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Environmental Justice and Sustainability Seminar

via Nate Steiner on Flickr

Co-sponsored by the Woods Institute for the Environment, the Bill Lane Center's seminar meets several times a quarter on Fridays at noon. The workshop's mission is to promote scholarly works and dialogue on environmental justice and sustainability in disadvantaged communities. It features speakers of various academic disciplines from both within and outside Stanford working on different aspects of environmental justice and inequity such as air and water quality, vulnerability to extreme weather, climate change, mitigation measures, access to affordable energy, and the like.

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Friday, January 29, 12 PM: Sociodemographic disparities in household energy insecurity before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

David Konisky, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, University of Indiana, Bloomington

Energy insecurity, or the inability to pay one’s energy bills, is a problem facing millions of American households. This talk present results from an ongoing, four-wave survey of low-income U.S. households that evaluates the prevalence of energy insecurity, the factors that contribute to it, and how the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. Our study finds that energy insecurity is highly prevalent among households within 200 percent of the federal poverty line. We further show substantial sociodemographic disparities in energy insecurity. Black and Hispanic households are more likely to experience energy insecurity and face utility disconnection, as are households with young children, individuals who require electronic medical devices, and those in living in energy inefficient dwellings. These findings are consistent across three distinct measures of energy insecurity and hold for both chronic and acute forms of energy insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has, moreover, both exacerbated such disparities and contributed to the incidence of energy insecurity through COVID-related unemployment and material hardship.

Bio: David Konisky’s research focuses on U.S. environmental and energy policy, with particular emphasis on regulation, federalism and state politics, public opinion, and environmental justice. His research has been published in various journals, including the American Journal of Political ScienceClimatic Change, Global Environmental Change, the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the Journal of PoliticsNature Energy, and Public Opinion Quarterly.


Friday, March 12, 12 PM: Climate Change from the Streets
Dr. Michael Mendez, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning, University of California, Irvine

Although the science of climate change is clear, policy decisions about how to respond to its effects remain contentious. Even when such decisions claim to be guided by objective knowledge, they are made and implemented through political institutions and relationships—and all the competing interests and power struggles that this implies. Michael Méndez tells a timely story of people, place, and power in the context of climate change and inequality. He explores the perspectives and influence low-income people of color bring to their advocacy work on climate change. In California, activist groups have galvanized behind issues such as air pollution, poverty alleviation, and green jobs to advance equitable climate solutions at the local, state, and global levels. Arguing that environmental protection and improving public health are inextricably linked, Mendez contends that we must incorporate local knowledge, culture, and history into policymaking to fully address the global complexities of climate change and the real threats facing our local communities.

Bio: Dr. Michael Mendez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine. He previously was the inaugural James and Mary Pinchot Faculty Fellow in Sustainability Studies at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Michael has more than a decade of senior-level experience in the public and private sectors, where he consulted and actively engaged in the policymaking process. This included working for the California State Legislature as a senior consultant, lobbyist, gubernatorial appointee, and as vice chair of the Sacramento City Planning Commission. 



Friday, April 23, 12 PM:
Professor David N. Pellow, Dehlsen and Department Chair of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project, University of California, Santa Barbara

Bio: Dr. Pellow teaches courses on environmental and social justice, race/class/gender and environmental conflict, human-animal conflicts, sustainability, and social change movements that confront our socioenvironmental crises and social inequality. He has volunteered for and served on the Boards of Directors of several community-based, national, and international organizations that are dedicated to improving the living and working environments for people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and working class communities, including the Global Action Research Center, the Center for Urban Transformation, the Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health, Global Response, Greenpeace USA, and International Rivers.