitable island (Harvey 1). The housing plan to do this designated three hundred housing units for occupation by 1998 and out-
Figure 1. Contaminated lands juxtaposed with areas predicted to flood in the case of a 100-year storm assuming one meter of sea level rise. Treasure Island maintains one of the highest densities of contaminated sites subject to future flooding in the area. Reprinted from San Francisco Baykeeper. (2017). Sea Level Rise and Pollution Risk to the Bay. Retrieved from https://baykeeper.org/shoreview/pollution. html Spring 2020 / Perennial
lined a contractual partnership between TIDA and the John Stewart Company to restore and remediate the units with limited success (Harvey 2). By 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a $1.25 million contract with Associated Right of Way Services Inc., a private real estate company in Pleasant Hill, California, to oversee the eviction and relocation of Treasure Island’s then 1,800 residents so that their homes could be demolished and redeveloped (“Budget” 276). Of the 425 market-rate households, 220 were entitled to either a down payment from the city for a new unit or a Transition Housing Unit in a TIDA building. However, the 205 other households received only “advisory services” to compensate for their relocation (Brinklow 2). According to the contract, the redevelopment will include 8,000 new residential units, (2,173 of which will serve as affordable housing), and will accommodate 20,000 to 25,000 people. The plans also include up to 500 hotel rooms, 550,000 square feet of restaurants, retail, office and commercial space, a marina, 300 acres of parks and open space, and a new toll tax on the island. To market this, the TIDA advertises the future version of the island as a “picturesque community” and pledges to dedicate one percent of the project’s overall budget to public art installations, which, according to the San Francisco Arts Commission, is “an unparalleled opportunity for bold, imaginative, and forward-thinking contemporary art” (qtd. in Brinklow). The dissonance of this glorifying, upper-class perspective from the reality of those on the other side of Treasure Island’s displacement processes marks a consistent flaw in the project stakeholders’ agendas, which is already reflected in the project’s emerging outcomes. DISCUSSION Treasure Island’s naval history, hazardous homes, radioactive contamination, and unique location in a high-rent region all distinctly intersect with its inordinately low-income population. The outcomes of this intersection align with established patterns of environmental injustice, including stark racial and socioeconomic disparities between those who live in close proximity to commercial hazardous waste and those who do not. A study by Robin Saha on communities near commercial hazardous waste facilities found that, in the U.S., over 9.2 million people live within 1.8 miles of at least one facility, more than 5.1 million of whom are people of color, including 2.5 million Latinx and 1.8 million African Americans (Saha 52). Saha found that neighborhoods with commercial hazardous waste facilities (host neighborhoods) on average are way more densely populated than non-host neighborhoods, and have significantly different racial compositions, with an average of 56 percent residents of
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color versus 30 percent in nonhost neighborhoods— about half as many. Other significant differences include higher poverty rates, 10 percent lower mean household incomes, and 14 percent lower mean housing values in host neighborhoods than nonhost neighborhoods (Saha 55). Across the board, zip code areas with higher levels of hazardous waste activity have higher percentages of residents of color and poverty rates relative to those without, which signals a serious issue and systematic injustice, both socially and politically (Saha 39). Given these patterns, it is no wonder why people of color and the poor are consistently more vulnerable to the negative impacts of hazardous waste facilities—they are disproportionately exposed to them. Despite the fact that Treasure Island itself does not house a hazardous waste facility, its residents are exposed to radioactive waste every day to a dangerous degree, which is directly tied to their racial and economic composition. The scope of these patterns and correlations span well beyond Treasure Island, but it is through the lens of these larger trends that one can better understand Treasure Island’s outcomes. The Treasure Island community not only fits into patterns of disproportionate chemical exposure, but it is also an environmental justice community itself. Environmental justice encompasses the right of every person to live and work in a clean and healthy environment—that is, without significant environmental risks and stressors impacting them (Bonorris viii). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), risk is the probability of exposure to an environmental stressor leading to human or ecosystem harm. When the EPA assesses risks, it looks at environmental stressors to characterize the risk’s nature and magnitude of harm. The stressor’s risk level is then determined based on its degree of environmental presence, community exposure, and toxicity (Environmental Protection Agency). We can use this template to assess the environmental justice of the Treasure Island community by looking specifically at the island’s Radium-226 levels. As previously mentioned, Radium-226’s environmental presence is extremely strong, given it is the source of 99 percent of all radiological contamination on Treasure Island. It contaminates thousands of cubic yards of the island’s topsoil, thereby strongly exposing the community to it. While the isotope itself has a relatively long half life of 1,600 years, its cumulative presence is 400 times the EPA’s exposure limit, making it extremely toxic (Sabatini 1). This concentration of hazardous waste in the Treasure Island community further signals environmental injustice because it indicates that residents experience a disproportionate amount of environmental harms. This long-standing contamination makes Treasure Island physically unsafe and uninhabitable without serious remediation. Even with the exact degree of contamination being unknown to the public, perhaps deliberately so, its samples indicate the pres-
ence of undeniably severe environmental hazards. Another right encompassed by environmental justice is to give those potentially affected by environmental decisions a meaningful role in relevant decision-making processes without being marginalized (Bonorris viii). This is yet another way in which Treasure Island community members are victims of environmental injustice. According to Noelani Enomoto, the city managers who oversee the subsidized housing units “have not been very favorable to the residents to say the least.” While Noelani Enomoto declined to name names, she explained that these managers have huge impacts on whether residents choose to speak out about their living conditions and abuses. In the past, residents who brought attention to Treasure Island’s environmental issues faced sudden eviction, leading to a now common fear of speaking out. There is an ongoing abuse of power that bullies Treasure Island residents out of the island’s decision-making processes and willfully violates their tenant rights. Confirmation of this trend on Treasure Island is difficult to verify with social science literature, if not impossible. However, Noelani Enomoto did advise me to look on Treasure Island for randomly abandoned homes that were surrounded by inhabited homes, which I found but was hesitant to photograph (see Appendix B, Image 3). Something that Noelani Enomoto did not warn me about, however, that I found when I visited the site was the prevalence of mobile homes around the island. I found multiple lots with mobile homes parked parallel to each other, with people coming in and out of them and other obvious signs of use (see Appendix B, Image 5). While I can’t confidently trace why those lots were full of mobile homes, they do signal to me issues in housing availability, safety, vulnerability and perhaps the high cost of property on the island. Regardless, assuming that Noelani Enomoto’s community sentiments are true, the Treasure Island community would, in yet another respect, be an environmental justice community facing environmental injustice. Widespread community participation in environmental decision-making leads to policy decisions that better reflect the whole constituency, and contribute to a more vibrant democracy (Bonorris viii). While there is already considerable evidence that Treasure Island’s community is experiencing environmental health disparities, further public health research is critical to the future of its environmental injustices. As demonstrated by University of Massachusetts, Amherst professor Manuel Pastor Jr. in his study of environmental inequities, and historical records, a cumulative-exposure approach is crucial to illuminating health disparities, because such trends take time to evolve following the inequitable planning policies and decisions that exacerbate them. If one can do that on Treasure Island, one can perhaps
Image 3. A two-story low-income housing unit. It is identical to those on the left and right of the frame. The home on the lower right appears abandoned. Gans, Ariel (2019).
find inequalities in the susceptibility of its community members to toxins due to long-term stressors and potentially their link to disparities in negative health outcomes (Pastor 123). Ultimately, Treasure Island’s environmental health risks are serious, geographically disproportionate, and discriminatory violations of human rights. Across the United States, pollution is concentrated in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods and thus less politically powerful areas, leaving their residents to not only bear a disproportionate amount of environmental pollution, but also to face disproportionate obstacles in the enforcement of environmental protections and clean-up of that increased pollution (Bonorris xv). CONCLUSION Ultimately, the City of San Francisco writes the narrative of Treasure Island that is passed on to the wider public media outlets, eclipsing that of Treasure Island’s gruesome naval past, but failing to erase it. However, given numerous primary resource documents and the
Image 5. A fenced-in lot of crammed mobile homes amidst abandoned shipping containers, a view of San Francisco in the distance, and two active bulldozers working on the hill. Gans, Ariel (2019). Spring 2020 / Perennial
experiences of Sheridan Noelani Enomoto in engaging with and listening to the concerns of Treasure Island residents, we are able to see the alternative, more complex side of Treasure Island’s redevelopment story. This side is continuously censored by city officials, who use their power to constrict the ability of current residents to speak out on the dangers of living on contaminated land, as well as the failure of the city to redevelop it in a way that benefits them and prioritizes their voices. These dynamics create conflict between those who want to better Treasure Island and those who must live with that betterment. Without consistent communication, inclusion, and prioritization of community member voices in the redevelopment and rehabilitation of Treasure Island, the city of San Francisco will continue to push its idealistic vision of successful redevelopment until it not only displaces the island’s community, but also fails to recognize and resolve its persisting environmental issues. Biases in the framing of Treasure Island’s environmental, public health, economic, and housing issues in the media and at TIDA Board of Directors meetings translate into bias in the island’s decision-making processes and planning decisions, directly resulting in patterns of displacement. As made apparent by my research, there are dramatically different ways of talking about the same issue, in this case remediating Treasure Island, and particularly what successful remediation looks like. TIDA’s language around the redevelopment plan such as how the project’s design “draws heavily upon the natural setting and features of the islands” and “features intentional contrasts that will add interest for all who live on or visit the Islands” expose a glorification of gentrification that completely neglects the history of the space: who lived there and the astounding environmental hazards that still remain. Instead, the City of San Francisco prioritized sustainability and creating an artificial “connection with the ecological and experiential qualities of the Bay” on a man-made island (“Treasure/Yerba”). This deliberate language and framing by planners and developers with the City of San Francisco worked its way into the actual planning documents and media publicity far more than that of community members and community advocates, and that is directly tied to the environmental injustices and systematic discrimination discussed above. The outcome of failing to establish mutual respect, communication, and teamwork between issue stakeholders translates into the domination of one narrative and their vision of success, which ultimately perpetuates existing inequities between the two interest groups. What I found to be a surprising and important observation from the TIDA Board of Directors meeting I at-
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tended at Treasure Island is that the intentions of the project’s directors, developers, and planners are ultimately good-hearted; they seemed to genuinely want the best life for those who will one day live on Treasure Island. However, it is their mutual cognitive disconnect between how we have historically treated nature and the consequences of those actions. It is clear that they either rationalize or do not realize the extent to which those currently living on Treasure Island are suffering, excluded, and affected by their decisions—let alone the extent to which the island needs to be remediated in order for it to be habitable contamination-wise, and that is before considering its issues of sea-level rise and subsidence. Despite seemingly good intentions, it is through the utter removal of marginalized community members from the project’s decision-making process that their stake in its outcome is forgotten completely. Not only do their ideas of success get erased, but they themselves get erased from the prevailing vision of successful redevelopment. It is in this way that we perpetuate the marginalization of low-income people of color and keep alive the legacy of environmental discrimination. Poor government enforcement and remediation of environmental, health, and infrastructural issues is a form of institutional discrimination and has contributed to the worsening of such issues. It is well-known that hazardous wastes pose serious risks to health, property, and quality of life, which is why no one wants to live on or near them. As a result, contaminated brownfield sites have often followed the path of least political resistance, which have typically been poor communities of color, who have limited scientific and legal resources (Saha 50). In the case of Treasure Island’s redevelopment as a contaminated brownfield site, while the project ultimately expands the housing capacity of Treasure Island, it amplifies unresolved environmental issues and racialized displacement practices such that private stakeholders control the direction of the island’s redevelopment and impose their agendas onto it without sufficiently involving or prioritizing the community it concerns the most, who incidentally are also the ones who need the space the most. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS Given the U.S. Navy and the City of San Francisco’s consistently inappropriate responses to Treasure Island’s severe contamination, sea-level rise, housing issues, and resident vulnerability, there is reason to conclude that no one should live there at all. While knocking down the asbestos and mold-ridden homes and rebuilding new ones is a step toward habitability, the fact that the redevelopment plans to displace the majority of those who once lived on the island such that they cannot benefit from the remediation they need most begs the question of who the City of San Francisco is
remediating Treasure Island for. It is my belief that the city should put the needs of the Treasure Island community first in their redevelopment plans given the historical patterns of discriminatory displacement and exposure to environmental harms that they currently fit into. Thus, we need long-term systematic policy changes that clean-up and reinvest in brownfield properties, lessen developmental pressures, and protect the environment—which can only happen if governments, communities, and other stakeholders work together to sustainably recycle Treasure Island. A core example of this type of reconciliation is in new District 6 Supervisor of San Francisco, Matt Haney,’s decision to begin holding Town Hall meetings periodically on Treasure Island. This helped Haney to directly engage and address the concerns of Treasure Island’s residents and acknowledge their status as citizens of San Francisco. No other District 6 Supervisor had previously been receptive to this idea, but by getting Haney and other relevant politicians to speak to Treasure Island residents face-to-face, they are forced to break their narrative of Treasure Island being a great place. Thus, one policy move would be to legally bring together leaders and advocates from both sides of the issue into the same room to share their ideas and concerns directly. Communities of racial or ethnic minorities and people of low socioeconomic status are particularly vulnerable to environmental and social stressors not just in Treasure Island or the Bay Area, but systemically across the country. Thus, policies that enforce more holistic and transparent approaches to the pursuit of scientific data and decision-making procedures affecting these communities are needed. These multilateral, place-based regulatory interventions would mitigate the cumulative impacts of environmental and social stressors on the health of disadvantaged communities by catering to the individual issues and nuances of each site, which, as seen in the case of Treasure Island, can be quite unique and complex. One way I propose doing this is by modeling a new policy off of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which forces federal decision-makers to seriously consider the environmental impacts of federal actions before moving them forward. In this procedure, the affected community is given a means of commenting on the process and working with stakeholders to mitigate its foreseen impacts. The Act and its governing council, the Council on Environmental Quality, has issued guidelines to ensure that historically marginalized groups maximize their participation and communicate its impact on vulnerable communities. California has already passed a smaller-scale version of NEPA called the California Environmental Quality Act, but it requires expansion if it is going to be able to aid an issue of environmental justice of the scale of the Treasure Island redevelopment project (Bonorris xiii).
Using Treasure Island as a case study, I conclude that current environmental policy should be broadened and shifted from individual pollutants to better consider the cumulative impacts of exposures and vulnerabilities endured by those who live in largely low-income, racial or ethnic minority neighborhoods (Morello-Frosch et al. 879). This builds off of the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, drafted and adopted at the National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. in 1991, which became a defining document for the grassroots environmental justice movement (Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit). These principles need to become stronger components of environmental policy, particularly principles that maintain that communities can speak for themselves and should be protected from disproportionate environmental degradation. The legacy of Western culture shows us that outsiders have a tendency to act as saviors, coming into complicated situations uninvited. Though these outsiders may have good ideas or good intentions that have a potential for positive change, they often do more harm than good. This is especially dismaying when community members can often create better solutions for themselves if given the resources to do so. This is to say that any environmental policy moving forward must put community members and community values at the forefront. Ultimately, it is not about what I or anyone else feels is the resolution to these issues; instead, I believe that we should support what the community feels is the solution. WORKS CITED 1. 2. 3.
“About Risk Assessment.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Jan. 2020, https://www.epa.gov/risk/about-risk-assessment#whatisrisk. Bonorris, Steven. Environmental Justice for All: A Fifty State Survey of Legislation, Policies and Cases. 4th ed., Public Law Research Institute, 16 Apr. 2007, pp. xiv-xv. Brinklow, Adam. “Treasure Island development prepares to evict hundreds.” SF: Curbed, Vox Media, 25 Sept. 2017, sf.curbed.com/2017/9/25/16360790/treasure-island-development-eviction. “Budget and Finance Committee Meeting: Agenda Packet Contents List.” San Francisco Board of Supervisors,7Sep. 2017, https://sfgov.legistar.com/View. ashx?M=F&ID=5429372&GUID=655054B5-9EE5-409F-B3A890E7836DB215. “Contract for the American Dream.” Rebuild the Dream, Dream Corps, Aug. 2011, http://www.rebuildthedream.com/contract. Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. “Principles of Environmental Justice.” United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, 24-27 Oct. 1991, https://www.ejnet.org/ej/ principles.html. Dillon, Lindsey. “Race, Waste, and Space: Brownfield Redevelopment and Environmental Justice at the Hunters Point Shipyard.” Antipode, vol. 46, no. 5, 23 Oct. 2014, doi:10.1111/ anti.12009. Harvey, Carol. “Treasure Island: A lucrative homeless prison.” People’s Tribune, Oct. 2017, http://peoplestribune.org/ptnews/2017/10/treasure-island-lucrative-homeless-prison/. “Hunters Point Shipyard Final Environmental Impact Report.” Executive Summary Status of the Environmental Remediation of Spring 2020 / Perennial
the Hunters Point Shipyard, Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, Mar. 2015, https://www.sfdph.org/dph/ files/EHSdocs/ehsHuntersPointdoc/HPS-ExecutiveSummaryMarch2015.pdf. Kolko, Jed. “America’s Most Diverse Neighborhoods.” The Atlantic, 13 Nov. 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/americas-most-diverse-neighborho ods/429483/. Martin, Glen. “Study: Rising Seas Are Quickly Sinking Bay Area Landfill Zones.” California Magazine, Cal Alumni Association, 7 Mar. 2018, https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/ just-in/2018-03-07/study-rising-seas-are-quickly-sinkingbay-area-landfill-zones. Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al. “Understanding The Cumulative Impacts Of Inequalities In Environmental Health: Implications For Policy.” Health Affairs, vol. 30, no. 5, Health Affairs, May 2011, pp. 879–87, doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0153. “National Priorities List (NPL) Sites - by State.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 3 June 2020, https://www.epa. gov/superfund/national-priorities-list-npl-sites-state#CA. Newell, Peter. “Squaring Urgency and Equity in the Just Transition Debate.” Rapid Transition Alliance, 25 Oct. 2018, https:// www.rapidtransition.org/commentaries/squaring-urgency-and-equity-in-the-just-transition-debate/. “Overview of EPA’s Brownfields Program.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.epa.gov/ brownfields/overview-epas-brownfields-program. Pastor, Manuel, et.al. “Environmental Inequity in Metropolitan Los Angeles,” The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution, edited by Robert D. Bullard, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 11 Jan. 2010, pp. 108-124. “Radium in Drinking Water.” Illinois Department of Public Health, Jan. 2008, https://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/private-water/radium-drinking-water Sabatini, J. “Navy cleanup of Treasure Island to last five more years.” San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Media Company, 24 Nov. 2017, https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/navycleanup-of-treasure-island-to- last-five-more-years/. Saha, Robin, et.al. “A Current Appraisal of Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States - 2007.” Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987-2007, United Church of Christ, Mar. 2007, pp: 49-55. Shirzaei, Manoochehr, and Roland Burgmann. “Global Climate Change and Local Land Subsidence Exacerbate Inundation Risk to the San Francisco Bay Area.” Science Advances, vol. 4, Mar. 2018, p. eaap9234, doi:10.1126/sciadv.aap9234. “Treasure/Yerba Buena Islands Development Project.” Treasure Island Development Authority, City and County of San Francisco, https://sftreasureisland.org/development-project. “Treasure Island Development Authority April Meeting Minutes.” City and County of San Francisco, 10 Apr. 2019, http:// sanfrancisco.granicus.com/TranscriptViewer.php?view_ id=181&clip_id=32878.
Figure 3a. Development plan for Treasure Island in which 300 acres are set aside for open space, while the remaining 93 house 20,00025,000 people. Reprinted from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. (2016). Treasure Island Master Plan. Retrieved from https://www.som.com/projects/treasure_island_master_plan 3b. Grid overview of Treasure Island redevelopment project with section labels and space allotments. Reprinted from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. (2016). Treasure Island Master Plan. Retrieved from https://www.som.com/projects/treasure_island_master_plan
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APPENDIX A: FIGURES 1.
Figure 1. Contaminated lands juxtaposed with areas predicted to flood in the case of a 100-year storm assuming one meter of sea level rise. Treasure Island maintains one of the highest densities of contaminated sites subject to future flooding in the area. Reprinted from San Francisco Baykeeper. (2017). Sea Level Rise and Pollution Risk to the Bay. Retrieved from https://baykeeper.org/shoreview/pollution. html
Figure 2. Overview of Treasure Island as it looked prior to the redevelopment project. Reprinted from CMG Landscape Architecture. (2016). Project Treasure Island. Retrieved from https://www.cmgsite. com/project/treasure-island/treasure-island-master-planning/project-treasur e-island-ti_ybi_exist_1_200/
APPENDIX B: IMAGES
Image 4. Abandoned and neglected naval building amongst rows of other abandoned naval buildings in the center of the island. Gans, Ariel (2019)
5. Image 1. San Francisco Fire Department Gans, Ariel (2019)
Image 5. A fenced-in lot of crammed mobile homes amidst abandoned shipping containers, a view of San Francisco in the distance, and two active bulldozers working on the hill. Gans, Ariel (2019).
Image 2. Large construction crane and other Hazardous Waste Unit ambulance parked in equipment obstructing view of Bay Bridge from Treasure Island. Gans, Ariel (2019).
Image 6. Multiple indicators construction machines and restriction signs lined in front of the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s San Francisco facing perimeter. Gans, Ariel (2019).
Image 3. A two-story low-income housing unit. It is identical to those left and right of the frame. The home on the lower right appears abandoned. Gans, Ariel (2019).
Image 7. A small, untamed field of weeds between the low-income housing and the high security hazardous waste control area. Gans, Ariel (2019). Spring 2020 / Perennial
Empty Promises of Sustainable Certification: Palm Oil Commodity
Fetishization in Indonesia AUTHOR: Annie Wang
ABSTRACT: This paper argues that sustainable certification schemes like the RSPO and other forms of ethical consumerism are not effective in guiding sustainable development. They fail to address the social relations behind the production of palm oil and the “greenwashing” development that is based on land-grabbing and labor exploitation. The booming palm oil industry in Indonesia exacerbates socioeconomic disparities, fails to deliver the benefits of development, and creates a massive environmental health and justice disaster. In place of RSPO and other “conscientious consumption” mechanisms, environmental justice movements, support for palm oil workers, changes in fiscal policies and transparency measures will be discussed as alternative forward. INTRODUCTION Under the guise of a “sustainable alternative,” palm oils have exploded into the biofuel industry, and become an overwhelming favorite for food and cosmetics companies due to its high versatility and relatively cheap cost of production. Now the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, palm oil has had its production increased five-fold in the last 20 years and is found in 50% of packaged items on supermarket shelves. As of 2018, global consumption has reached 72 million tons, or 20 pounds of palm oil per person (Rosner). Indonesia, the world’s leading producer of palm oil, is increasingly drawn to the economic benefits and development potential of this booming industry (see fig.1). In 2016, Indonesia exported 22.8 million tons of palm oil worth 14.4 billion USD and was claimed to have drawn ten million Indonesians out of poverty (Tyson 423). However, as Indonesia is ravaged by wildfires, both international and local NGOs increasingly denounce the terrifying ecological and social impacts of palm oil: massive biodiversity loss, gigatons of climate change inducing emissions from deforestation, environmental health hazards, poor labor conditions, and land grabbing from indigenous populations. In 2004, The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established with the “aims to transform markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm” (“RSPO.org”). This “industry-led stake-holder initiative” sets certain criteria for certified sustainable palm oil, promising to minimize the harmful environmental and social impacts and lead the way to sustainable development.
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Can the commodification of sustainability truly offer a sustainable development panacea? This paper argues that sustainable certification schemes like the RSPO and other forms of ethical consumerism are not effective in guiding sustainable development. They fail to address the social relations behind the production of palm oil, and the “greenwashing” development that is based on land-grabbing and labor exploitation. The booming palm oil industry in Indonesia exacerbates socioeconomic disparities, fails to deliver the benefits of development, and creates a massive environmental health and justice disaster. UNVEILING RSPO’S SUSTAINABILITY CLAIMS Driven by increasing pressure from the Global North to produce sustainable palm oil, the RSPO now certifies approximately 10% of global production (Pyre 219). Palm plantations receive the certification under certain ecological and social qualifications, including preserving “High Conservation Value Forest” and avoiding establishing new plantations in areas claimed by local communities (“RSPO.org”). However, the RSPO is a “multi-stakeholder initiative” dominated by agribusiness corporations, banks and investors, and consumer manufacturers, which means that sustainability is discussed only through the lens of economics of scale and profitability. Over 90% of “certified sustainable” palm oil comes from transnational corporations on the RSPO board, the majority of which are large-scale monocultures (219). Agribusiness monocultures are extremely destructive to biodiversity and pose serious implications for
-guage of social action and rebellion and mixed it with a neo-liberal economic model of consumption in a way that...strengthens the pillars of…consumer culture on which it is premised.” (qtd in Richey 157).
Fig. 1. “The palm-oil industry’s effort to curb deforestation has lots of flaws”; The Economist. Economist.com, 7 Mar. 2019, https:// www.economist.com/asia/2019/03/07/the-palm-oil-industryseffort-to-curb-deforestation-has-lots-of-flaws
climate change. Nearly 90% of deforestation in Indonesia was caused by palm corporations and RSPO members and only 15% of species found in primary forests were recorded in palm plantations (Petrenko et al., 28). Furthermore, it is estimated that the forest fires of 2015 that burned 2.6 million hectares, an area four and half times the size of Bali, tripled Indonesia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. The fires produced more carbon emissions in three weeks than Germany did in a whole year (28). The thick, toxic smog lingered over 28 million people, producing an estimated 100,000 deaths due to respiratory illness and $47 billion in economic loss (28). Friends of the Earth (2015) were able to show that peatlands owned by Wilmar and Bumitama, both transnational corporations and RSPO members, contributed to the fires. “DOUBLE FETISHISM” IN RSPO CERTIFICATIONS The failure of RSPO is significant in that it exemplifies the fetishization of sustainability through consumption and highlights the weaknesses of conscious consumption and sustainable certifications. Conscious consumption is increasingly used as a tool for citizen-consumers to lobby for social and environmental standards (Richey et al. 156). Campaigners hope to pressure agribusinesses by mobilizing consumers to pay an extra 8-9% for sustainable palm oil (Pye 220), or engage in “conspicuous non-consumption” (Reichman 147). In doing so, sustainability and ethics become a commodity, rather than a political or social act. As quoted by Banet Weiser and Lapsanky, conscious consumption “has appropriated the lan-
RSPO poses solutions for an over-simplified, decontextualized understanding of the issue and presents itself as a simple panacea for complex structural problems, perfectly exemplifying Marx’s idea of “commodity fetishism.” Marx’s idea states that under capitalism, commodity fetishism is “the necessary masking of the social relations under which commodities are produced from which capitalist commodity production gains much of its legitimacy” (qtd in Richey 172). In RSPO, corporations can hide labor abuse, environmental damage, and land grabbing. By focusing on the individual act of consumption, these sustainability models “make no attempt to grasp the system at its higher levels,” and present a “version of social justice [that] is too simple to truly ‘re-embed’ exchange in social relations” (Reichman 154). Moreover, ethical consumption is inherently undemocratic because purchasing power and knowledge of issues are reserved for those who can afford it. The labeling and “codification of social and environmental concerns” create a “double fetishism--the masking of social relations of production combined with the commoditization of the knowledge about the commodity itself” (Richey 174). Because RSPO fails to address social and political aspects, it simply entrenches existing systems of inequality and poverty by legitimizing it through “greenwashing.” In order to address the harmful impacts of palm oil, it is necessary to step away from the fetishized commodity and understand the structural dynamics behind it. POST-FORDIST POLICIES In the current post-Fordist era, increased competition creates relentless pressure on companies to reduce costs and increase productivity (Ritzer 1992). States also implement neoliberal policies that deregulate capital and financial markets and privatize public industries. In the palm oil context, the Indonesian government works with palm oil corporations to acquire cheap land and labor for maximized profitability (Pye 222). The intricate ties between the government and palm oil corporations lead to systematic, unequal distribution of wealth. In the name of development and with claims of poverty reduction and employment opportunities , the Indonesian government’s support of palm oil companies also seeks legitimization through economic benefits (Tyson 422). In Indonesia, the government claimed state ownership over forested lands simply to sell them to private corporations, such as RSPO board member Wilmar, Spring 2020 / Perennial
despite protests from indigenous communities. About 80% of palm oil plantations are acquired in this manner, with about a quarter facing claims of customary land ownership (Pye 222). This form of land grabbing is also supplemented by the Nucleus Estate and Smallholder Schemes (NES). Under this scheme, smallholder farmers would give up a large portion of their land for a piece of palm oil plantation that is smaller than their original land. If smallholders cannot afford to give that much land, they must repay smallholding establishment costs to the company, often trapping them in perpetual debt (Rist 1011). Indonesia’s decentralized government allows local governments to provide fiscal incentives for new palm oil plantations. As local governments compete to collect more land, more taxes, and more investment, the palm industry profits off of low taxation and ease of licensing and permits through informal transactions with these governments (Tyson 435). However, “if resource rents are managed by state actors for personal gain, and for the benefit of their distributional coalitions [it will] leave local communities behind” (437). As predicted, due to corruption and lack of tax compliance, only approximately 14% of palm oil tax revenues are redistributed to local governments (Santika et al. 115). Furthermore, post-Fordist policies with limited welfare and labor unions allowed Indonesia to provide cheap labor. In addition to paying indigenous workers low wages, palm oil companies have been tied to trapping migrant workers into debt patronage schemes (Pye 224). Labor subcontractors lure migrant workers with the promise of a steady income, but once they are on the plantation, the workers’ passports are taken away from them. They are told that they have incurred an ever-increasing debt for transportation, housing, and food. In order to pay off the “debt,” the workers have to work for the subcontractors without receiving any wage. Because workers never received any work permits and have no form of identification, they are unable to escape (224). DEVELOPMENT FOR WHOM? The Indonesian government and leaders of palm oil industries claim that palm oil expansion serves the best interests of Indonesians through its economic development. Mona Surya, the chair of the GAPKI palm oil conference, claimed that 24 million Indonesians depended on the palm oil sector and tens of millions have been lifted out of poverty (Tyson 428). However, calculations from the World Bank estimated that only 2-3 million Indonesians are in some way “involved” in the sector (428). Regardless, claims to poverty alleviation is a powerful political tool, which is utilized by President Joko Widodo to aggressively defend palm oil
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as contributing to the Millenium Development Goal of eradicating poverty (428). However, given the mutually beneficial wealth-power relationship the state has with the palm oil industry, these claims are questionable (see fig. 2). Though research on poverty alleviation has varied results, there is enough evidence that palm oil has increased inequality. Several studies have noted that absolute poverty decreased for rural communities and smallholders (Rist 1014). However, between 2008 and 2013 rural poverty rates decreased by 3.5% in palm oil areas, while decreasing by 6% in non-palm producing areas (Pye 223). A survey conducted in 2016 noted positive income growth but significant environmental costs, high rates of indebtedness, and “persistent vulnerabilities to poverty” from overdependence on palm oil, participation in volatile markets, growth through expansion rather than intensification and rising inequality (Tyson 434). Another study conducted by Santika et al. (2018) noted that despite an overall increase in basic, physical and financial indicators of well-being, there was an overall decline in social and environmental measures of well-being. Socioeconomic factors such as access to secondary schools, electricity, sanitation, and energy for cooking were markedly reduced. This study also noted that “local communities are burdened with socioeconomic and environmental costs of poorly planned and implemented development, while a small number of rural and urban elites take the largest share of economic benefits” (113).
Fig. 2. Jarryd de Haan. “Consequences of Inequality in Indonesia: Extremism, Corruption and Economic Costs”; Future Directions Interntional. 4 Jul. 2017, http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/consequences-inequality-indonesia-extremism-corruption-economic-costs/
Meanwhile, smallholders often struggled to pay back incurred debt from planting palm trees. Under the interest rates and debt repayment schedules, the highest-earning smallholder would need 12.5 years to repay their debt while most are free after 18 years; yet oil palm trees have a limited commercial lifespan of 25 years (Rist 1015). Despite promises of wealth, smallholder income dropped from 700,000 rupiahs (47 USD) a month to 300,000 (20 USD) after switching to palm development.
Indigenous populations “became discontented spectators of the modern economic developments taking place within their own lands” (Tyson 435). Many simply sold their land, using about 30% to pay off debts, but found their ability to earn income significantly reduced. They survived as poor day laborers without livelihood security or worker protection (Pye 223). Meanwhile, Wilmar made profits of over one billion dollars in 2015 (224). The inequalities and negative impacts on smallholder communities and their landscapes problematize the representation of palm oil as a persistent source of livelihood benefits and socioeconomic uplift (Tyson 435). According to Sen’s concept of development, development is not just economic development, but also the expansion of citizen capabilities and access to things they value, as well as the removal of unfreedoms (Sen 10-23). This framing of development as alleviation of poverty and inequality rather than economic growth highlights the need to remove systematic inequalities and enhance social well-being. In this sense, the palm oil industry is not a valid development mechanism because it fails to significantly alleviate poverty and inequality. The industry poses significant unfreedoms such as land-grabbing, illegal labor practices, environmental health disasters, and water and air pollution. Furthermore, RSPO certifications and conscientious consumerism, which lack the ability to remove such systematic failures, are ineffective methods for regulating industry and therefore are not viable sustainable development options. CONCLUSION Sustainable certification schemes like the RSPO Certification fail to deliver their claim to minimize harmful environmental and social impacts and bring about sustainable development. Under the guise of “sustainability,” it delivers an oversimplified and decontextualized solution that does not address the structural inequality behind the production of palm oil. As the palm oil industry continues to exacerbate socioeconomic disparities, the ineffectiveness of RSPO in regulating the industry is evident.
Though rarely documented, approximately 65% of land conflicts in West Kalimantan region of Indonesia were won by local community protestors (Pye 225). Enhancing smallholder economic and social interests and supporting agroecology knowledge sharing could also have tremendous environmental and social effects. Although these steps are difficult, it shifts the focus from a sustainable certification that “legitimizes the depoliticisation of necessary regulation” (Pye 225), towards new structural strategies that help redistribute power and bring truly sustainable development. WORKS CITED 1. “Homepage.” RSPO, www.rspo.org/. 2. Petrenko, Chelsea, et al. Ecological Impacts of Palm Oil Expansion in Indonesia. The International Council of Clean Transportation, July 2016. 3. Pye, Oliver. “Commodifying sustainability: Development, Nature and Politics in the Palm Oil Industry.” World Development, vol. 121, 2019, pp. 218-228. 4. Reichman, Daniel R. The Broken Village: Coffee, Migration, and Globalization in Honduras. Cornell University Press, 2011, pp. 128155. 5. Richey, Lisa Ann, and Stefano Ponte. Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World. University Minnesota Press, 2011, pp. 1-15, 151175. 6. Rist, Lucy, et al. “The Livelihood Impacts of Oil Palm: Smallholders in Indonesia.” Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 19, 2010, pp. 1009-1024.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9815-z. 7. Ritzen, Geoge. Contemporary Sociological Theory. 3rd ed., Sage Publishing, 1992, pp. 174-176. 8. Rosner, Hillary. “Palm Oil Is Unavoidable. Can It Be Sustainable?” National Geographic, Dec. 2018, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/12/palm-oil-products-borneo-africa-environment-impact/. 9. Santika, Truly, et al. “Does Oil Palm Agriculture Help Alleviate Poverty? A Multidimensional Counterfactual Assessment of Oil Palm Development in Indonesia.” World Development, vol. 120, 2019, pp. 105-117. 10. Sen, Amartya. “The Concept of Development.” Handbook of Development Economics. Edited by H. Chenery and T.N. Srinivasan, vol. 1, Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., 1988, pp. 10-23. 11. Tyson, Adam, et al. “Deconstructing the Palm Oil Industry Narrative in Indonesia : Evidence from Riau Province.” Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 40, no. 3, 2018, p. 422. 12. Up in Smoke: Failure in Wilmar’s Promise to Clean Up the Palm Oil Business. Friends of the Earth, December 2015.
In place of the RSPO, potential steps forward could include an adjustment of fiscal policies to be more distributively just and effectively monitored, increased transparency and data sharing between different government sectors and NGOs, forgiveness of smallholder debts, and increased mechanisms for public participation in issuing land permits and environmental governance. Supporting local environmental justice movements, land rights and land reform by smallholders, and improvement in labor conditions and wages of palm workers could also be promising. Spring 2020 / Perennial
Indigenous Rights and Climate Change: An Analysis of Global
Environmental Governance in the Arctic Region AUTHOR: Briana Zhuang ABSTRACT: This essay will outline the various environmental threats in the Arctic region as well as the consequences they impose upon indigenous communities. This essay will provide a brief history of the global environmental governance undertaken by nation states with regard to climate change in the Arctic and conclude by analyzing the successes and failures of Arctic governance with respect to the incorporation of indigenous voices. Ultimately, this analysis finds that inadequate progress has been made to prevent or mitigate the disasters and environmental degradation caused by climate change, disproportionately impacting the indigenous populations of the Arctic region without remedy. INTRODUCTION The Arctic Region and Its Inhabitants Sitting at the top of the world, the Arctic region is home to millions of people, over 21,000 species of organisms, 10% of the world’s oil, 22% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves, and about 100,000 indigenous people (O’Neill, “The Arctic”). Indigenous populations inhabit territories in six sovereign states, including, but not limited to powerful countries such as the United States, Russia, and Canada. Indigenous peoples hold a unique connection to the land they live on, thriving on traditional and cultural practices (such as hunting, herding, and fishing) that are heavily dependent on the landscape and ecosystems (“Arctic Indigenous Peoples”). Therefore, climate change poses an important and unique threat to the environmental, social, and cultural well-being of the Arctic region and its indigenous inhabitants. In this essay, I will outline the various environmental threats in the Arctic region and the detrimental consequences they impose upon indigenous communities. I will then provide a brief history of global environmental governance undertaken by nation-states concerning climate change in the Arctic. Then I will analyze the successes and failures of Arctic governance with respect to the incorporation of indigenous voices. Through this essay, I argue that inadequate progress has been made to prevent and mitigate the disasters and environmental degradation caused by climate change, disproportionately affecting the indigenous populations in the Arctic region. ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE ARCTIC
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are harmful chemicals prone to long-range transport through the
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atmosphere. They can be transported from all over the world through wind, water, and other weather patterns. They also resist biodegradation (hence ‘persistent’) and remain in the environment for long periods of time (Selin 106). Due to their expansive range of transport and resistance to degradation, these chemicals travel from all around the globe and accumulate in the Arctic region. Once there, these chemicals accumulate in the Arctic carbon sink, an area in which harmful substances are stored in the land. This has disastrous effects on the wildlife, as these toxins begin to bioaccumulate in individual specimens and consequently biomagnify in individuals up the food chain (106). As animals higher up in the food chain (such as seals and whales) consume other animals, they ingest the biotoxins in their prey. In turn, these biotoxins remain in the systems of predator animals; thus, animals higher up on the food chain hold higher levels of toxins. At the top of the food chain are humans, specifically the indigenous peoples that reside in the Arctic and live off the land by hunting and fishing (O’Neill, “The Arctic”). In this way, POPs present a severe threat to the health of indigenous peoples in the Arctic. In the 1980s, indigenous peoples learned that they were being “poisoned from afar” as the consequences of POPs became more apparent (“Climate Change”). A study showed that levels of PCBs, a persistent organic pollutant, in pregnant Inuit women were much higher than the national average as a result of POP bioaccumulation and biomagnification. (Koivurova 135). Sheila Watt-Coultier, an indigenous rights activist, politician, and leader explains that nursing mothers were hesitant to nurse their own babies as a result of the fear that they would poison their children (“Climate Change”). POPs present a hazardous threat to both the ecosystems and wildlife of the Arctic as well as the indigenous
populations that reside there. Stratospheric Ozone Layer Depletion The stratospheric ozone layer acts as a protective barrier between the Earth’s inhabitants and harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In recent decades, however, a growing ozone hole in the layer threatens the planet’s well-being. This ozone hole is caused by the emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other chemicals widely used in production and manufacturing that destroy ozone molecules. Without the ozone layer, ecosystems would degrade, climate change would progress more rapidly, and there would be a multitude of human health impacts, including skin cancer and cataracts (O’Neill, “The Environment” 34). Through the Montreal Protocol of 1987 and its associated treaties, the international community has made multilateral efforts to address ozone layer depletion. Although it is a global commons problem, ozone layer depletion is particularly harmful in the Arctic region. Polar stratospheric clouds exacerbate the speed of ozone depletion, allowing for UV radiation to reach the Earth’s surface and thus create a dangerous environment for the people and animals that live there (O’Neil 90). Though the ozone layer remains an ongoing issue of importance, it has generally been regarded as one of the international community’s greatest collaborative feats with regard to global environmental problems. As an effective multilateral effort, the Montreal Protocol has led to a successful reduction of CFCs as well as the slow but steady mending of the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer. Global Warming Temperature increase is especially rapid in the Arctic region, rising at a faster rate than the global average and contributing to permafrost thaw and melting sea ice. Melting polar caps is perhaps one of the most publicized environmental problems of the Arctic region— images of a lone polar bear on a minuscule slab of ice have been widely circulated in recent years. Yet, there are a multitude of social and cultural impacts of melting sea ice as well. Polar bears are not the only species threatened with loss of habitat—many others, including seals and fish that indigenous peoples consume, are also affected. Several other aspects of animals’ lives, including migration and breeding patterns, are threatened as well. This has the potential to change the ecosystem of the Arctic region and threaten the food source of native peoples. Additionally, the changes to the physical landscape of the Arctic have damaging consequences to the cultural practices of indigenous peoples. For example, whales and whaling play a crucial role in both the physical and
spiritual well-being of many indigenous populations, acting both as a food source and cultural symbols. In order to hunt whales, however, specific environmental conditions are needed, such as emerging cracks (known as “leads”) in the ice, as well as a thick enough ice layer to allow hunters to pull the whale out from the water and onto the surface (Milman). Many of these conditions are disappearing along with the melting ice caps, having detrimental effects on indigenous populations. Nagruk Harcharek, who has spent decades whaling in the Arctic, stated: “Some families rely upon whales for their food. It’s so central to our culture. The spring hunt is spiritual – sitting out there on the ice edge is pretty quiet” (Milman). Melting polar ice caps do not only affect the species whose habitats are being destroyed but the cultural practices of indigenous populations as well. Climate Change Climate change is a complex, global issue that the Arctic countries have struggled to address multilaterally. Many of the aforementioned environmental issues are either exacerbated by or contribute to climate change. For example, soil warming of 1ºC in the Arctic (caused by global warming) releases carbon stored in peat, potentially releasing up to 100 megatons of carbon annually, which then only cycles back and continues contributing to the worsening of global warming (Bennett et al. 317). The fragile and unique ecosystem of the Arctic region makes it particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, inducing positive feedback loops that continually exacerbate climate change. The eight Arctic states, however, have faced difficulties in finding a policy approach that aligns with their individual interests, global political agendas, and the environmental issues at hand. The major international treaties governing this issue are the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 2015 Paris Agreement, both of which have been (and continue to be) highly contested. Additionally, the Arctic states have failed to effectively incorporate the knowledge and opinions of indigenous communities into the decision-making process. Arctic policy with regard to climate change has been weak and lacks inclusivity of indigenous rights. In the following section, I will outline the progress of the Arctic states in addressing Arctic environmental issues. OVERVIEW OF GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE IN THE ARCTIC REGION Scientific developments and research in the Arctic region have increased dramatically in the past few decades. As important environmental issues have arisen, including those with concerns surrounding human health, climate change, and natural resources, global political activity in the area has increased as well. Both state and non-state stakeholders have voiced their posiSpring 2020 / Perennial
tions. Arctic countries have scrambled to profit or gain strategic advantages from the region, resulting in a number of international treaties.
of cooperation and networking both between Arctic states and indigenous peoples as well as among different indigenous groups themselves.
International environmental cooperation in the Arctic region began with a speech made by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, in which he called for more multilateral collaboration with regard to environmental issues in the Arctic (Selin 103). The eight Arctic countries—the U.S., Russia, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—met in 1991 and adopted the first international effort to conserve the Arctic environment. They drafted the Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment and created the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS). The AEPS worked to monitor, report on, and oversee environmental efforts in the Arctic (103).
Sheila Watt-Cloutier and the ICC The leadership of Sheila Watt Cloutier, an Inuit activist and political representative, in the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) has also led to important advances in the visibility of native voices in Arctic politics. She pushed the ICC to create a high profile on environmental issues. By representing indigenous peoples in global politics, Watt-Cloutier and the ICC have portrayed indigenous populations in a way that is beneficial to their political standing in the Arctic Council. Through their leadership, they show that “[the Inuit] live closely with the environment; hold valuable environmentally rooted knowledge and traditions important for diet, spirituality, culture, and economics; and serve as embodiments, harbingers, and humanists for global change” (Martello 366).
The Arctic Council was created in 1996, replacing AEPS as the main overseeing body of Arctic environmental issues and policy (104). Most importantly, the Arctic Council expanded to include six indigenous populations groups—the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, the Gwich’in Council International, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) – and granted them the title of Permanent Participant (PP). Though these PPs had consulting rights on all decisions and activities of the Arctic Council, they did not have the formal decision-making powers granted to the eight state members (104). The principal international convention addressing environmental issues in the Arctic was the 2001 Stockholm Convention on POPs, which confronted the serious human health concerns that POPs had on indigenous populations. During treaty negotiations, indigenous groups on the Arctic Council took an especially strong stance following a 1980s scientific discovery that found abnormally high levels of POPs in body samples of indigenous peoples (“Climate Change”). The treaty entered into force in 2004 and operates under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), aiming to monitor, reduce, and eventually phase out POP production and usage (Selin 105). INTEGRATING INDIGENOUS VOICES: THE SUCCESSES Arctic Council The most significant effort taken by the eight Arctic countries to integrate indigenous voices in global governance discussions was the expansion of the Arctic Council to include six indigenous populations. These populations “received an unprecedented status in intergovernmental cooperation, changing from observer to permanent participant” (Koivurova 133). Arctic states were now required to consult indigenous groups before making decisions, leading to the strengthening
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The ICC has been very vocal in its demands from the international community, recognizing the urgency of climate change and the severity of its effects on the lives and health of indigenous populations (Cameron 466). Utilizing media and other publicizing tactics, the ICC has pressured the Arctic states into taking meaningful action to protect its peoples from climate change. DISMISSING INDIGENOUS VOICES: THE SHORTCOMINGS Legal Instruments Despite their important positions on the Arctic Council and high visibility in politics and media, indigenous peoples are still denied hard power in Arctic environmental politics and governance. Their permanent participant (PP) status limits them to a consultation position, with no power to vote on any decisions and no access to any financial resources that may improve their position. Their influence on the Arctic Council’s decisions are diluted by the weak structure of the Council itself—“its decisions are soft law at best” (Forgeron 65). Legally, none of the structures in place create binding obligations on the eight Arctic states with respect to indigenous rights (65). The Arctic Council does not have the power to create legally binding treaties or decisions that all eight Arctic states must comply with. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted by the UN in September 2007, lays out the proclaimed rights of indigenous peoples. However, as a declaration and not a formal treaty or convention, it holds no legally binding obligations or power. Under its dictates, indigenous peoples are guaranteed “freedom from discrimination; self-determination; autonomy; use of traditional lands and resources; health and life; practice of cultural traditions;
and many more” (66). Despite this comprehensive list of “guaranteed” rights, Arctic communities have reported that in reality, these rights have not been upheld. Indigenous groups are typically autonomous but are not politically or legally sovereign. They are granted general freedom to govern themselves but are still considered part of the Arctic country in which they reside and must adhere to the laws and regulations of that country. Therefore, they have limited legal power in combating the environmental degradation occurring rapidly in the Arctic as well as the social, cultural, and psychological consequences of the destruction. Inuit Knowledge and Research Climate change research on the impacts of climate change on indigenous communities in the Arctic has been lacking. Although scientific research has been conducted, a study by Maribeth Murray and her team revealed that research for social science projects concerning the practices and livelihoods of indigenous populations has been underfunded and deprioritized. America’s National Science Foundation (NSF) grants for Arctic research typically fell between $100,000 and $500,000, but social science projects (including societal needs projects) were only given average budgets of under $50,000 (Rosen). In general, research was directed towards studying climate developments of the past decades rather than expanding upon future changes or policy approaches. Additionally, research has disregarded the knowledge and experience of indigenous populations. Inuit traditional knowledge or Inuit Quajimajatuqangit, which is highly respected in indigenous communities, has not been fully incorporated in both Arctic research and policy. Instead, it has been used to provide context for researchers at the local level, as opposed to being used as empirical evidence in studies (Sheremata). Although Inuit leaders like Sheila Watt-Cloutier have been very vocal with their concerns about climate change and its effect on indigenous communities, many of the institutions in place are inadequate and ill-equipped to tackle climate issues or incorporate indigenous voices in the policymaking process. CONCLUSION: WHAT NOW? Global environmental governance in the Arctic region has not done enough to remedy the consequences that climate change imposes upon indigenous communities. These indigenous populations, despite contributing nearly nothing to global warming, disproportionately suffer from the increasingly severe effects of climate change. Policymaking and research by Arctic states have largely disregarded the value of indigenous knowledge and deprioritized climate change’s effects on the social and cultural well-being of indigenous communities.
Moving forward, Arctic states must recognize the worth of local knowledge and the role it should have in the policymaking process. Arctic states have been making decisions on behalf of indigenous populations without experience or knowledge of the ground-level effects of climate change. Indigenous communities must be given more say and decision-making power when it comes to addressing the issues that affect them. Additionally, the Arctic Council and other governing bodies that preside over Arctic environmental issues must be given more concrete legal power in order to effect real change and progress. Without legal institutions such as conventions or treaties with the power to enforce its policies, declarations and promises are meaningless. Climate change in the Arctic region poses imminent and severe threats to indigenous peoples. Arctic nation states must act to protect and preserve both the Arctic’s fragile ecosystems and its inhabitants. WORKS CITED 1.“Arctic Indigenous Peoples.” Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, www.arcticcentre.org/EN/communications/arcticregion/Arc tic-Indigenous-Peoples. Accessed 26 November 2018. 2. Bennett, Joseph R et al. “Polar Lessons Learned: Long-term Management Based on Shared Threats in Arctic and Antarctic Environments.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, vol. 13, no. 6, August 2015 , pp. 316-24. 3. Bocking, Stephen, and Brad Martin. Ice Blink: Navigating Northern Environmental History, University of Calgary Press, 2017, pp. 46595. 4. “Climate Change Speaker: Sheila Watt-Cloutier.”. Youtube, uploaded by The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau, 17 June 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hve4izl91Yo. Accessed 26 November 2018. 5. Forgeron, Daryn. “Indigenous Rights: The Hidden Cost of Arctic Development.” Harvard International Review, vol. 36, no. 3, 2015, pp. 64-67. 6. Koivurova, Timo. “The Arctic Council: A Testing Ground for New International Environmental Governance.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol. 19, no. 1, 2012, pp. 131-44. 7. Martello, Marybeth Long. “Arctic Indigenous Peoples as Representations and Representatives of Climate Change.” Social Studies of Science, vol. 38, no. 3, June 2008, pp. 351-76. 8. Milman, Oliver. “What Happened to Winter? Vanishing Ice Convulses Alaskans’ Way of Life.” The Guardian, 21 April 2018, www. theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/21/alaska-climate-changewinter-way-of-life. Accessed 26 November 2018. 9. O’Neill, Kate. “The Arctic in a Changing World.” 9 October 2018, University of California, Berkeley, CA, Speech. The Environment and International Relations. 2nd ed. N.p. Cambridge University Press, 2017. 10.Rosen, Julia. “Arctic Research Slow to Focus on Societal Needs.” NewsDeeply, 28 January 2016, www.newsdeeply.com/arctic/articles/2016/01/28/arctic-research-slow-to-focus-on-societal-needs. Accessed 26 November 2018. 11.Selin, Henrik. “Global Environmental Governance and Treaty-Making: The Arctic’s Fragmented Voice.” Governing Arctic Change, 2017, pp. 101-20. 12.Sheremata, Megan. “Can We Hear Them Now?: Listening to Inuit Voices in Arctic Policy and Research.” EnviroSociety, 27 April 2016, www.envirosociety.org/2016/04/can-we-hear-them-nowlistening-to-inuit-voices-in-arctic-policy-and-research/. Accessed 26 November 2018.
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Agroecology Adaptation Based Framework to Empower Rural Based Farmers For Climate Change: AUTHOR: Tushar Narula
ABSTRACT: Climate change has created rifts in the formal ways of farming in Kenya. The different methods used have less focus on the development of land sustainability and biodiversity. The recent push towards infrastructural development has threatened the farmed lands. We intend to cultivate biodiversity for degradation mitigation, climate change adaptation and enhanced resiliency to climate change stressors. The aim of the project is to empower rural-based smallholder farmers for degradation mitigation, climate change adaptation and resiliency through the utilization of different agroecology principles. Processes such as Agro-Ecosystem Design including habitat management and plant diversification are steps that push towards the right growth of the land in the changing climate. The framework created intends to tackle the issues of sustainability and longevity with an economic perspective. It intends to secure the future of the farmers, their land and their produce. The framework consists of six crucial actions that can be adhered to and carried out in the form of a project. It would consist of the creation of model agroecology farms, formal training of trainers (TOTs) programs, development of farmer outreach programs, design of biodiversity action plans, choice of community crop insurance scheme and project monitoring/evaluation. By adhering to the framework, the farmer would increase their readiness against climate change and improve upon the biodiversity outcomes in the ecosystem. These actions are also supplemented by a formulated cost structure, focus sites and impact assessment. Such actions would provide further structure to the framework and allow it to have a measured and strong impact on the less developed areas. This research focuses on Kenya as the test bed for the framework and implementations for initiation. This paper will systematically guide the reader through the importance of agroecology, its use in the framework and further elaborate on the different components that go into the framework. The paper guides through the development pathways specific to Kenya with regards to the current practices and highlights the benefits of adapting to the framework as it envisions a secure and sustainable future for farmers and agriculture. INTRODUCTION Causation of Degradation of Ecosystem and Impacts of Climate Change Degradation of natural ecosystems has been identified as the main barrier to attainment of sustainable development. The ever-continuing degradation of agricultural and landscape ecosystems exacerbates the consequences of climate change. It is also responsible for reduced ecosystem services (â&#x20AC;&#x153;Global Drylands Initiativeâ&#x20AC;?).
Climate change is expected to adversely affect agricultural production in Africa. A range of climate models suggest median temperature increases between 3 and 4 Â°C in Africa by the end of the 21st Century, roughly 1.5 times the global mean response. This will likely result in significant yield losses of key staple crops, such as maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, and cassava, of between 8 and 22 percent by 2050 unless key investments are made to improve agricultural productivity under climate risk (Besseau et al). Adaptation to climate change at the farm level includes many possible responses, such as changes in crop management practices (for example: choice of fields, planting dates, planting densities, crop varieties), livestock management Spring 2020 / Perennial
practices, transhumance timing and destinations), land use and land management. In particular, degradation of ecosystems reduces ecosystem function on agricultural farms (above and below ground), leading to poor soil health and fertility loss. This in turn increases vulnerability to climate change impacts and reduces adaptive capacity of farmers who depend on farming as a source of livelihood. The resulting consequences are lack of enough food, water scarcity, poor human health and conflicts. Adaptation can greatly reduce vulnerability to climate change by making rural communities better able to adjust to climate change and variability, moderate potential damages, and cope with adverse consequences (McCarthy et al.). Soil erosion erupts as one of the alarming problems which is enhanced through climate change. In some cases, advanced stages of soil erosion, such as rill and gully erosions, can devastate entire areas, turning them unusable for agricultural purposes (Maeda et al.). The main observations of the International Livestock Research Institute and International Food Policy Research Institute indicate the increased impacts of climate change would include various changes in Kenya. It would experience wide losses of many key staples, reduction in
crop productions and food accessibility (Herrero et al.). This would have a negative impact on the livelihoods of many small-scale farmers that depend on this accessibility and natural resources. Agroecological principles and practices are closely linked to the agroecosystem design and divide biodiversity into two different parts, one being “Below the ground” and another being “Above the Ground.” They together come to determine and contribute to the crops’ health and the agroecosystem’s health. Given the importance of smallholder farming, there is serious need to build resilience of farms and landscapes. This can be achieved by addressing degradation of natural ecosystems on both farms and landscapes. The ultimate beneficiaries are the environment (restoration of ecosystems) and humanity (food security and livability). MATERIALS AND METHODS It is estimated that there are about 475 million agricultural farms of less than two hectares around the world. These farms, cultivated by smallholder farmers, account for about 12% of agricultural land globally and produce 80% of all the food consumed globally. Indeed, smallholder farming is gradually becoming untenable. Smallholder farmers who are currently living on the margins of productivity could be pushed over the edge (Cropscience). It is, therefore, not surprising that degradation of both agricultural farms and landscapes impact on the wellbeing of 3.2 billion people globally (Lewis et al.). The chosen site of Kenya is adversely affected by climatic variability and change because of the dependency on rain-fed agriculture. With variability in rainfall and temperature directly affecting crop and livestock yields, millions of smallholder farmers in the sub Saharan region are impacted drastically by climate change and are not aware of the tools to tackle the risk and showcase a deeply resilient path for the future (Ochieng et al.). Proposed Development Pathways This proposal, therefore, presents a simple yet effective development pathway in the form of agroecology with three objectives: 1. Stop degradation of natural ecosystems that the survival of humanity and general life forms depend on. 2. Bring back biodiversity and build resilience capacity of agricultural farms and landscapes for enhanced food production and climate change adaptation/mitigation. 3. Promote agroecology as a natural, cost-ef-
fective and sustainable farming system locally and globally, especially amongst smallholder farmers. Choosing Agroecology Agroecology has its root in ecology—the understanding of natural ecosystems. Therefore, agroecology is a science that borrows from social, biological and agricultural sciences. It integrates the three science disciplines with both traditional and farmers’ knowledge (“What Is Agroecology?”). At the heart of agroecology is the fact that a healthy agroecosystem should mimic the functioning of local ecosystems in order to enhance biodiversity, build complex beneficial structures and enhance nutrient recycling. Agroecology is a farming system that has people and environment at its heart. Agroecological farming practices support food sovereignty by enabling farmers to boost and diversify their production, stabilize yields, decrease dependency on expensive and often hardto-access farm inputs. The resultant benefits include agrobiodiversity, improved landscape stewardship, low environmental impact and climate adaptation/resilience. Proposed Actions of the Framework In order to realize the indicated objectives, this proposal proposes six critical actions: Establishment of a model agroecology farm, training of trainers (TOTs), development of farmer outreach programs, design of biodiversity action plans, choice of community crop insurance scheme and project monitoring/evaluation. Kenya is used as the example and the initial test bed for the framework as the situation curbs around the area. 1. Establishment of a Model Agroecology Farm The establishment of a model agroecology farm is important in motivating, attracting and encouraging smallholder famers to embrace agroecology. In addition, to display how agroecology can positively transform farms and landscapes, the model farm will also be used to train smallholder farmers on agroecology principles and practices. In addition to educating farmers on the practicality of agroecology, the farms will also earn revenue from the sale of farm produce. This is the revenue that will be utilized in sustaining the project, particularly in replicating agroecology to other ecological zones in Kenya. The model agroecology farms will be established on agricultural land donated to the project by county governments. Target country governments have been consulted and the response is overwhelming. 2. Training of Trainers (TOT) Spring 2020 / Perennial
Training of Trainers (TOTs) aims at recruiting and training qualified and competent personnel to work as agroecology extension officers (advisors) in rural areas. The advisors are to work closely with rural-based smallholder farmers at the village level in implementing agroecology principles and practices on their farms. It is important to point out that the necessary training materials are already available. A good number of organizations including Resource Efficient Agricultural Production of Canada  have developed relevant agroecology training materials that can easily be accessed. 3. Development of Outreach Programs The development of outreach outreach programs is critical for successful implementation of the proposed project. There is no uniform formula for implementing agroecology practices as it depends on ecological zone, culture and local tradition. The development of any outreach program must consider the existing habitat including flora and fauna within the implementation area. The outreach programs should analyze the ecological zone and specifically be customized. Outreach programs are to be developed only after visits and overview of targeted farms and/or landscapes. The project outreach programs developed will not only be for reaching out to farmers to promote agroecology. Educating and empowering the farmers will be the ultimate objective of the programs. 4. Design of Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP) This is the strategic framework and road map for the implementation of agroecology practices aimed at improving biodiversity on targeted farms and/or landscapes. The design of the biodiversity action plan is specific to the ecological zone and is divided into a two-step structure for maximum implementation and area enhancement. The first step for the officer is to consider existing approaches to farming or landscape use. Through the assessment of existing approaches with regard to local situations, the second step is to analyze the specifications of the existing flora and fauna and find out their diets and breeding methods. It is from these assessment findings that agroecology extension officers are able to identify and implement the most appropriate agroecology practices to increase biodiversity. 5. Choice of Community Crop Insurance Scheme Crop insurance has of late become very important in the wake of climate change. Unlike in the past when crop insurance policies only targeted
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agricultural companies, insurance companies in Kenya have now come to appreciate the importance of smallholder farmers. The rise in community insurance schemes is due to the large uncatered smallholder farmer market. Solutions such as tailored operations and crop choice availability tread a path towards profit and development. 6. Project Monitoring and Evaluation Like with any other project, the proposed project will be monitored and evaluated to identify and address any shortcomings and successes. The monitoring and evaluation process will be continuous and will cover all aspects of the project. The monitoring and evaluation of the project will be critical particularly during the launching phase. It will inform shortcomings that will be addressed during the scale-up and replication of the project in other ecological zones. Continued degradation of agricultural farm and landscape ecosystems, if not addressed, are bound to cause serious food shortages and natural hazards in the future. There is serious need for urgent measures to be taken to address degradation that destroys ecosystems thus reducing resiliency. Implementation of agroecology on both farms and landscapes as a nature-based solution is a sure way of turning things around. Players Smallholder Farmers: Smallholder farmers are at the center of this project. Like other smallholder farmers in other parts of the world, smallholder farmers in Kenya are hard-hit by the impacts of climate change. The farmers are always in search of and on the lookout for measures that they can employ on their farms to increase farm productivity. County Governments: Agriculture is a devolved function in Kenya. The
development and implementation of agricultural policies and programs is the sole responsibility of county governments. The sale and provision of fertilizer and subsidized seeds is also the responsibility of county governments. Most importantly, targeted county governments (Machakos and Makueni) have already been consulted for allocation of agricultural land for the establishment of model agroecology farms with positive response and support. Cooperatives: Kenya has a well-developed cooperative movement. A majority of the cooperative societies have structures down to local towns that are easily accessible by smallholder farmers. The cooperative societies provide their members with several services including savings accounts and micro-loans among other services. Insurance Companies: Crop insurance is well developed in Kenya. Indeed, crop insurance policies targeting both agricultural companies and smallholder farmers are already in place. However, the uptake of crop insurance by smallholder farmers remains very low. This is mainly because smallholder farmers have not been well-informed on the benefit of acquiring crop insurance. Research Institutions: Research institutions and in particular Kenya Forestry Service and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization have already been engaged on the possibility of seconding their researchers to the project to train project agroecology extension officers who will in turn be responsible for training farmers. Location This project is specially designed for rural and peri-urban areas. Therefore, the proposed actions will be implemented on agricultural farms and landscapes in both rural and peri-urban areas. Rural-based smallholder farmers feed city residents. They produce a significant percentage of food stuff sold and consumed in cities. Smallholder farmers are, therefore, better placed to implement agroecology practices to stop degradation of natural ecosystems, restore lost biodiversity and revamp ecosystem services. The proposed actions will initially be undertaken in Kenya, where there are approximately 6 million smallholder farmers (producers and pastoralists). The project will then scale up its activities to cover neighboring countries including Uganda and Tan-
zania. However, agroecology action plans will at the beginning target one ecological (semi-arid) region with at least 700,000 smallholder farmers. The proposed actions will then be scaled gradually to cover the whole country (â&#x20AC;&#x153;Adaptationâ&#x20AC;?). ESTIMATED IMPACTS Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and/or Climate Change Adaptation Various methods such as efficient irrigation management and livestock methane emission reduction act as solutions to combat climate change in farming, but agroecology remains a cost-effective and simple yet effective nature-based solution to degradation of natural ecosystems. It is the most effective way of reclaiming lost biodiversity and improving ecosystem services. The farming practices, large smallholder farmer population dependency and structures of low-income countries make agroecology a sustainable and understandable way to provide the tools to combat climate change in the future. Agroecology has the positive impact of increasing ecosystem function, leading to reduced vulnerability to climate change stressors and natural hazards. The 5th Assessment Report of the IPPC (2014) provides adequate evidence of increasing changes in climate. The report predicts widespread impacts on food security, water availability, livelihoods and human health particularly on the African continent. This is mainly because many in Africa depend on such primary sectors as agriculture. Like other smallholder farmers on the African continent, smallholder farmers in Kenya now have to contend with irregular rainfall patterns, long periods of drought and emergence of crop pests/ diseases hitherto unknown on a yearly basis. Natural hazards are now very frequent and generally more pronounced (Pachauri and Meyer). By taking up and implementing agroecology on their farms and landscapes, the famers will be able to restore biodiversity on their farms (above and below the ground) and landscapes with positive results: increased production and thus increased earnings, minimization of crop losses because of reduced natural hazards and maintenance of optimum micro-climate due to restoration of healthy ecosystems. Agroecology also has agroforestry as one of its practices. Assuming that each of the 1,000 farmers will plant at least 20 carefully chosen indigenous trees on their farm and landscape, the 1,000 farmers will help in the sequestration of at least 354,000 lbs of carbon. This is according to calculations by the United States EnvironSpring 2020 / Perennial
mental Protection Agency, EPA (“Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator”). Benefits Agroecology provides for enhanced economic, environmental and societal benefits: Economic benefits – Cultivation/commercialization of traditional foods coupled with increased food production. These lead to marketing and trade opportunities for increased farm income. Environmental benefits – Diversified land use leading to increased biodiversity, water availability, healthy soils and improvement of micro-climate. Social benefits – Gender/social inclusion, food security, improved human health and recognition of tradition/culture as a key element of sustainability. Kenya has developed and finalized its National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (NAP, 2015-2030). The plan consolidates the country’s vision on climate change adaptation with the support of macro-level adaptation actions relating to different economic sectors and vulnerabilities. This is to enhance longterm climate change resiliency and adaptive capacity (Adaptations) (Besseau et al.). The take up and implementation of agroecology practices particularly in rural areas by smallholder farmers will, therefore, complement the nation’s goal of climate change resiliency and adaptive capacity. Timeline and Impacts The launch and implementation of this project depends on availability of funds. The project author is very optimistic about success of the project considering that smallholder farmers in Kenya are very receptive to new farming methods that enhance their productivity. Kenya has eight (8) ecological zones including arid and semi-arid zones. The project will initially focus on one ecological zone (semi-arid) during the launch period. It is anticipated that the project will have covered all the country’s ecological zones within 15 years of launching to serve at least 6 million smallholder farmers including pastoralists. Short-term Impacts: Access to community crop insurance by 1,000 smallholder farmers within the first year of project launch. Acquisition of knowledge and skills by 1,000 smallholder farmers about agroecology within the first year of project launch. Increased biodiversity on farms and landscape after three years of project launch.
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Increased biodiversity and improvement on micro-climate in the project launch zone. Mitigation of degradation on at least 2,000 acres of agricultural farms and at least 1,000 acres of landscape. Restoration of ecosystem services in the project launch ecological zone after 3 years of project launch. Medium-term Impact Access to community crop insurance by at least 300,000 smallholder farmers in four different ecological zones within a period of 15 years of project launch. Acquisition of knowledge and skills by at least 300,000 smallholder farmers about agroecology within 15 years of project launch. Enhanced biodiversity on farms and landscape. Increased biodiversity and improvement on micro-climate in four ecological zones. Mitigation of degradation on at least 600,000 acres of agricultural farms and at least 300,000 acres of landscape. Long-term Impact Access to community crop insurance by at least 3 million smallholder farmers in all the country’s eight (8) different ecological zones including arid and semi-arid zones. Acquisition of knowledge and skills by at least 3 million smallholder farmers about agroecology. Enhancement of biodiversity nationally on both agricultural farms and landscape. Increased biodiversity nationally and improvement of national micro-climate. Mitigation of degradation nationally on both agricultural farms and landscape. Enhancement of ecosystem services nationally (Koohafkan). PROJECTED COSTS The launch and implementation of this project is projected to cost US$9400. The project will hence be able to finance its scale-up and expansion programs through revenue generated from its model agroecology farms. The project will be self-sustaining after six (6) months of launching. The estimated costs of different materials used is included from item to item such as the ToTs, 1000 Farmers training as the project is launched, the development of farmer training material, the development of BAPs, the establishment of the Model Agroecology Farm, project staff, transportation, and project monitoring and evaluation. The project’s costs are included for six months (Figure 2).
The framework, after analyzing the basic concepts and the sustainable outcomes, looks at the successful implementation in the targeted ecological zones of Kenya. The successful compliance of the different players in the framework would be key to the implementation. The timeline assigned should be flexible and taken into consideration as the seasonal changes may affect it. The proposed framework looks at sustainability as the key to the protection of farmers and their land during the coming challenges that climate change might propose. Resiliency is the best step to counter the problem and the successful implementation of this Framework serves to elevate the standard of resiliency.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Tom Gard is a practicing fish and organic farmer in one of Kenya’s semi-arid regions. He is experienced in organic farming and community mobilization and training of smallholder farmers. The author received entrepreneurship training and funding by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. This is in addition to another round of entrepreneurship training provided by SEED. The author has also received business capacity building training by Bridges for Enterprise, a society at the University of Cambridge and he is an alumnus.
4. 5. 6. 7.
“Adaptation.” Kenya Climate Change Knowledge Portal, 2019, www.kcckp.go.ke/adaptations/. Accessed August 2019. Besseau, P., et al., editors. Restoring forests and landscapes: the key to a sustainable future. Vienna, Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, 2018, www.fao.org/in-action/forest-landscape-restoration-mechanism/news-andevents/news-detail/en/c/1150767/. Bryan, Elizabeth, et al. “Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change in Kenya: Household Strategies and Determinants.” Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 114, 2013, pp. 26– 35., doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.10.036. “Canada News and Events.” Resource Efficient Agricultural Production - Canada, 2019, www.reap-canada.com/. Accessed August 2019. Cropscience. “Smallholders: Small Farms with a Large Impact.” Bayer, 2019, www.cropscience.bayer.com/en/crop-science/smallholder-farming. Accessed August 2019. “Global Drylands Initiative.” International Union for Conservation of Nature, 22 Feb. 2019, www.iucn.org/theme/ecosystem-management/our-work/global-drylands-initiative. “Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator - Calculations and References.” Environmental Protection Agency, 18 Dec. 2018, www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references. Accessed August 2019. Herrero, Mario T., et al. International Livestock Research Institute, 2010, Climate Variability and Climate Change and Their Impacts on Kenya’s Agricultural Sector. Koohafkan, Parviz. “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS): a Legacy for Food and Nutrition Security.” Sustainable Diets: Linking Nutrition and Food Systems, 2019, pp. 204–214., doi:10.1079/9781786392848.0204. Lewis, Phoebe, et al. Impacts of Climate Change on Farming Systems and Livelihoods in Near East and North Africa. Cairo, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018. Maeda, Eduardo Eiji, et al. “Potential Impacts of Agricultural Expansion and Climate Change on Soil Erosion in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Kenya.” Geomorphology, vol. 123, no. 3-4, 2010, pp. 279–289., doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.07.019. McCarthy, James J., et al., editors. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Ochieng, Justus, et al. “Effects of Climate Variability and Change on Agricultural Production: The Case of Small Scale Farmers in Kenya.” NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, vol. 77, 2016, pp. 71–78., doi:10.1016/j.njas.2016.03.005. Pachauri, Rajendra Kumar, and Leo A. Meyer. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report: Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, 2015. “What Is Agroecology?” Agro Ecology Fund, 2019, www.agroecologyfund.org/what-is-agroecology. Accessed August 2019.
Figure 2: Projected cost of framework (item, time frame, cost)
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The Margins of Metamorphosis: Re-Thinking the Entomological Art of Maria Sibylla AUTHOR: Ariel Hoage ABSTRACT: This eco-critical art history paper discusses the work of the seventeenth-century artist-naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. While her illustrations of South American insects and plants contributed significantly to the emerging science of field ecology, I argue that they also reflect a gendered and racialized understanding of the natural world, situated in the colonial imaginary of imperial Europe. I also explore the invisible violence imbedded in colonial science and art — economic activities that depended on the commodification and exploitation of non-white, non-male, and non-human bodies. Looking at the representation of nature in Merian’s major work, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, I consider the ways that science contributes to the construction of “exotic others” and the justification of colonial violence. Within this context, I focus on the cockroach as a subject and agent in Merian’s ecology, looking beyond its representation in the European imaginary and considering the complexity of its entangled natural/cultural histories. INTRODUCTION In Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science, Londa Schiebinger argues that, “in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Europeans created for themselves peculiar visions of nature” (Schiebinger 201). Artists and scientists at the centers of European empire became an archival force, tasked with representing the sudden wealth of biological information made available through global trade and commerce. Legitimized by a rationalist imperative to observe and order life, they organized biological encounters within newly developed systems of categorization, and they consolidated knowledge about the natural world into encyclopedic formats (Neri; Richards). Scientist-illustrators also looked for and re-invented racialized and gendered hierarchies within the non-human world (Schiebinger). ‘Nature’ studies were the frames through which non-white, non-male, and non-human bodies became subjects for control and consumption by the scientific-imperial eye. Justifying the colonial economy on which they depended, collectors of bio-information both consumed organic material and contributed to a growing archive of naturalia, traded by the European elite. Looking at classifications and representations of ‘natural’ bodies—animal, vegetal, topographic, feminine, black, and brown—in early modern scientific illustration and literature, we might draw from Walter Mignolo’s philological approach to “colonial semiosis” and ask not just what, but also where, when, and for whom naturalistic descriptions were made (Mignolo 9). Maria Sibylla Merian, a German-born and Dutchbased artist and naturalist, was herself a peculiarity in the schema of early modern science. As a seventeenth-century woman, she was situated within
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the ‘craft’ tradition, trained in floral watercolors and botanical embroidery (Davis 143). Yet, she also pushed the representational boundaries of the domestic sphere of production and contributed to a broader scientific understanding of insect biology and classification (Reitsma). For her scientific contemporaries—wealthy male taxonomists and collectors—as well as modern scholars, she is considered a “remarkable woman” with an “utterly extraordinary life” (Neri 139, Schmidt-Loske 7). At the turn of the 18th-century, she was one of the very few European women who had independently traveled to the New World and perhaps the only one to make a transatlantic journey explicitly in pursuit of science (Schiebinger 30). She self-published her major work, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, after a two-year voyage to Dutch Suriname (1699-1701), compiling a 60-plate collection of entomological and botanical illustrations. In Metamorphosis, she presents extravagantly detailed and vibrant watercolor prints of exotic nature ‘drawn from life,’ preoccupied with insects’ reproductive patterns, food choices, and changing forms. Yet, this peculiar vision both reveals and obscures other bodies and other forms of violence which existed within the ecological matrix of colonialism. Considering what bodies are represented, misrepresented, and not-represented in the frame of Merian’s work, how might we reconsider life at the margins and peripheries of European science? I first attempt to unsettle the geography of Merian’s study, showing how life processes extended beyond colonial scientific discourse and into the semiotic interstices of colonial encounter—the edges and spaces which Schiebinger calls “biocontact zones” (Mignolo 7-8, Schiebinger 116). What signs of life existed outside European naturalists’ systems of representation and proliferated despite the violence of imperialism? The cockroach is a curious creature to think with, both through and beyond Metamorphosis. Its presence in Meri-
an’s work is also peculiar; it appears prominently on two plates, both standing out and settling below the surface in the lavish publication, which is otherwise dominated by colorful caterpillars and delicate butterflies. In early modern scientific and popular discourses, the ‘roach’ represented an element of darkness, filth, and primitivism; its occupation of the spatial and temporal margins symbolically allied it with other bodies marginalized by rationalist and imperial hierarchies. The cockroach refuses to be entirely consumed. Instead, it crosses boundaries and consumes all manners of human wastes (biological and symbolic). Thinking with Eduardo Kohn, we might consider Merian’s vision of nature as “a semiotic whole,” which emanates out of a particularly situated body politics; it is simultaneously an incomplete nature, an “open whole,” and, “as such, it can be a very rough approximation of the habits it represents” (Kohn 64-67). Thinking across space and time with a creature that has survived through 320-million years of migrations and mass extinctions, we might reimagine Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium as subsumed within an earthier ecology, soiled by cockroaches. ECOLOGY OF THE EXOTIC The distinctly “drawn from life” quality of Merian’s work distinguishes her from other seventeenth-century entomological illustrators (Merian). In her writings, Merian references her influential contemporaries—Jan Swammerdam, Jan Goedart, and Stephan Blankaart—who also studied insect life cycles (Royal Collection Trust). In contrast to Merian, however, their styles were two-dimensional and species-specific, and they separated their subjects with balanced amounts of white background space (Neri 157). In Goedart’s Metamorphosis Naturalis, for example, specimens are exclusively grouped with their same species and neatly contained, as if pinned within numbered boxes (see Fig. 1). While she was influenced by the ‘specimen logic’ of earlier entomologists, Merian’s insects are more dynamic, “illustrated and described from life, and placed on the plants, flowers, and fruit on which they were found” (Neri 157, Merian). Throughout the Metamorphosis, moths and butterflies are depicted in flight, holey leaves show evidence of herbivory, and chrysalises are precariously perched on branches and stems1. As it became increasingly important for European painters to mimic nature in still-lives, landscapes, and other styles, Merian merged the artistic language of naturalism with the authority of empirical observation. The written descriptions accompanying the engravings in Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium also depart from earlier, purely morphological studies. Published in both Dutch and Latin, her field-style 1
See plates 1, 18, and 45. Merian, Metamorphosis, (Facsimile Volume).
Figure 1. Various species of butterfly in Johannes Goedart, Metamorphosis et Historia Naturalis Insectorum, 1669. From Linda Hall Library Online Archive, Kansas City, MO. Accessed lindahalllibrary.
notes are based on her experiences rearing insects from the eggs and larvae which she collected (Todd 5-7). She describes multispecies interactions, which sometimes precluded a complete study of a particular organism’s life cycle; she describes watching wasps emerge from butterfly eggs which they had parasitized; some of her caterpillar specimens starved to death because she failed to identify their appropriate plant foods (Neri 160, 176). Merian’s work is not limited by the discrete borders of “specimen logic,” but simultaneously deals with multiple subjects within their shared environmental context (Neri 183). Describing the interactions between insects, plants, and other organisms, enmeshed and in rich detail, Merian’s vision of insect-nature is arguably ‘ecological’ (Paravisini-Gebert 10-20). Each of the plates in Metamorphosis is concerned with multiple organisms, including different species and categories (plants, insects, and larger animals such as snakes are all featured), displayed together in the same visual space. Plate 2, for example, depicts the caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly stages of the extravagantly colored Philaethria dido, placed around the surface of a ripened pineapple (Ananas ananas; see Fig. 2) (Stearn). Merian paints the butterfly stage twice; one specimen is in flight, and the other is still, resting in profile on the fruit and flashing its bead-like eye at the viewer. On the crown of the plant, she shows a tiny unnamed worm climbing towards two cochineal beetles, explaining that the beetles are its food of choice (Merian). Although cochineal live on cacti (and presumably, so do their predators), and P. dido are also not specific to the pineapple, Merian uses the plant as a formal background to actively engage her specimen subjects in space (Krenn et al. 17-26, Bleichmar 67-77). Different species’ cohabitation in Merian’s ecological imaginary is a form of biological and aesthetic information, even when it seems biologically unlikely. The Spring 2020 / Perennial
ples were often featured in the frontispieces of botanical works from the late-seventeenth century onwards.
Figure 2. Pineapple (A. ananas), butterfly (P. dido), and Cochineal (D. coccus), Plate 2 from Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, 1705. From Royal Collection Trust, “Maria Merian’s Butterflies,” London: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2016 Exhibition Catalog.
depiction of insects in relation to their habitat and each other—engaged in acts of consumption, reproduction, and metamorphosis—suggests the potential for violence, change, and unpredictability. By asserting the vibrancy of insects, Merian emphasizes the authority of her own role as an observer-illustrator, able to capture and record unpredictable ecological patterns. While Merian places her specimens in a more complex visual order than other seventeenth-century studies of insects, her concern with ecology is fundamentally economic; she displays the plants and animals which she encountered in Suriname relative to their potential material usefulness. In Plate 2, she describes the Pineapple in terms of human tastes: “as though one had mixed grapes, apricots, red currants, apples, and pears and were able to taste them all at once” (Merian). The pineapple already signified “high status” for the European aristocracy; it was first grown in an English botanical garden in 1642 as a gift for King Charles I (Blumenthal 46). By comparing it to more familiar and common food plants, Merian makes the exotic fruit palatable for her audience’s consumption but also sets it apart as something ‘noble’ (Blumenthal 46). Her choice to introduce the collection with a pineapple was not arbitrary; it is centered in both Plates 1 and 2, and it is the only plant to appear twice in succession (see Fig. 2 and Fig. 3). The pineapple was an established symbol of the abundant riches to be found in the New World; Merian displays it prominently to set the tone of foreign luxury for her whole work (Blumenthal 46). This was common practice, and pineap-
The small cochineal beetles (Chilocorus cacti), which she “added merely to decorate the plate,” were also wellknown commodities in colonial markets by the time she was alive (Merian). For nearly three-hundred years after their ‘discovery’ by the Spanish conquistadors, Coccinellids were the exclusive source of expensive red pigments in Europe; an estimated 5.6 billion dead beetles were imported from Latin America each year (Bleichmar 67-77). Coming from a painting background, Merian was surely aware of their value; although she does not mention this use, she makes the assurance that “there are enough cochineal insects in this country for anyone interested to prove this for themselves” (Merian). Despite the declared focus of the work—the metamorphosis of insects—the metamorphosing butterflies of Plate 2 seem to be a decorative afterthought, preceded by an extensive discussion of the pineapple’s virtues and the presence of valuable cochineal. More than simple nature studies, Merian’s subjects reflect her preoccupation with the luxury economy. Traveling amongst colonial governors and merchants and living amidst sugar plantations, her orientation towards tropical fauna was unusual but nonetheless economically practical; in Metamorphosis, she openly criticized fellow colonialists for failing to be interested in “something other than sugar” and instead chose to promote the commodification of a more diverse array of ‘semi-wild’ plants (Neri 176-177). She visually represents pineapples as natural insect habitats, but she also describes them as potentially valuable foods for human consumption. In addition to the pineapple, she paints the pomegranate, cotton, banana, watermelon, cashew-fruit, various citrus fruits, vanilla, cocoa, and guava2. These plants were ecologically relevant to Merian’s study because of their already-known and potentially marketable human uses, not because of their uniqueness to Suriname. In fact, she likely encountered representatives of many of these species before she ever left Europe, as specimens at the Amsterdam botanical garden and as paintings in curiosity cabinets (Neri 176). Many of these plant species were transplanted from other tropical regions into Suriname for commercial cultivation. While Merian’s visual frame is filled with lively and interactive creatures, it is nonetheless detached from any geographically-specific soil. The white background enables Merian’s representations of Surinamese nature to be translated into European idioms, obscuring the history of their biological referents; her ecological vision thus feeds the colonial desire “to lay claim to these foreign worlds in a literal and a figurative sense, through building colonies abroad and collections at home,” amassing a global archive of bio-information (Blumenthal 50).
Merian, Metamorphosis (Facsimile Copy). Plates 1, 2, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 25, 26, 28, 29, 49, 52, and 57. Some
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Her choice to feature already-known commodities (and their potential predators) solely “for display” signals that her work would be of interest to a wide audience looking to profit off of newly discovered exotic nature. Her descriptions of plants (and their potential pests) would be valuable to horticulturalists because they ensured that plant specimens would arrive in Europe’s botanical gardens and private collections “with precise information about their cultivation, virtues, and uses.” Her life-like illustrations could serve as a field guide for naturalist-explorers in search of valuable collectibles like cochineal (Reitsma 35). The Metamorphosis was also marketed as an art-object for display in kunstkammern and curiosity cabinets, where the audience could collect and consume the exotic symbolically. While some scholars have argued that her gender situated her at the “margins” of scientific knowledge production, Merian was an active participant in the colonial economy, selling preserved specimens as wares and representing them within a particular vision of nature (Davis 240-302). Without having access to the inherited capital of aristocratic hobbyists, Merian funded her travels and publications by selling her physical collections and field illustrations in luxury markets (Kinukawa 313-327). Akin to other ‘bioprospectors’—botanists and naturalists in search of tropical medicines, foods, and luxury items—Merian sailed to Suriname on a Dutch West India Company ship in search of insect and plant materials and the information needed to cultivate them (Kinukawa 91116, Reitsma 173, Bleichmar 115-120). In doing this, Merian also cultivated a distinctly exotic imaginary, legitimized as an ‘authentic’ representation of tropical life. As Tomomi Kinukawa writes, “the flora that Merian presented in her book was by no means an encyclopedic catalog of native plants, but rather like a governor’s list of colonial agriculture. Consequently, Merian naturalized the commodifiable nature in Surinam as if real” (Kinukawa 101). THE DARKER SIDE OF THE EXOTIC Strangely, Merian chooses to begin Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium with cockroaches, which she describes as “the most infamous of all insects in America” (Merian). Like the beautiful butterflies and precious cochineal of Plate 2, the giant flying kakkerlakken of Plate 1 are neither central nor are they superfluous to the marketable quality of the image; they participate in the cultivation of an exotic whole, which is authenticated by Merian’s persona as a firsthand observer (see Fig. 4). Also like the pineapple they land on, cockroaches were already imbued with cultural significance for early modern Europeans; they were symbols of the dark, the disgusting, and the dangerous, in both scientific and popular cultures (Copeland 79-106). As decorative visual elements, they coexist in the “noble” fruit’s frame. Yet, she also
describes them as threats, “on account of the great damage they cause to all the inhabitants by spoiling all their wool, linen, food, and drinks” (Merian). The cockroaches are peripheral to the pineapple at the center of the plate, but they also have the potential to corrupt it; Merian suggests that “sweet things are their usual nourishment” (Merian). From the first plate of Metamorphosis, she courts the paradoxes of the exotic—the contrasts between luxury and danger, abundance and violence—in order to shock and allure her European audience. These elements of Merian’s visual vocabulary were inherited; she was raised and trained in a family of publishers and engravers famous for popularizing accounts of transatlantic voyages of discovery (Reitsma 21). Her maternal great-grandfather, Theodore de Bry, published widely-circulated images of strange (and often exaggerated) creatures and tales from the New World. His representations of giant armadillos and feather-wearing natives introduced the idea of an exotic (and dangerous) global periphery into the European imaginary, to be explored and colonized (Van Groesen 201). In this vein, Maria Sibylla Merian capitalized on representations of unusual fruits like the pineapple and threatening but marginal ‘others’ like the cockroach, claiming authority as a first-hand witness to a distant ecology. Although the cockroach was already a familiar pest in Europe, she prioritizes it as an insect ‘of Suriname,’ displacing it to the geographic margins of European naturalia. The cockroach appears again in Plate 18, although less conspicuously; it is a passive participant in a scene of remarkable ecological violence (Fig. 3). It is pinned to the branch of a guava tree, with the large pincers of leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes) bearing down upon it. The ants seem to act as a mass; they form a bridge of their own bodies between their victims (also including a large cane spider and its offspring) and carry remnants of the defoliated tree in their jaws. On a lower branch, a pink-toed tarantula has immobilized a hummingbird, with one foot on its golden neck and another on its nest. The largerthan-life scene, teeming with bodies in concert and conflict, would have been sure to shock European viewers with its ‘savagery.’ The violence bleeds out of the image and into her commentary; she describes the ants carrying out various other acts of horror. She says, “they come into houses and run from one room to the next, sucking the blood out of all animals, both large and small… they run from one room to the next, so that even human beings have to withdraw” (Merian). Plate 18 feeds into a pre-existing European imaginary of the New World as chaotic and violent, where non-human forces corrupt the borders of civilization. Merian translated her grandfather’s motif of the ‘savage Indian’ into a fascination with predaSpring 2020 / Perennial
tion and herbivory in the insect world. Representing gruesome scenes never-before-seen, Merian also asserts the uniqueness of her own travel account. The ‘nature’ which Merian represents as scientific truth is also artfully imagined, diverging from its material referents and imposing an imagined sense of order. It is unlikely that Merian would have traveled far enough into the jungle to observe such a ‘wild’ scene. When a specimen was located beyond the borders of her garden and the cleared plantation landscape, she would send her enslaved assistants to fetch things for her (Reitsma 183). In several cases, she notes that she made illustrations solely based on the ‘testimony’ of her ‘informants’ (Merian). The information for Plate 18 was likely gathered in this manner. Whether based on her first-hand experience or enslaved women’s translations, there is evidence of fabrication; hummingbirds rarely lay more than two eggs, but Merian has placed four in the delicate nest (Davis 198). Similarly, modern naturalists have not observed pink-toed tarantulas eating hummingbirds in the wild, and Merian’s vibrantly-colored bird does not correspond to any identifiable species (Davis 198). The ordering of space itself reveals aesthetic intervention; although there is an element of chaos, Merian uses the tree’s branches to frame specimens and separate their movements into distinct areas. The smaller cane spiders link the tips of the branches and occupy the empty spaces between them; their webs are far too neat and circular to have been drawn from life (Etheridge). The precarious placement of the hummingbird’s nest, centered directly above a guava fruit, seems unlikely, if not unnatural; again, Merian highlights symbols of exotic fertility as delicate and vulnerable. Janice Neri points out how Merian’s visual style was influenced by the botanical “scrolling stem” designs of women’s embroidery (Neri 146). Her arrangement of the vegetation provides both a physical support and a pictorial frame for the animals, translating patterns from textile crafts into a scientific mode. Merian’s aesthetic interventions order and rearrange specimens into a cohesive (and sometimes contradictory) ecological vision, emphasizing the beauty and violence of Suriname. Thus, the marketable nature of Metamorphosis legitimized colonial assumptions and contributed to the construction of a geographical and ecological New World which was foreign but able to be understood and controlled by the rationalist’s eye. Merian’s individual insect-subjects are drawn alive but arranged carefully as decorations; their bodies subsumed within her production of a holistic vision of tropical nature. Merian depicts the insects of Suriname engaged in acts of violence as they consume each other and
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Figure 3. Guava, Pink-toed Tarantula (A. avicularia), Cane Spider, Leaf-Cutter Ants, Cockroach, and Hummingbird, Plate 18 from Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, 1705. From Royal Collection Trust, “Maria Merian’s Butterflies,” London: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2016 Exhibition Catalog.
reproduce themselves; her description of certain insects (including cockroaches) as pests also threatens the potential for inhuman violence against humans and their property—corruptions from the margins of nature. The credibility of her account hinged on her position as a first-hand witness to something rare, distant, and dangerous. Merian’s Metamorphosis tempers naturalistic observation with aesthetic interventions, situated within her own political and economic status as a European woman, relying on the sale of naturalia for personal legitimacy. FORMS OF VIOLENCE LEFT UNNAMED While Merian presents a curated view of carefully selected biological subjects and their interactions, her representation of Surinamese nature belies colonial histories and the human-enacted violence of transatlantic ecologies. Returning to the cockroaches of Plates 1 and 18, we might consider how the science of naming and describing practiced by Merian and other European naturalists—as a product and process of colonial discourse—denies the possibility of alternate histories and representations of life as much as it fails to completely obscure them. As Mignolo says of symbols/ words, both saying “more than intended” and “less
than expected,” Merian’s Metamorphosis naturalizes a colonial landscape mostly devoid of humans and human forms of violence (Mignolo 8). Her ‘nature’ also reveals itself to be an emergent form of semiotic encounter, taking place beyond-the-artist, beyond-theWest, and beyond-the-human. The ‘infamous’ cockroaches which Merian depicted carry much more complex species histories than she could observe, both inside and outside of their entanglements with humans. Placed around the pineapple in Plate 1, Merian depicts the life cycles of two different cockroach species (see Fig. 3). Information about the reproductive patterns of insect pests was critical for their control by interested human horticulturalists, as it continues to be for the pesticide and insecticide industry today (Stockland). Merian depicts the cockroach egg case and describes how the baby cockroaches emerge “as small as ants” so they can “get into chests and boxes through slits and keyholes, where they can then destroy everything” (Merian). Yet, the egg case she depicts on the pineapple leaf belongs to a spider, rather than a cockroach (Schmidt-Loske 70). Biological mis-representations such as this one were common in the visual and verbal sciences of description. Carl Linnaeus referenced Merian’s work in his epic of classification, Systema Naturae, and used Metamorphosis to name several species in 1767 (Schmidt-Loske 12). Some of these names were accurate descriptions of Merian’s accounts but inaccurate representations of their living referents. For example, after seeing Plate 18, he named the pink-toed tarantula Avicularia avicularia, or “bird-eater”; it has persisted as the official scientific name, despite the fact that Merian’s A. avicularia specimens were not strictly ‘from life’ and bird-eaters do not commonly eat birds in the wild (Schmidt-Loske 12). Linnaeus also named the smaller species of cockroach from Plate 1 Blattella germanica (Cochran 7). The specific epithet, germanica, seems to contradict the creature’s presence in Merian’s “Insects of Suriname.” Yet, the species which Linneaus named the German cockroach originated neither in Germany nor Suriname; it was originally endemic to Northeast Africa, but it was transported around the globe through the slave trade, along with billions of other human and non-human organisms (Mechling 123). Merian’s encounter with the cockroach was only possible because of her situation in a colonial economy; although in less visible ways, the encounter was also contingent on the cockroach’s entanglement with transatlantic histories. The Latin name given to the larger cockroach species, Periplaneta australasiae, similarly neglects its vast geographic history. The Australian cockroach is considered ‘cosmopolitan,’ meaning it currently occupies all biologically possible habitats around the globe (Co-
Figure 4. Pineapple (A. ananas) and Cockroaches (B. germanica and P. australasiae). Plate 1 from Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, 1705. From Royal Collection Trust, “Maria Merian’s Butterflies,” London: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2016 Exhibition Catalog.
chran 12). It made its way to Australia (and Suriname) after it was transported from tropical Africa through early modern trade and commerce. Returning to Merian’s descriptions in Plate 1, it is easy to re-imagine these cockroaches as trans-oceanic travelers and stowaways, able to consume a variety of foods and occupy liminal spaces (between the planks of a ship, for instance). Although she did not name or assign them geographical descriptors herself, Merian’s depiction of the cockroach as the scourge of Suriname unknowingly silenced any histories of the species existing outside of the ‘exotic’ reference frame. Moreover, the naturalization of transplanted species within biocontact zones fails to situate them within the context of a globalized colonial ecology. The insect-bodies and human-insect entanglements misrepresented by the language of classification and by Merian’s visual vocabulary speak for the possibility of other bodies and histories otherwise left unnamed. The Metamorphosis becomes an ecology emergent and contingent with the slave trade and colonization of the Americas, before and beyond its encounter with transplanted African cockroaches (B. germanica and P. australasiae). Merian’s voyage and publications were fundSpring 2020 / Perennial
ed with European capital from plantation economies, generated by slave labor (Kinukawa). While Merian benefitted from the activities of the Dutch West India Company, her scientific naturalism itself was a violent form of extraction. The animal and plant specimens which she drew ‘from life’ were collected and translated by her enslaved assistants — likely indigenous Carib or Arawak women and others of African descent (Davis 240-302). In her written notes for Metamorphosis, Merian describes several plants “brought home by [her] Indian,” and others in which her slaves were sent into the jungle with machetes to procure (Kinukawa 100). These women also cultivated the garden which served as her field laboratory and provided food for her and her daughter (Kinukawa 101). She brought one captured native woman back to Amsterdam with her to help identify and cultivate the specimens she collected (Davis). The ethnobotanical and ecological knowledge of indigenous and African women was critical for European naturalists who were attempting to study (and survive within) an unfamiliar landscape (Kinukawa 102). It was also critical that their voices be silenced, translated into pieces of bio-information. While Merian mentions her slaves as references and qualifiers for her scientific observations, they are left unnamed and their bodies are invisible in her work. Yet, it is surprising that she mentions these women at all in Metamorphosis, and some of her descriptions are more ethnographic than one might expect in a work purportedly about insects. In Plate 45, Merian depicts the Peacock Flower, which has long feathery stamens and bright orange and red petals (see refers to it as Flos Pavonis; see Fig. 5). A plump green caterpillar (Manduca sexta) balances on the stem, but the plant seems untouched by any herbivory; she only observes that the insects “live on the plant” (Merian). Instead, she includes an unusually lengthy discussion of the way it is consumed by humans: “Indians, who are not treated well while in service to the Dutch, use it to abort their children so that their children should not become slaves as they are. The black slaves from Guinea and Angola must be treated benignly, otherwise they produce no children in their state of slavery; nor do they have any; indeed they even kill themselves… for they consider that they will be born again with their friends in a free state in their own country, so they told me themselves” (Merian). Merian’s almost sympathetic account suggests that slaves should be treated more humanely, but it does not defend their human-ness. She speaks of them as she does her insect-subjects, objectively and economically. Moreover, Kinukawa and Schiebinger point out that this was another moment of bio-prospecting, although abortifacients and midwifery were strictly
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Figure 5. Flos Pavonis and Carolina Hawkmoth (Manduca Sexta). Plate 45 from Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, 1705. From Royal Collection Trust, “Maria Merian’s Butterflies,” London: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2016 Exhibition Catalog.
suppressed by male-dominated medical science (Kinukawa 104, Schiebinger 371). Selling anecdotes about enslaved women’s reproductive agency to the Dutch elite would have nonetheless supplemented her firsthand account of the exotic and increased the amount of valuable economic information it contained. Merian’s peacock flower (flos pavonis) offers another example of socio-ecological stories implicit or otherwise within the colonial processes of naming and describing. She does not explain how or why the enslaved women told her about the plant, nor does she include the name(s) they may have used for it. Instead, she chooses to reference a well-known symbol of the exotic—the peacock—an animal originating from Dutch colonies in an entirely different hemisphere. She likely first saw flos pavonis in the Amsterdam Hortus Medicus, where it was cultivated as an ornamental shrub (Jones and Gallison 125-145). Incidentally, the peacock flower also originated in South Asia, like the peacock. Although the plant was likely transported more intentionally than the cockroaches were, it also traveled to the West Indies via oceanic trade. As a product of many translations across time and space, the plant has been given upwards of forty common names. The official Latin name which Linnaeus immortalized—Poinciana pulcherrima, to honor the governor of the French Antilles, Phillippe de Poincy—celebrates the colonial history
of the West Indies and obscures other ethnobotanical memories tied to the species (Jones and Gallison 125-145). The peacock flower is known to be used as an abortifacient in East India, where it originated; it was recorded by Merian’s Dutch contemporaries in the botanical treatise, Hortus Malabaricus, under the Malayalam name, tsjetti mandaru (Jones and Gallison 137). How and when information about the plant’s medicinal properties traveled between women and across the colonies is unknown, and these stories are not contained within the taxonomizing authority of botanical science. It is possible that African women carried the seeds and herbal knowledge with them via the Middle Passage, as they did with other plants (Schiebinger 316-343). It is also possible that they were introduced to it—growing wild or cultivated—as they learned to survive within the unfamiliar landscape of the West Indies. Ethnobotanical knowledge might have been shared between enslaved women of different races, speaking different languages. Merian’s flos pavonis presents a glimpse of how human-nonhuman relations were engaged in resistance to colonial control, but her account does not fully inscribe the history of the women nor the plant. She translates and extracts information within a colonial archive, to be understood by Europeans far away from the sites of exchange. As bodies were moved and represented across space and time, thinking of Merian’s work as a product of colonial semiosis “implies the coexistence of interactions among and cultural production by members of radically different cultural traditions” (Mignolo 9). Tracing names and biogeographies outside the frame of European scientific narratives decenters Europe in these plant, insect, and human histories and places the “understanding subject” of Merian’s artwork “in the colonial peripheries” (Mignolo 9). THINKING WITH COCKROACHES Within Merian’s epistemology, cockroaches (along with other living bodies) were mapped onto ‘natural’ hierarchies and binaries, where they were presented as evolutionarily primitive, dark, dirty, and marginal. In 2007, naturalist and popular environmental writer E.O. Wilson described an “aesthetic” encounter with a cockroach—a startling, if coincidental, echo of Merian: “I came to realize that the house pests and feces-consuming sewer dwellers are only the least pleasant tip of a great [cockroach] biodiversity. My aesthetic appreciation of these insects began during one of my first excursions to the Suriname rainforest, where I encountered a delicate cockroach perched on the leaf of a shrub in
the sunshine, gazing at me with large uncockroach-like eyes. When I came too close, it fluttered away on gaily colored wings like a butterfly” (Wilson). For the cockroach to be at all redeemed in the eyes of the naturalist, it must be “delicate” and “like a butterfly.” What happens when it becomes “uncockroach-like?” When we are startled by uncanny “aesthetic” encounters such as Wilson’s? As Derrida and Kohn deal with the “act of looking back at each other” across the interspecies divide, when might we consider the cockroach thinking and representing self (Derrida 93)? In these moments, the animal (or plant or otherwise) cannot be subsumed by human classification; the uncockroach-like cockroach resists our schemes and hierarchies of understanding, and it proves that it cannot be so easily pinned down. Returning to the cockroach as a symbol and an embodiment of marginality, we might unsettle the frame of colonial ‘nature’ and reground it within the biological life-worlds of Kohn’s “emergent real” (Derrida 66). Cockroaches’ evolutionary histories are tied to human histories, as they have travelled with humans, taken advantage of their unprotected food sources, lost natural habitats to urban development, colonized built environments, and adapted to survive poisons and traps. After 320 million years on Earth, cockroaches have drifted with continents, but their genetic structures remain relatively unchanged (Copeland 17-25). They have survived with and despite humans for 200,000 years, and it is probable that some species of cockroach will outlive us and most remnants of our languages and cultures (Copeland 17-25). Merian’s Metamorphosis was situated within histories of European colonialism and commercial science; yet, her representation of the lowly cockroach was itself an ecological process, emerging out of millennia of migrations and interspecies encounters. Before Merian and beyond Kafka’s twentieth-century Metamorphosis, cockroaches and their allies occupied the darkest corners of the European entomological imaginary. The cockroach appeared as a domestic pest in Greek and Roman herbals, but it was also thought to have medicinal value as a cure for earaches (Copeland 17-25). The Romans named it blatta—“he who shuns the light”—in reference to its observed habits and an already-acquired cultural taboo (Copeland 1725, Mechling 125). Linnaeus would later officialize this Latin name as a genus in the eighteenth-century. Other names for the insect reflect its association with the social and economic margins. In Sweden, cockroaches were “bread-eaters” (brotaetare); in the UK they were called “steambugs,” “steamflies,” “shiners,” and “black beetles.” The German cockroach has been known as Spring 2020 / Perennial
the “French cockroach” or the “Russian cockroach” in different parts of Germany; in Russia, they have been called “Prussian cockroaches.” Regional names for the American cockroach, including “Yankee settlers” and “Bombay canaries,” also connote social and geographic displacement (Copeland 47-48). Some of this interspecies history is contained and much is lost in Merian’s depiction of the cockroach; however ‘naturalistic,’ her cockroach is not ‘natural.’ Rather, her study of the insect is an emergent part of a living and semiotic whole of relations. From the same period as Metamorphosis, another cockroach story emerged out of Suriname, from an alternate insect-oriented episteme. In the oral folklore of enslaved and marooned Africans, Cockroach has a history with Anansi, the trickster spider (Mechling 132-133). In one version of the story traced to Suriname-specifically, Cockroach and Anansi challenge each other to a climbing competition. Anansi, knowing that the winged cockroach will win by flying, sends Rooster to judge from the top of the tree. When Cockroach reaches the top, he is immediately eaten. This understanding of cockroach ecology merging with morality is incommensurable within the rationalism of Merian’s Western science. It nonetheless reflects histories of cohabitation and representation shared between humans and insects. We cannot know if this was the same species of cockroach which Merian drew, nor can we know if it was one of the cockroaches which made the journey across the Middle Passage, travelling with other iterations of the transatlantic Anansi. As much as they were engaged as active cultural agents, insects’ bodies were suspended in Merian’s work and fixed inside of collector’s cases with needles; how might other cockroaches represent themselves ecologically? In contrast to the cockroach of Plate 18, pinned beneath a swarm of A. cepalotes, one species of cockroach (Attaphilla fungicola) has developed a complex symbiotic relationship with leaf-cutter ants, where the tiny cockroaches live quietly in the ants’ nests and eat the fungus which the ants farm (Phillips et al. 277284). The ants also aid them in dispersal; the wingless roaches latch onto the ants as they travel beyond the nest in order to establish new colonies. This is an example of obligate symbiosis, where one species relies on close cohabitation with another to survive. As cockroaches have benefitted (and sometimes suffered) from their associations with other insects (including leaf-cutter ants and the spider-like Anansi), so have they with humans. Although fewer than 1% of cockroach species live in or near human dwellings, the species which have associated with us have followed wherever we go (Mechling 122). “Colonizing” species like B. germanica are also “cosmopolitan,” inhabiting vast areas of the terrestrial Earth surface (Bell et al.).
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This radical change to cockroach biogeography and the dramatic expansion of a few species’ range was dependent on human commerce and globalization (as was Merian’s scientific practice), but it was also a product of the cockroach’s own nature. Willing to eat all manners of human waste and able to inhabit disturbed spaces, they were adaptable and resilient travel companions and colonizers. Maria Sibylla Merian did not depict the Suriname cockroach, P. surinamensis; she may have never encountered one. If she did, it likely would have been burrowed in loose soil or hiding beneath rocks, rather than flying through her house like the German and Australian cockroaches of Plate 1 (Bell et al. 46). Although it does not inhabit human-built structures, the Suriname cockroach is another ‘colonial’ species, both inside and outside of the Metamorphosis eco-world. It was named by Linnaeus in 1758 when a specimen was shipped to him from Suriname; however, P. surinamensis is also a New World transplant—it was endemic to South Asia and Malaysia. Incidentally, some of its territories may have coincided with that of the peacock flower in Plate 45 (Cochran 24). After its global redistribution via trading ships and slave ships, P. surinamensis has never adapted to live in kitchens and pantries like other cockroaches; it is prone to desiccation and it prefers damp soil. Nonetheless, it is a major pest in spaces cultivated by humans. It is also known as the “greenhouse cockroach” or “plantation cockroach,” because it thrives in these disturbed and simplified ecosystems; few natural predators, it can be a major threat to ornamental plants and cash crops (Suiter and Koehler). P. surinamensis would have willingly colonized Merian’s study garden or the hot houses of Amsterdam botanical gardens. Cockroaches of various species were material threats to Merian’s form of production and representation— eager to eat paper and vellum, the living insects them selves would have been able to destroy their symbolic counterparts. Libraries and museums still hire pest technicians and maintain careful temperature controls in order to suppress hungry bodies (Copeland). Merian recognized cockroaches as pests, but the nature of her work was to aestheticize the insects and translate them into economic terms. Like other non-humans, the insects of seventeenth-century Suriname had agency in the same landscape which Merian studied and inhabited. Merian’s artistic renderings of life were truly from life; she was enmeshed in a not-entirely-human world of global migration and colonization, parasitism, predation, and symbiosis. Following Kohn and seeing “symbolic reference and by extension human language and culture as emergent… in continuity with matter at the same time that it can come to be a novel causal locus of possibility,” we might consider how Merian’s form of artistic-naturalism was a reproductive act, in and of a colonial economy and
a global ecology, grounded in the movement and interaction of bodies across space and time (Kohn 56). Recognizing that non-humans (namely, cockroaches) were active participants in the making and re-making of these material and semiotic worlds, how might we return to the question of (reproductive) agency?
low, despite, and within Merian’s vision of the metamorphosis of insects of Suriname, life’s generative agencies refuse to be entirely contained.
The Suriname cockroach was able to successfully establish new colonies because of an adaptive trait; after leaving South Asia, some colonial populations became parthenogenetic; females could produce fertile eggs without the presence of a male (Bell et al. 122). This allowed the Suriname cockroach to establish new, entirely female colonies descended from a single isolated individual (Bell et al. 122). Cockroaches, including P. surinamensis, are more “gregarious” than most other insects; they organize their colonies communally and extend high levels of reproductive care (Bell et al. 122). Merian paints what she believed to be the ootheca, a protective egg casing, in Plate 1. This mode of reproduction requires significant energy expenditures from females, especially in the parthenogenetic populations of P. surinamensis. Likely because of the energy involved, Suriname cockroaches have developed “mechanisms for terminating reproductive investment” (Bell et al. 134). In a laboratory environment, they will “jettison” and abandon their ootheca, leaving the eggs to die rather than having to rear them under harsh conditions (Bell et al. 134). Under the scientist’s observational gaze, the cockroach responds.
This pattern parallels the enslaved women’s use of abortifacients as described in the Metamorphosis, revealing biological agencies that exist below and outside of imperial ontologies. Merian’s representations of the cockroach and its egg case speak to her economic fascination with plant and insect reproduction and the latent sexual anxiety of the colonial imaginary. Yet the abundance and fertility of exotic nature threaten violence as much as they are displaced by it. Paths of colonization by and with cockroaches unsettle the stable center-versus-periphery-oriented geopolitics of European colonial imaginaries. Such an entangled web of ecological and semiotic relations challenges the rational naturalist’s contained ‘nature’ and draws lines of connection across indefinite spatial and temporal scales. A cockroach history is one that spans millions of years and emerges out of Peircean thirds: “habits, regularities, patterns, relationality, future possibilities, and purposes” (Kohn 59). Signs of reproductive agency proliferate through unnamed female bodies, human and nonhuman. Movement, consumption, transformation, reproduction, and adaptation are sign processes which play out in instants of interspecies encounter and over millennia of earthly cohabitation, in cockroach genealogies and colonial histories. Be-
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Bell, William; Roth, Louis; and Christine Nalepa. Cockroaches: Ecology, Behavior, and Natural History. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. Bleichmar, Daniela. Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin. Yale University Press, 2017. Blumenthal, Hannah. “A Taste for Exotica: Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium.” Gastronomica, vol. 6, 2016, pp. 44-52. Cochran, Donald. “Cocroaches: Their Biology, Distribution, and Control.” World Health Organization, Communicable Disease Prevention and Control, 1999. Copeland, Marion. Cockroach. Reaktion Books, 2003. Davis, Natalie Zemon. Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth Century Lives. Harvard University Press, 1995. Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am. Edited by Marie-Louise Mallet. Translated by David Wills, Fordham University Press, 2008. Etheridge, Kay. “Maria Sibylla Merian and the Metamorphosis of Natural History.” Endeavor vol. 35, no. 1, 2011. Harding, Sandra, ed. The Postcolonial Science and Technology Studies Reader. Duke University Press, 2011. Kinukawa, Tomomi. “Natural History as Entrepreneurship: Maria Sibylla Merian’s Correspondence with J. G. Volkamer II and James Petiver.” Archives of Natural History, vol. 38, no. 2, 2011, pp. 313-327. Kinukawa, Tomomi. “Science and Whiteness as Property in the Dutch Atlantic World: Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (1705).” Journal of Women’s History vol. 24, no. 3, 2012, pp. 91-116. Kohn, Eduardo. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human. University of California Press, 2013. Krenn, H.W.; Zulka, K.P.; and Gatschnegg, T. “Proboscis Morphology and Food Preferences in Nymphalid Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae),” Journal of Zoology vol. 254, no. 1, 2001, pp. 17-26. Mechling, Jay. “From Archy to archy: why cockroaches are good to think.” Southern Folklore, vol. 48, no. 2, 1991. Merian, Maria Sibylla. Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. Facsimile volume. Edited by Rucker, E., Becker, O., and W. Stearn. Pion, 1980. Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization. University of Michigan Press, 1995. Neri, Janice. The Insect and the Image: Visualizing Nature in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700. University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Paravisini-Gebert, Lizabeth. “Maria Sibylla Merian: The Dawn of Field Ecology in the Forests of Suriname, 1699–1701.” Literature and Arts of the Americas, vol. 45, no. 1, 2012, pp. 10-20. Phillips, Zhang, and Mueller.“Dispersal of Attaphila fungicola, a symbiotic cockroach of leaf-cutter ants.” Insect. Soc. vol. 64, 2017, pp. 277–284. Reitsma, Ella. Maria Sibylla Merian and Daughters: Women of Art and Science. Waanders Publishers, 2008. Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire. Verso Books, 1993. Royal Collection Trust. “Maria Merian’s Butterflies.” Royal Collection Trust exhibitions, 2016, https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/maria-merians-butterflies/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace. Accessed 14 December 2019. Schiebinger, Londa. “Agnotology and Exotic Abortifacients: The Cultural Production of Ignorance in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World.”Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 149, no. 3, 2005, pp. 316-343. Schiebinger, L. Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Rutgers University Press, 2004. Schiebinger, L. Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World. Harvard University Press, 2004. Schiebinger, L. “The Art of Medicine: Exotic Abortifacients and Lost Knowledge.” The Lancet, vol. 371, 2008. Schmidt-Loske, Katharina and Maria Sibylla Merian. Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium: Polyglot. Taschen America, 2009. Stockland, Etienne. “’La Guerre aux Insectes’: Pest Control and Agricultural Reform in the French Enlightenment,” Annals of Science, vol. 70, no. 4, 2013, pp. 435-460. Todd, Kim. Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis. Harcourt, 2007. Van Groesen, Michiel. The Representations of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages, (1590-1634). Brill, 2008.
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Exploitation and Rehabilitation: California’s Prison Fire Camps AUTHOR: Madeleine Fraix ABSTRACT: This paper addresses the complex interplay of social, political, and economic factors that influence the positionality of incarcerated individuals working in California’s prison fire camps. The argument highlights the ways in which government and media responses to climate related-disasters, specifically the recent wildfires in California, create neoliberal narratives that render structural and institutionalized violence invisible. Through a discussion informed by concepts such as “structural and symbolic violence,” “liminal space,” and “biopower,” this analysis aims to emphasize the importance of ethnographic work in maintaining a less fragmented picture of prison fire camps -- one that addresses the intricacies of rehabilitation and exploitation among incarcerated workers. INTRODUCTION Since 1972, the area burned by wildfires in the state of California has increased fivefold (Meyer). Immense blazes such as the 2017 Thomas Fire and the 2018 Camp and Mendocino Complex Fires dominate this trend, devouring the state and exposing what American sociologist Eric Klinenberg identifies as a “connection among state retrenchment, rising fear of violence, and vulnerability” (Rogers 309). Klinenburg highlights how climatic conditions have forced a government response that prioritizes profit, works to conceal the social and political dimensions of such disasters, and further subjugates marginalized communities. Furthermore, this current public health and climate crisis has highlighted the ethnoracial and class divisions that influence social and health outcomes. Governmental institutions and organizations have framed California’s wildfires as seemingly “natural disasters,” allowing them to render damages and deaths as invisible and a product of individual failures, rather than carelessness on the part of these institutions and decision makers. This masking of structural inequalities associated with California’s wildfires, and the state’s response to them, has been applied to the very individuals who fight fires, specifically incarcerated laborers who are “hired” by the government. It is critical to recognize how the state constructs and manages roles or prison labor while perpetuating the vulnerabilities of incarcerated people working in prison fire camps. Additionally, these analyses must be viewed within the historical context of prison labor in the United States. It is necessary to look beyond the simple, moral binaries of prison labor as either a necessary societal good or modern slave labor. A deeper analysis that takes into account the perspectives of incarcerated individuals working in
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California’s prison fire camps shows the dynamics and impacts on incarcerated people to be much more complex. It may be both exploitative, and, potentially, rehabilitative. In turn, discussing the fire camps as a liminal space between the walled-in prison and the outside world is essential for understanding the intricacies of these lived-experiences and their intersections with state power, health, and justice. First, the following will provide a brief historical context of prison labor within the development of the United States penal system. This backdrop is essential for the subsequent discussion addressing the relationship between social discipline and prison labor, specifically the significance of structural and symbolic violence that perpetuates the institutionalized violence of the prison system. I will then look deeper into the organization of California’s prison fire camps, both in terms of the economy and the everyday activities of workers themselves. From there, I aim to deconstruct two competing ethical frameworks of prison fire camp labor in the context of neoliberal attitudes of governance, emphasizing the contrast between government narratives and ethnographic work done in the camps themselves. I conclude with an analysis of camp environments as liminal spaces, emphasizing how their very positionality has made room for mechanisms of state power in relation to social categorization. HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF PRISON LABOR The imposition of profitable labor as penalization for a crime dates back to 16th century European “houses of correction” (LeBaron). In the United States, the prison system took hold after the dissolution of slavery. Section One of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declares, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (US Const. amend. XIII). While this revision abol-
ished slavery in its previous form and indentured servitude, it opened the door to mass criminalization and incarceration, permitting forced labor as criminal punishment to this very day. Some scholars suggest that this was a method of re-enslaving African-Americans post-slavery (Browne). Convict leasing allowed Southern plantation owners to purchase prisoners from the state to work on their property. Exploitation of labor, violence, and abuse continued with the development of the “chain gang” in the 1890s. This practice involved shackling prisoners together while they worked, slept, and ate (Browne). While the Thirteenth Amendment lay the groundwork for an expansive prison system, it was a “prison boom” from 1979 to 2000 that lead to an exponential rise in the percentage of African-Americans in the American prison system (Lawrence and Travis). PRISON LABOR AND SOCIAL VIOLENCE These historical shifts in social structures allowed for the creation of more prisons and the perpetuation of prison labor, producing new meanings and connotations that institutional structures have perpetuated in order to define people along the lines of race, class, sexuality, gender, and citizenship. In turn, these categories worked to transform the actions of individuals and their perceptions of themselves. This further influenced social structures, creating a feedback loop. Anthropologist and physician Seth Homes describes these connotations/meanings as “embodied dispositions” and symbols, such as “illegal” versus “legal,” accompanying racial categories (Holmes). For example, in his discussion on migrant farmworkers in the United States, Seth Holmes illustrates how this cycle acts as symbolic violence: the social categories inscribed on farmworkers, whether they are in terms of race, imprisonment, or class, lead to human bodies being taken advantage of by the state or private entities (Holmes). This symbolic violence goes unquestioned, concealing structural incompetencies such as institutionalized racism or damaging neoliberal market agendas that commodify Black and Brown bodies to provide cheap labor to the American economy. In short, symbolic violence is defined as harm that is manifested through the perpetuation of a dominant state ideology and coercive norms. Symbolic violence conceals structural violence, the organization of social and institutional inequities that injures and causes harm to individuals, while maintaining and reproducing inequities (Wacquant). Through the narratives of the media and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), symbolic violence has not only worked to naturalize the wildfires but has invisibilized the social inequalities surrounding who is affected and responsible. The prison system in the United States is a “race-making machine” that perpetuates both
symbolic and structural violence. Prison fire camps are a poignant example of this phenomenon. LABOR IN CALIFORNIA’S FIRE CAMPS The longstanding methods of social discipline and exploitation aimed at the Black, laboring poor endures in the 21st century (LeBaron). Approximately five million people are under the surveillance of the criminal justice system, and more than 70% of those incarcerated are people of color. Racism and class bias has laid the groundwork for the system of profitable punishment in the United States, one which has become increasingly corporatized: a prison industrial complex (Davis, “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”; Are Prisons Obsolete?). Today, incarcerated people work for both private and public entities, including companies such as Microsoft and Starbucks producing material goods and laboring in correctional facilities (Winter). Recently, the media has focused their attention on “inmate firefighters,” or incarcerated people working as wildland firefighters, most prominently in the state of California (McPhate). Prison fire camps provide yet another opportunity to deconstruct the broad social, political, and economic significance of prison labor. This analysis will maintain a focus on men’s prison fire camps in California considering that there is a notable difference in the way that the camp experience plays out between genders. Of the 44 states that utilize carceral labor for wildland firefighting, California is the most reliant on it, with approximately 30% of forest firefighters being from the prison system— almost 4,000 incarcerated individuals (Lurie and Zaveri). The mission of the “Conservation (Fire) Camps,” according to the CDCR is to “provide an able-bodied, trained workforce for fire suppression and other emergencies such as floods and earthquakes” (“Conservation (Fire) Camps”). In comparison to walled prisons, fire camps are quite small with around 80 to 150 incarcerated people, less than ten correctional staff, and equally as many forestry crew leaders. Fire camp placement is voluntary and requires specific eligibility. Consequently, those incarcerated in fire camps have spent at least several weeks in a walled prison before being transferred. To be eligible, incarcerated individuals must have five years or less left on their sentence, be considered “medium” or “low-security” based on an internal prison classification system, and may only be convicted of a nonviolent offense. However, there is a potential for varied interpretation of this final requirement by classification staff. This leaves ample room for discrimination as staff are representatives of state power who utilize labels to determine whether or not one is “deserving” of working in the fire camp environment (Goodman, “Hero or inmate”). Finally, eligible incarcerated people receive about four weeks of training with a focus on Spring 2020 / Perennial
physical assessments as well as lessons on fire safety and suppression (“Conservation (Fire) Camps”). Aside from preventing and fighting the spread of wildland fires, incarcerated fire camp workers spend the majority of their time on grade projects which prepare for construction or are necessary to develop infrastructure. These tasks are low-skilled and physically arduous. When workers are actively fighting fires, they are paid two dollars per hour at the most (McPhate). NEOLIBERAL ATTITUDES IN GOVERNANCE The ethics of prison labor in the United States have been a recurrent topic of concern and dispute. Two competing frameworks commonly present themselves throughout this discussion. One views prison labor as an amorphous opportunity for self-motivated rehabilitation, painting the fire camps as sites of efficient and positive transformation of “prisoners” into law-abiding citizens. The other focuses purely on the forced nature of prison labor as “modern day slave labor.” These opposing narratives applied to the fire camps fail to take into account the experiences of those who are actually imprisoned inside the camps. The CDCR embraces what sociology professor Philip Goodman identifies as the “administrative” discourse on rehabilitation (“Race in California’s Prison Fire Camps”). In the words of 2008 CDCR secretary, James Titon: In these tough budget times, it is noteworthy that there is a program that provides so many benefits. The Conservation Camp Program provides the state with a fully trained workforce able to immediately respond to fires and other emergencies. The program saves tax dollars. We are able to enjoy the beauty of California at our parks and beaches. Our highways are clean. And inmates are better prepared to return to their communities when they are released to parole, enhancing public safety (“CDCR’s Inmate Firefighters Prepare for the 2008 Fire Season”).
Titon’s perspective highlights a neoliberal approach to incarceration and population surveillance under the guise of societal productivity and individual betterment. The economic productivity of the state is placed on a pedestal with an emphasis on “saving tax dollars,” and maintenance of “inmate preparation.” This disregards the structural factors such as poverty, homelessness, and mental illness that have funneled primarily Black and Brown individuals into the prison system in the first place. These social problems not only contribute to the initial imprisonment of individuals, but continue to prevent them from leaving prison and the fire camps to experience fully free lives. As individuals contending with poverty, institutional racism, and other forms of social violence are labeled as “criminals” and imprisoned, penal infrastructure has become a big business. Furthermore, under the
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neoliberal capitalist government, criminal punishment based on racialised assumptions has become increasingly more important to the US economy. Desires to cut government spending and increase profit have led penal systems to capitalize off of the labor of its incarcerated population (Davis, “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”). While much of the punishment industry is led by private capital, such as private prisons, the use of prison labor to fight California’s disastrous wildfires is not. However, the Conservation Camp Program saves California’s “taxpayers” upwards of $100 million dollars every year (Adams). In fact, when the Supreme Court ordered California to reduce prison overcrowding, California’s Deputy Attorney General argued against releasing inmates because it would “severely impact fire camp participation, a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought” (Hager para. 6). Consequently, government accounts emphasize reductions in government spending concurrent with the increase in government control, giving way to what Margret Sommers identifies as market-driven governance (Adams). This neoliberal ideology also invokes a logic of personal responsibility over structural incompetency and reproduces what LeBaron calls “racialized forms of market discipline,” unequal social order, and disparate health outcomes (Adams para. 2). This narrative contributes to the naturalization of the wildfires themselves, painting the victims of the fires as irresponsible in their preparation and reactions to the fires despite the institutional failures that have created dire health and economic impacts. Additionally, there are consequences with regard to how the roles of incarcerated individuals working in the fire camps are portrayed. In order to “redeem” themselves as “good citizens,” it is their responsibility to serve in the camps and maintain the well-being and economic prosperity of the state, no matter how exploitative it truly is. In these ways, narratives perpetuated by the government portray prison labor as a necessity, wildfires as an inevitable, unpreventable, “natural” occurrence, and incarcerated individuals purely as “criminals” who need to be reformed by structured, physical labor. These actions harm both the physical environment and the health and societal interpretation of incarcerated people. Neoliberal ideologies employed by state programs and institutional interventions in the context of California’s fire camps are focused on supervising and controlling the population itself. This kind of management is what Foucault signifies as biopower, increased techniques geared towards surveillance and control of the public (Pigg 45). Not only are the bodies of the incarcerated subjugated and used as tools by the state in the face of a climate crisis, but the government’s refusal to pair down the carceral system highlights a complete disregard for the well-being of these individuals based on their label of “prisoner” and market-driven social prin-
ciples. This is further exemplified by the CDCR’s lack of data and focus on recidivism rates among fire camp workers, illustrating the neoliberal states’ ultimate disinterest in the rehabilitative aspects of their programs, despite what is communicated by their press releases and mass media. Instead, the state “simultaneously responsibilizes them for their deviancy while affording them progressively fewer opportunities to obtain stability” as those within the camps are seen as responsible for their own behavior (Goodman 370). BEYOND THE ETHICAL BINARY Despite the intense historical significance of prison labor and the continued role of the state in the management and exploitation of incarcerated individuals, California’s prison fire camps present a tension where the agency of incarcerated workers is both crafted and subjugated. Multiple ethnographies on those incarcerated in California’s fire camps highlight the complexities of fire camp labor. While conducting research on California’s fire camps, Goodman interviewed T.C., an incarcerated worker. T.C. refers to the camps as “legalized slavery,” yet he also mentions that he could not imagine a better place to serve prison time and that there are some rehabilitative aspects (Goodman 361). This perspective is shared by many in the prison fire camp system. Many view the work as exploitative, given the extremely low wages, yet also productive in the sense that it provides structure and teaches a sort of “work ethic.” Goodman’s ethnography identifies a common framing by incarcerated workers in regard to firefighting and grade work: they view this intense or dangerous work as a way of “giving back” or as a method of “gaining skills” (363). Duality is embedded in these responses, illustrating the sophisticated understanding that incarcerated individuals in the fire camps have concerning their expertise as firefighters. While advocates for the rights of incarcerated individuals often view prison labor as pure exploitation, the issue is much more intricate and goes far beyond the binary created by the media and the CDCR. This binary fails to take into account the multiplicity of experiences of the incarcerated individuals who are working in these conditions. PRISON FIRE CAMPS AS A LIMINAL SPACE Understanding the complexities of prison fire camps in the context of physical space and location can provide continued understanding concerning the mechanisms of state power. These institutional processes simultaneously exploit individuals in carceral institutions and offer rehabilitative aspects. Author, Robin Nagle, applies the concept of liminality to the process experienced by sanitation foremen when they are responsible for both management and actions of labor. The concept of liminality, or “the space in between,”
can also be applied to prison spaces (Nagle 175). Thinking of the fire camps as a liminal space situates them between walled prisons and the free, outside world, as they share qualities of each. Furthermore, this positioning affects the manner in which prison fire camps are portrayed by the state, their racial dynamics, and the experiences of incarcerated individuals working in these spaces. These liminal forestry work spaces influence the surveillance of incarcerated individuals, creating a paradox where one is outside of prison when firefighting and doing manual labor but still incarcerated (Goodman). The environment of prison fire camps contributes to a carceral experience that is both exploitative and offers a possibility for education and rehabilitation, based on the experience of individuals within the camps. In addition, the liminality of California’s prison fire camps influences the racial categories embodied and reproduced within these spaces. While the camps may be portrayed as “racial utopias” or places where race does not have social consequences, this is an incomplete picture. Indeed, incarcerated individuals fight disasters together, sharing water and actively protecting each other through hardship and dangerous situations. However, Goodman’s ethnographic work indicates that inside the confines of the camps, where activities aside from work transpire, racial groups remain as separated as they would in walled prisons. Because work and living conditions are often better in fire camps in comparison to walled prisons, these circumstances are seen as permissible, if not positive, by institutions and society in general. Consequently, the impacts of structural violence are rendered invisible: the disproportionate amount of people of color within the state’s prison system, the historical cycle of violence and subjectivation of Black and Brown communities, bare minimum pay, and inaccessibility to union support and proper healthcare. CONCLUSION Narratives concerning prison labor, most recently in the context of California’s prison fire camps, have presented a fragmented picture regarding the intricacies of rehabilitation and exploitation among incarcerated workers. While my analysis may remain incomplete, it nonetheless aims to consider both the perspectives of incarcerated workers themselves and the role of the neoliberal capitalist state in the creation and perpetuation of violent social norms and structures. Furthermore, while the liminal nature of prison fire camps contributes to an open-ended, equivocal experience in terms of both everyday activities as well as racial and socioeconomic categories, we must examine the structural shifts that could lead to a more equitable system. In considering future state actions concerning California’s wildfires and prison labor, Ruha Benjamin’s conSpring 2020 / Perennial
cept of speculative fiction must be accounted for. Speculative fiction urges us to expand our vision beyond current methods of understanding structural violence. It highlights a search for broader social transformation in response to the socioeconomic, political, and racial vulnerabilities that may arise as climate disasters continue (Benjamin). We must continue to question the lack of union support extended to incarcerated fire camp workers and examine what their lives may look like with proper compensation and the opportunity for firefighting jobs post-incarceration. It is this anticipation and sympathy that precludes reformative actions against our state’s damaging, violent (mis)management of the incarcerated population.
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Adams, Vincanne. (2013). Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith: New Orleans in the Wake of Katrina. Duke University Press, 2013. Benjamin, Ruha. “Racial fictions, biological facts: Expanding the sociological imagination through speculative methods.” Catalyst, vol.2, no. 2, 2016, pp. 1-28. Browne, Jaron. “Rooted in Slavery: Prison Labor Exploitation.” Race, Poverty & the Environment, vol. 14, no. 1, 2007, pp. 42–44. “CDCR’s Inmate Firefighters Prepare for the 2008 Fire Season.” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2008, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/news/2008/05/01/cdcrs-inmate-firefighters-prepare- for-the-2008-fire-season/. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019. “Conservation (Fire) Camps.” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2016, https://web.archive.org/ web/20160309084006/http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Conservation_Camps. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019. Davis, Angela Y. Are Prisons Obsolete?: an Open Media Book. Seven Stories Press, 2010. Davis, Angela Y. “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”. History is a Weapon, 1998, https://www. historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/davisprison.html. Accessed 11 December 2019. Goodman, Philip. “Race in California’s Prison Fire Camps for Men: Prison Politics, Space, and the Racialization of Everyday Life.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 120, no. 2, 2014, pp. 352– 394. https://doi.org/10.1086/678303 Holmes, Seth. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. Hager, Eli. “Prisoners Who Fight Wildfires in California: An Insider’s Look.” The Marshall Project, 2015, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/08/19/prisoners-who-fight-Wildfiresin-california-an-insider-s-look. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019. Klinenberg, Eric. “Denaturalizing disaster.” Violence in War and Peace, edited by Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois, Blackwell Publishers, 2003. Lawrence, Sarah, and Jeremy Travis. The New Landscape of Imprisonment: Mapping America’s Prison Expansion. Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, 2004. LeBaron, Genevieve. “Rethinking Prison Labor: Social Discipline And The State In Historical Perspective.” WorkingUSA, vol. 15, no. 3, 2012, pp. 327–351., doi:10.1111/j.17434580.2012.00397.x. Lurie, J. (2015). 30 percent of California’s forest firefighters are prisoners. Mother Jones.Retrieved December 9, 2019, from Mother Jones website: https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/08/40-percent-californias-fires-are-fought-prison-inmates/ McPhate, M. (2017, September 1). California Today: Firefighters, at Less Than $2 an Hour. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/01/us/ california-today-firefighters-at-less- than-2-an-hour.html
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16. Meyer, Robinson. “California’s Wildfires Are 500 Percent Larger Due to Climate Change.” The Atlantic, 16 July 2019. 16. Nagle, Robin. Picking up: on the Streets and behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. 16. Pigg, Stacy. “Unintended Consequences: The Ideological Impact of Development in Nepal.” South Asia Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 1 & 2, 1993, pp. 45-58. 16. Rogers, Paul. “The 20 Largest Wildfires in California History.” The Mercury News, 30 Oct. 2019, www.mercurynews. com/2019/10/28/list-the-20-largest-wildfires-in-california-history/. 16. U.S. Constitution. Amend. XIII. 16. Todd, Zoe and Jane McMullen. “You Can Barely Breathe: The Inmates Who Fought California’s Deadliest Wildfire.” Frontline, 1 Nov. 2019, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/ you-can-barely-breathe/. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019. 16. Wacquant, Loïc. “Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh.” Mass Imprisonment: Social Causes and Consequences, 2001, pp. 82–120., doi:10.4135/9781446221228.n8. 16. Winter, Caroline. “What Do Prisoners Make for Victoria’s Secret?” Mother Jones, 2008, https://www.motherjones.com/ politics/2008/07/what-do-prisoners-make-victorias-secret/. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019. 16. Zaveri, Mihir. “As Inmates, They Fight California’s Fires. As Ex-Convicts, Their Firefighting Prospects Wilt.” The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2018.
Demographics of Environmental Responsibility – Who Keeps Up? AUTHOR: Edith Lai ABSTRACT: To help minimize waste production, many individuals have taken it upon themselves to replace single-use goods with reusable products. Governments and environmentally conscious businesses are increasingly interested in knowing how to better promote sustainable practices and understanding how green consumerism varies across demographic categories on a global scale. In New Zealand, bringing a reusable cup, colloquially called a “keepcup,” to a coffee shop can significantly reduce the amount of single-use paper cups ending up in landfills. This observational study examines whether the economic incentive of a discount is effective in motivating individuals to use keepcups. At coffee shops throughout Wellington, New Zealand, we counted the number of keepcup users among customers ordering takeaway coffee and compared the values based on whether the shop offered discounts for using keepcups. Preliminary study results confirm that offering a discounted price of coffee for using a keepcup significantly increases the proportion of keepcup users. After stratifying the data set by gender, results show that economic incentives only significantly increase keepcup usage amongst males but not females, supporting analogous research on environmental behavior theorizing that females are inherently more socially conscious consumers. Stratifying the data set by age showed that young and old consumers are equally motivated by discounts, thus age may not be as much an explanatory variable to environmental behavior. A more nuanced understanding of environmental behavior is necessary to ensure that all social and demographic groups contribute equally to the collective effort to reduce waste.
INTRODUCTION In the past few decades, rapid and rampant industrialization has produced a worldwide climate crisis threatening the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities, and ecosystems (Pachauri). Although corporations are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and should be held accountable in the efforts to mitigate climate change, individuals can supplement the global movement towards sustainability by adopting more environmentally conscious behavior (Caney). Individuals can help limit GHG emissions by collectively reducing waste production. By opting for reusable products over single-use goods, consumers can gradually lessen their dependence on high intensity production and waste facilities (Castellani et al.). In general, people prefer cutting costs and avoiding unnecessary expenses (Viscusi et al., Poortinga et al.). A common policy tactic for encouraging environmental behavior within communities is providing economic incentives like subsidies and discounts. For example, bottle recycling is promoted through the bottle-deposit system, which incentivizes recycling with a small financial reward. This system has been effective in promoting a sustainable action despite the slight inconvenience taken by the individual (Viscusi et al.). Similar methods have been applied on different scales, such as governments reducing GHG emissions with carbon taxes and businesses advising individuals to
bring their own grocery bags (“How Carbon Tax Works,” Laroche et al.). The use of economic incentives to alter consumer behavior is ubiquitous, but it is important to confirm and evaluate its effectiveness in different contexts. Environmentalists must also take into account that certain people may be more willing than others to adopt environmental behavior. Understanding the motivating factors for environmental behavior can promote green consumption and waste reduction. One measurement used to determine amiability to environmental behavior is willingness to pay for a sustainable good. Factors affecting willingness to pay include demographics, knowledge, values, attitudes, and behavior (Laroche et al.). Despite being one of the weaker explanatory variables, research on demographics can help businesses focus marketing towards specific groups (Laroche et al., Follows et al.). Studies have noted that females are typically more socially conscious and more concerned about the environment than their male counterparts (Laroche et al., Berkowitz and Lutterman, Fisher et al., Anderson and Cunningham). In general, women also demonstrate greater value in collectivism than individualism (Triandis). These studies conclude that women are more likely to engage in environmental behavior regardless of individual cost or benefit while men need more external incentives before choosing to act for the greater good (Fisher et al., Anderson and CunningSpring 2020 / Perennial
ham). In addition to gender, there is interest in determining environmental behavior trends among age groups. The basis for understanding age-based trends in social responsibility is the socioemotional theory, which posits that the perceived amount of time remaining in their lives will lead people to pursue different social goals (Cartensen et al.). However, the body of research studying this theory’s application in environmental responsibility is often inconclusive. Some studies suggest that younger people have higher environmental awareness and knowledge out of concern for their futures, while older people are comfortable with prioritizing short term benefits regardless of their impact on the environment (Wiernik et al.). Conversely, studies also suggest that older individuals engage in more conservation behaviors, due to more time spent engaging with nature (Wiernik et al.). While a general relationship between age and environmentalism is unclear, a correlation could occur in highly specific contexts. One consumption change people can make to reduce waste is avoiding single-use cups and instead bringing a reusable mug, otherwise called a keepcup, when purchasing takeaway coffee. A life cycle assessment of carton-based cups found that while manufacturing cups do contribute to global warming, the end of life disposal is more significant in environmental impact (Garrido and Castillo). This is especially pertinent in New Zealand as locals (kiwis) throw away approximately 300 million takeaway coffees cups per year (Higgins). In Wellington, the inability to recycle coffee cups and the lack of composting facilities available means that all single-use cups end up in landfills (“Public Place Recycling Project”). To address the issue, city council promotes keepcups by partnering with reusable cup programs, and businesses incentivize keepcup usage with discounted coffee (Woolf, “Discounts”). While these actions have helped the city make great strides in waste reduction, they should be regularly evaluated to determine how effective these strategies are, and for whom.
This study evaluates two aspects of economic incentives for environmental behavior. The primary objective is to confirm that economic incentives significantly motivate keepcup usage in Wellington. We hypothesize that when the price of takeaway coffee is lower for keepcup users than single-use cup users, the proportion of keepcup usage among consumers is greater. Moreover, we question if the effectiveness of economic incentives differs depending on demographic groupings, specifically gender and age. Regarding gender, we hypothesize that the discounted coffees will be more effective in motivating males to bring a keepcup than females based on socially conscious consumer behavior trends. For age, we hypothesize that discounted coffees will be more effective in motivating young people to bring reusables than older people based on both increased environmental awareness and short-term economic benefits. METHODS Site Selection Data collection occurred at 12 coffee shops throughout the Te Aro and Lambton suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand. The coffee shop names and distribution are shown in Figure 1. These two suburbs present high density of both coffee shops and working professionals, which maximized sample size and became the focus of the study. To randomize coffee shop selection, we first listed out all coffee shops within the two suburbs and eliminated those that opened later than 8:30am. The coffee shops were then stratified by streets and randomly chosen. This process ensured that observation locations were spread out throughout each suburb.
Data Collection Two researchers observed a single coffee shop each morning from 7:30am - 9:30am, or for a total of two hours right after opening. Researchers worked in pairs to minimize observational biases and maximize data points. The time frame and the suburbs of choice together maximized the number of people ordering takeaway coffee. For each customer, we recorded gender, an estimation of age, and whether they brought a keepcup or used a single-use cup. Age was estimated by decade (20s, 30s, etc.) and then group into “young,” ≤35 years old, and “old,” >35 years old, subgroups. 35 years of age was chosen as the cutoff point because it separates millennials from Generation X and roughly divides the population in half. If a customer sat in, they were not included in the study. If a customer ordered multiple drinks, each cup was counted as a separate observation. For each coffee shop, we noted if a discount was offered for those bringing their own Figure 1. Distribution of Wellington coffee shops where data collection occurred
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mug. After concluding the study, each location was called to confirm discount status, as many places did not openly advertise if a discount was offered. A coffee shop was considered as offering a discount if the takeaway coffee is cheaper than regular price when a customer brings their own mug or if the takeaway coffee is more expensive than the regular price when a customer opts for a single-use cup. Data Analysis Each observation was recorded as a set of binary variables gender (male: 0, female: 1), age (>35 years of age: 0, ≤35 years of age: 1), cup (single-use: 0, keepcup: 1), and discount at location visited (no discount: 0, discount: 1). To answer the first question, a Chi-Square test of independence was performed comparing gender to coffee shop discounts to ensure that gender was evenly distributed across locations. To test if the proportion of keepcup users is higher at coffee shops with discounts, we performed a two proportion Z test and calculated an odds ratio. To answer the second question, the data set was then stratified by gender and age. We performed two proportion Z tests to quantify the difference in keepcup usage between discounted coffee shops and non-discounted coffee shops separately for gender and age. We also performed Chi-Square tests of independence to confirm if the relationship between discount and keepcup usage was or was not independent. For each test, a p-value of >0.05 indicates significance. We then calculated percent differences in Z scores between males and females and between young and old. Finally, odds ratios were calculated.
demographics and coffee shops, we first performed a Chi-square test of independence between gender and coffee shop discount status. The results (X² = 1.2311, df = 1, p = 0.267189) confirm that gender is evenly distributed across coffee shops and that the distribution is independent of discount status. We then repeated the same test between age and discount status. The results (X² = 0.3336, df = 1, p = 0.563568) confirm that age is also distributed across coffee shops independent of discount status. The first study question asks if economic incentives are effective in promoting environmental behavior across all customers. In this study, we expected the proportion of keepcup users to be significantly higher at coffee shops offering a discounted coffee to keepcup users. To test, we performed a one-sided Z-test of two proportions between all customers at discount or no discount shops. As displayed in Figure 2, the proportion of keepcup users at coffee shops with discounts was 0.4279 and the proportion of keepcup users at coffee shops with no discounts was 0.3354. The results of the Z-test (Z = 1.8319, p = 0.0336) confirm that the proportion of keepcup users at coffee shops with discounts is significantly greater than the proportion of keepcup users at coffee shops with no discounts at p<0.05 significance level. In addition, the odds that someone who uses a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering a discount is 1.4823 times higher than the odds of someone visiting a coffee shop offering no discount (OR = 1.4823).
Figure 2. Proportion of keepcup users at coffee shops offering a discount for bringing a keepcup in comparison to coffee shops offering no discount for bringing a keepcup
Table 1. Counts of keepcup and single-use cup users at coffee shops offering a discount or no discount for bringing in a keepcup
To ensure that no correlation exists between customer
The second study question asks if economic incentives promote environmental behavior differentially across gender and age. Beginning with gender, customers were stratified between female and male to calculate the proportion of keepcup or single-use cup users. An initial Z-test comparing keepcup usage among females Spring 2020 / Perennial
and males (Z = 3.6018, p = 0.0003) showed that females are overall more likely to use keepcups than males. We then looked at each genderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relationship with discounts. The results are visually displayed in Figure 3. The first two bars show that the proportion of females using a keepcup are very similar at coffee shops with and without discounts. The third and fourth bars show that the proportion of males using a keepcup is much higher at coffee shops with discounts than at coffee shops without discounts. Among females, the Z-test results (Z = 0.4144, p = 0.6818) comparing keepcup users and single-use cup users at discount versus no discount coffee shops show that there is no significant relationship between keepcup usage and coffee shop discount status. The Chi-Square test of independence (X2 = 0.1693, df = 1, p = 0.1693) confirms that keepcup usage and discounts are independent.
Figure 3. Proportions of keepcup users among females and males who visit coffee shops offering a discount for keepcup users or offering no discount for keepcup users
The odds that a female using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering a discount is also not much higher than the odds that a female using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering no discount (OR = 1.1303). Within males, the Z-test results (Z = 1.9865, p = 0.0466) comparing keepcup users and single-use cup users at discount versus no discount coffee shops show that there is a significant relationship between keepcup usage and coffee shop discount status. The Chi-Square test of independence (X2 = 3.9464, df = 1, p = 0.0470) results also support the notion that keepcup usage and discounts are not independent. The odds that a male using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering a discount is 1.9060 times higher than the odds that a male using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering no discount (OR = 1.9060). The percent difference between Z-scores of keepcup usage among females and males, 130.9592%, indicates a higher efficacy of discount programs on males.
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Comparing young and old groups, broadly defined as those above or below the age of 35, we again used a Z-test to determine whether one group was more likely to use keepcups than the other. Results (Z = 1.2967, p = 0.1936) show that there is no significant difference in the proportion of keepcup uses among those â&#x2030;¤35 years of age and those >35 years of age. Regardless of this result, we checked to see if the effect of a discount differs between young and old consumers. Visually displayed in Figure 4, there is a large difference in keepcup usage for both young and old consumers at coffee shops with and without discounts. Within the young group, the Z-test results comparing keepcup users and single-use cup users at discount versus no discount coffee shops (Z = 2.5018, p = 0.0124) show that there is a significant relationship between keepcup usage and coffee shop discount status. The Chi-Square test of independence (X2 = 6.2598, df = 1, p = 0.0124) results also support the notion that keepcup usage and discounts are not independent.
Figure 4. Proportions of keepcup users among old and young consumers who visit coffee shops offering a discount for keepcup users or offering no discount for keepcup users
The odds that a young customer using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering a discount is 2.6947 times higher than the odds that a young customer using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering no discount (OR = 2.6947). Within the old group, the Z-test results comparing keepcup users and single-use cup users at discount versus no discount coffee shops (Z = 2.5535, p = 0.0107) show that there is a significant relationship between keepcup usage and coffee shop discount status. The Chi-Square test of independence (X2 = 6.518, df = 1, p = 0.0107) results also support the notion that keepcup usage and discounts are not independent. The odds that an old customer using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering a discount is 2.6561 times higher than the odds that an old customer using a keepcup is visiting a coffee shop offering no discount (OR = 2.6561). The percent difference between Z-scores of keepcup usage among young and old
consumers, 2.0453%, indicates a minimal difference in the efficacy of discount programs with regards to age. DISCUSSION Due to the simple design, there are some weaknesses to the methodology that limit the applicability of the results to wider contexts. One issue with evaluating the effect of economic incentives was that the coffee discount initiative was not standardized across the cafes. Many coffee shops did not openly advertise the discount, but discreetly applied it to each purchase depending on the customerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cup choice. Therefore, knowledge about discounts would be based predominantly on experience and word of mouth. While this is true in many coffee shops around the world, it is harder to extrapolate the efficacy of discounts for keepcups to understand other environmental behaviors with economic incentives. We expect that the significance of increased keepcup usage at coffee shops offering discounts would be even greater if more shops openly promoted their discounts. In addition, the discounts range from 10 to 40 cents depending on location. For a more robust study, we should group coffee shops with the same discount amount rather than using a binary discount or no discount variable. This was not viable due to the small sample size, but could be possible in further study. The few number of variables observed for this study also expose vulnerability to confounding factors. In studies on demographics and behavior, it is typically necessary to include race, education, socioeconomic status, and more in addition to gender and age. The intersectionality of these factors often manifests as confounders or effect modifiers. Due to resource limitations, only gender and age were collected or estimated for in this study. We did confirm with a Chi-Square test of independence that age and gender are independent variables in relation to keepcup usage. However, further research in this field would benefit from the inclusion of more demographic categories. Additionally, while this study uses a binary measurement for gender, as is conventional in behavioral studies and market research, we do recognize the identities of non-binary genders. Suggestions for study replication include expanding the locations to beyond central Wellington, where residents may be of similar education and socioeconomic status, and employing questionnaires to collect more information. CONCLUSION The results of this study conclude that within Wellington, discounts are generally effective in motivating people to bring their own cups to coffee shops when ordering takeaway coffee. This conclusion supports background research on environmental behavior by
confirming that economic incentives strongly correlate with environmental behavior. Individual businesses interested in reducing waste should therefore keep discounts in mind as an effective tool for promoting reusable products. Regarding differential discount efficacy on demographic groups, there was no significant relationship between age and keepcup usage, nor are young people differently influenced by economic incentives than older people. Both young and old customers alike use keepcups more often when a coffee shop offers a discount, and this increase in likelihood is similar for the two groups. Based on these results, there is likely no need to use age-based marketing tactics to promote keepcup usage. This conclusion corresponds with the ambiguous relationship between age and environmentally responsible actions. Conversely, the economic incentives do have differential levels of influence with regards to gender. Discounts are more influential in affecting keepcup usage among men than among women. While keepcup usage among men drastically increases at coffee shops offering discounts, keepcup usage among females is independent of a coffee shopâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s discount offering. These results support theories that males are more economically motivated to participate in environmentally conscious behavior while females are willing to engage in environmentally conscious behavior regardless of personal cost. This conclusion also suggests a more generalizable paradigm in which women often carry more social responsibility in combating environmental issues. The conclusions of this study can be used in developing programs for promoting the replacement of single-use goods with reusable goods. Understanding how the underlying drivers for environmental behavior differ among men and women is critical to acknowledging who is contributing to the efforts in waste reduction. While discounts or subsidies may encourage green consumerism for men, businesses and governments may need to diversify environmental promotion methods to increase environmental behavior in women. Education, green labeling, choice editing, and collective action are other effective drivers for environmental behavior which can be integrated alongside economic incentives to target women (21). Overall, environmental behavior studies focused on demographic characteristics can be useful for ensuring that everyone, and not just demographic subsets of a population, contributes equally to waste reduction. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my groupmates for their collaboration on the project, as well as Chris Fink and Michael Jackson from BIOL328 Behaviour and Conservation Spring 2020 / Perennial
Ecology at Victoria University of Wellington for their guidance. WORKS CITED 1. “Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic Shopping Bags by Business Type.” Ministry for the Environment. https://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/single-use-plastic-shopping-bag-ban/alternatives-for-businesses 2. Anderson, W. Thomas, and William H. Cunningham, “The Socially Conscious Consumer.” Journal of Marketing, vol. 36, no. 3, 1972, pp. 23–3. 3. Berkowitz, Leonard, and Kenneth G. Lutterman, “The Traditional Socially Responsible Personality.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 32, no.2, 1968, pp. 169–185. 4. Caney, Simon. “Justice and the Distribution of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Journal of Global Ethics, vol. 5, no. 2, 2009, pp.125-146. 5. Carstensen, Laura L., et al. Taking Time Seriously: A Theory of Socioemotional Selectivity.” American Psychologist, vol. 54, no. 3, 1999, pp. 165-181. 6. Castellani, Valentina, et al. “Beyond the Throwaway Society: A Life Cycle-Based Assessment of the Environmental Benefit of Reuse.” Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, vol.11, no.3, 2015, pp. 373–382. 7. “Discounts Offered to Customers With Reusable Coffee Cups, but Not Everyone Is on Board.” News.Com.Au, 21 July 2018, https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/food/drinks/discounts-offered-to-customers-with-reusable-coffee-cups-but-no t-everyone-is-on-board/news-story/f2b61c70b6fe1ab 0642514fe67629bb5 8. Dowdey, Sarah. “How Carbon Tax Works.” HowStuffWorks, 2007, https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/carbon-tax.htm#pt2. 9. Fisher, Caroline, et al. “Demographic Impacts on Environmentally Friendly Purchase Behaviors.” Journal of Targeting, Measurement and Analysis for Marketing, vol. 20, 2012, pp.172–184. 10. Follows, Scott B, and David Jobber. “Environmentally Responsible Purchase Behaviour: A Test of a Consumer Mode.” European Journal of Marketing, vol. 34, no. 5/6, 2000, pp.723-746. 11. Garrido, Nuria, and M. Doris Alvarez del Castillo, Environmental Evaluation of Single-Use and Reusable Cups. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 12, 2007, pp. 252–256. 12. Higgins, Nadine. “Kiwi City Slickers Are Among the World’s Most Wasteful.” Stuff, 28 Jan. 2018, https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/100870915/nadine-higgins-kiwi-city-slickers-embrace-throwaway-culture. 13. Laroche, Michel, et al. J. “Targeting Consumers Who Are Willing to Pay More for EnvironmentallFriendly Products.” Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 18, no. 6, 2001, pp. 503–520. 14. Pachauri, Rajendra Kumar, and Leo A. Meyer. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution
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of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, 2015. 15. Peattie, Ken. “Green Consumption: Behavior and Norms.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 35, no. 1, 2010, pp. 195–228. 16. Poortinga, Wouter, and Louise Whitaker. “Promoting the Use of Reusable Coffee Cups through Environmental Messaging, the Provision of Alternatives and Financial Incentives.” Sustainability, vol.10, no.3, 2018, pp. 873. 17. “Public Place Recycling project.” Wellington City Council. https://wellington.govt.nz/services/environment-and-waste/rubbish-and-recycling/ reducing-your-waste/reducing-waste-at-events -and-in-yo ur-community/public-place-recycling-project 18. Triandis, Harry C. “Collectivism and Individualism as Cultural Syndromes.” Cross-Cultural Research, vol. 27, no. 3-4, 1993, pp. 155–180. 19. Viscusi, W.Kip, et al. “Promoting Recycling: Private Values, Social Norms, and Economic Incentives.” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 65–70. 20. Wiernik, Brenton M., et al. “Age and Environmental Sustainability: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Managerial Psychology, vol. 28, no. 7/8, 2013, pp. 826–85. 21. Woolf, Amber-Leigh. “Wellington Cafes Take on New Reusable Cup Scheme to Reduce Waste.” Stuff, 20 Nov. 2018, https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/108 731377/wellington-cafes-take-on-new-reusable-cupscheme-to-reduce-waste
This is the first issue of Perennial: The Berkeley Undergraduate Environmental Journal, and it is the accumlation of many hours of hard work by our dedicated staff. We would like to thank the many individuals who worked on this project (especially those who perservered to finish this issue during the COVID-19 crisis) and The Green Initiative Fund for their support in funding this project.
If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re interested in working on future issues, please check out our website perennial.berkeley.edu for more information on joining our team or submitting work to Perennial.
With our first issue covering Justice, we want to highlight some organizations tackling environmental justice issues. This is a non-exhaustive list to introduce some movements, so we encourage you to seek out more. Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment California Environmental Justice Alliance Communities for a Better Environment Energy Justic Network Indigenous Environmental Network Movement Generation Plastic Pollution Coalition
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PERENNIAL The Undergraduate Environmental Journal of Berkeley perennial.berkeley.edu email@example.com
ISSN 2693-145 (print) ISSN 2693-146X (online) ÂŠ 2020 Perennial: The Undergraduate Environmental Journal of Berkeley