YDS brings together environmental justice and climate change activists

Yale Divinity School, in cooperation with other Yale entities, is sponsoring an April 8-10 conference aimed at exploring issues of environmental justice and climate change.

The conference, entitled “Environmental (Dis)Locations,” will be held at three locations: YDS, the St. Thomas More Chapel & Center, and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. It will bring together activists in the fields of environmental justice and climate change with an eye toward addressing global environmental problems with community-based approaches. A central goal will be to help participants think about how religious communities can respond to environmental racism while confronting global ecological problems. There will be plenary talks and “think tank” sessions for developing strategies.

Lead Story“Environmental justice advocates have developed models of resistance to environmental racism and created models for local advocacy and political resistance,” according to conference publicity materials. “Those working on issues of climate change have advocated for place-based ecological management schemes as a way to produce the social intelligence needed to understand and address complex environmental problems.

“Both groups have much to learn from each other’s approaches, and this conference brings advocates of both approaches together to focus on how environmental justice communities can develop socially just steps to address climate change. This is where the role of religion enters the conference to help participants think about how religious communities can respond to environmental racism while confronting global ecological problems.”

The emerging field of environmental justice is defined on the web site of the Environmental Protection Agency this way: “Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” In the late 1980s, the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice was instrumental in making some of the initial links between issues of race and the environment, such as the siting of toxic waste dumps near areas populated by people of color.

The conference features plenary talks by Carl Anthony, University of California at Berkeley; Robert Bullard, Clark Atlanta University; Dianne Dumanowski, journalist; David Orr, Oberlin College; and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University. Panelists include Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale University; Nick Robinson, Pace University School of Law; and Giovanna Di Chiro, Mount Holyoke College. The think tank sessions, where participants will try to develop strategies to use in their local settings, include international leaders such as Desmond D’sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance in South Africa; and FelÌcio Pontes of BelÈm da Para, Brazil.

The conference is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested. Registration forms will be available for download on the YDS web site by the end of January.

In addition to YDS, sponsors include the Yale Center for Transnational Cultural Analysis, the Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center, the Forum on Religion and Ecology, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Department of African American Studies. A primary organizer of the conference is Emilie Townes, associate dean of academic affairs at YDS and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology.