A Breadcrumb Trail for the Mind(s)

I shared the following invitation/description with a group of people at school even though I knew that most of them were going to be in a competing meeting. Why would I do such a thing? I’ll answer below the invitation / description:

Environmental Data Justice: Developing Civically Valid Air Monitoring Methods with Oil and Gas Fenceline Communities

Speaker: Lourdes Vera, Northeastern University

Presented by: The Humanities Institute Science Studies Workshop

CLICK HERE to register

This is the story of how a group of residents, community organizers, and I learned to monitor the air for hazardous chemicals at homes neighboring oil and gas facilities in Karnes County, TX. Residents reported a number of problems: including dead livestock, rotten egg smells, nosebleeds, and respiratory health problems, eventually suspecting that industry-produced compounds, namely hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds, have likely contributed to these health impacts. Moreover, these problems had gone unheard by regulators and state agencies. In this talk I describe my and the resident’s collective process developing the data that we use to capture what it is like to be exposed to these pollutants. I call this framing “environmental data justice (EDJ)” as it recognizes the embodiment and materiality of environmental data while considering its role in perpetuating and/or challenging the matrix of domination- interlocking forms of oppression like racism, heteropatriarchy, and colonialism — that are perpetuated by conventional scientific practices.

I offered the above — to people who most likely couldn’t attend — because I wanted them to know that this kind of inquiry exists. I wanted them to catch even the slightest hint that conventional practices can and should be interrogated. I wanted them to think — hey, maybe I can connect my statistics class to that ethics class to that environmental science class to that English class to that extracurricular activity. More generally, I just wanted them to have a new breadcrumb trail to follow: this particular scholar at this particular institution as part of this particular research program. What might happen from here is entirely unpredictable. Maybe nothing. Maybe a whole lot more.

H/T to the scholar/writer/artist/activist who, lately, has left the most breadcrumbs for my own thinking, Sara Hendren.

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