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SIO 114/ETHN 136 The Science and Critical Analysis of Environmental Justice

Tuesdays/Thursdays 930am-1050am
Cross Cultural Center (Communidad/Art Space)
[Thursday June 1: Meet Outside Location TBD]
Section Meetings (start second week):
Mondays 10am-1050am Women's Center or
Wednesdays 11am-1150am Raza Resource Centro

Download a pdf version of this syllabus here.


SIO/Ethnic Studies Collective: Osinachi Ajoku ; Manuel Belmonte ; Marlene Brito Millan ; América Martinez ; Moon Pankam ; Amrah Salomon J. ; Rishi Sugla .
Instructor: Brad Werner ( ).
Contact brad for course administrative, web site and grading related questions.


•Mondays NOON-1pm Groundwork Books (old stdnt ctr between food co-op+radio station)
•Wednesdays 1pm-2pm Groundwork Books (old stdnt ctr between food co-op+radio station)
(Groundwork Office Hours start Week Two)
•by appointment: e-mail brad at


This course is designed to bring together students from both STEM and Social Sciences and Humanities backgrounds to consider the multiple ways that humans and society interact with the environment. Many technological advances come at a great cost, some of which negatively affect the environment and its inhabitants, mainly in low-income, people of color, and Indigenous communities. This course will introduce students to historical debates and theoretical frameworks through which the relationship between humanity and the environment is studied. The course will also introduce students to methodologies for working in collaboration with communities negatively impacted by human induced changes in the environment. We will consider the origins and rationals for these negative changes, particularly as they intersect with problems of colonialism and capitalist accumulation, and their attendant effects on power, inequality, exploitation, race, gender, class, citizenship, and nation. The course will prepare students to critique and develop scientific models, research designs, and measurements that are consistent with environmental justice. These ideas will be explored through a series of case studies and across different geographic regions and scales.


This course is aimed at students in the sciences and engineering who want to learn techniques in critical analysis for investigating how society, science and engineering impact the environment; and for students in the humanities and social sciences who want to learn about the scientific basis for describing the human impacts of changes to the environment. All students will learn practical skills for using science and critical analysis for empowering communities to advocate for environmental justice.


• the basic and applied environmental science required to understand the biases inherent in society's interaction with the environment and to craft effective strategies for intervention.

• methods for critically analyzing the origin, development and potential for change in society's interaction with the environment
• the ideologies that influence society's interaction with the environment, including decolonization; environmental justice; conservation; environmental management; and free market environmentalism
• an outline of the history of land and resource-based environmental injustices.
• the ethics of environmental research and exploitation of natural resources.
• the disconnect between the time horizon and biases of research funding and priorities and an equitable relationship to the environment.
• a comparison of indigenous traditional knowledge and western scientific knowledge about the environment.
• a reflective critique of “aid” (charity and philanthropy and the construct of “the developing world”) and alternative forms of collaboration that redistribute resources and support self-determination.
• the role of activism and struggle in defining environmental justice.

• community engagement: practical techniques for research design and support to empower communities seeking environmental justice


1) 30% Two short blog posts answering questions about the reading (due before the start of each lecture) plus a weekly essay/blog post addressing one or two questions that integrate the topics covered in lecture and the reading plus a one paragraph summary of each class (Due Sundays at NOON):
3.0%x 10.
2) 25% Midterm project: Choose a current or historical problem in environmental justice, discuss the scientific basis for the problem, critically analyze it using Ethnic Studies frameworks, and describe the role that you as a UCSD student or future graduate might play in acting in solidarity with the struggle. 5-8 Page Paper.(Due date Friday May 12)
3) 35% Final Community Engagement Group Project.
4) 10% Attendance and class participation.


Discussion Guidelines: Please see Participant Responsibilities for classroom policies regarding discussions.

Ground Rules: The number one ground rule which we will all follow is to engage in respectful and considerate debate and discussion in the classroom. Abusive and harsh language will not be tolerated. These ground rules are reflected in the UCSD Principles of Community, which we are all expected to follow (see

Broad Perspectives: All participants in this class benefit from a broad range of perspectives, and the instructors of this course highly value these perspectives, especially appreciating those offered by recent immigrants and undocumented students. Support for students affected by political and legal restrictions on the free exchange of ideas and people can be sought from instructors, other students or the following: UCSD undocumented student services CGS undoc student services

Accommodations: If you need any accommodations for disability, illness, or other reason please see the instructor so we can create an accommodation plan for your success. Also, if you prefer a different name or gender pronoun than what is listed on your records, please let us know.

English-language Learning Needs: Some students will need to utilize office hours in order to get extra background and direction on the material. ELL students are highly encouraged to consult the resources at the OASIS center (858-534-3760). It is your responsibility to seek and utilize these resources as the need arises.

ADA Accommodation: If you have a disability or condition that compromises your ability to complete the requirements of this course, please inform us as soon as possible of your needs. We will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate you.

Cheating and Plagiarism: Cheating and/or plagiarism are not tolerated behaviors at UCSD. If you are caught cheating or plagiarizing someone else’s assignment, it will result in a failing grade and your infraction will be referred to your college for disciplinary action. If there is any suspicion that your assignments have been plagiarized, the case will be forwarded to the dean of your college for further investigation and appropriate disciplinary action.

Respecting our Classroom Spaces: The Cross Cultural Center, Raza Resource Centro and Women's Center have been very generous to provide spaces for our classes and section meetings. Respect for these spaces is required to pass SIO 114/ETHN 136.


Week 1: A Survey of Environmental Injustices and Struggles
Week 2: Indigenous Struggles for Land: Diné Struggles
Week 3: Land Grabbing in Africa
Week 4: Seeds and Soil: GMOs, Pesticides and Food Sovereignty
Week 5: Environmental Racism
Week 6: Intersectionality and Resource Depletion: Fisheries
Week 7: Marine Appropriation and Contamination: Pacific Islands Struggles
Week 8: Mining, Tar Sands, and Fracking
Week 9: Global Warming: Disconnect Between Source and Impact
Week 10: Course Summary and Project Presentations


The most up to date list of assigned reading is located under the link Assigned Reading. All reading selections are available for download from this link.

Read, listen to or watch these materials prior to class, write a short response to questions about the reading and upload to the web site before class starts and come prepared to summarize/synthesize, ask questions, answer questions and apply the concepts.