The origin of the American Environmental Justice Movement can be traced back to the emergence of the American
Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and more specifically to the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. These historical
moments set the stage for a movement that continues to grow with present challenges and widening of economic,
health and environmental disparities between racial groups and socioeconomic groups. The environmental justice
movement builds upon the philosophy and work of environmentalism, which focuses on humanity’s adverse impact
upon the environment, entailing both human and non-human existence. However, environmental justice stresses the
manner in which adversely impacting the environment in turn adversely impacts the population of that environment.
At the heart of the environmental justice movement are the issues of racism and socioeconomic injustice.
This course will examine the intersections of race, equity, and the environment – focusing on history and the
growing role and impact of the environmental justice movement in shaping new sustainability discourses, ethics,
policies, and plans for the twenty-first century. Environmental Justice embeds various disciplines into its analytical
framework ranging from human geography and history to urban studies, economics, sociology, environmental
science, public policy, community organizing, and more. Drawing from these disciplines, as well as from recent
policies, advocacy, and regulations, students will develop a deeper understanding of equity, sustainability, social
impact, and environmental justice in places and spaces across the nation.
Building on the broadness of environmental justice and sustainability, this course will use the geography lens and
frameworks, building on the concept that geography brings together the physical and human dimensions of the
world in the study of people, places, and environments. Geography will set the stage for us to explore a variety of
environmental justice topics and issues in different regions across the nation, from the Black Belt South to the Rust
Belt to Cancer Alley, New Orleans, and Atlanta; then back to New York City and the metropolitan area, introducing
students to initiatives, policies, stakeholders, research, community groups, and advocacy involved in the
development and implementation of environmental laws, policies, practices, equity-based solutions, and sustainable