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College of Languages, Literature, and Social Sciences (LLSC)
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Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice
At its core, the Sustainable Development focus of Africana Studies at The University of Toledo (UT) seeks to increase and enhance environmental leadership in and from low-income and communities of color. Our Africana Studies program is a forerunner in the field due to its early concentration on sustainable development. Students in Africana Studies at UT, through an innovative curriculum, learn the general knowledge of this field of study and also gain an in-depth background of the themes and issues that define sustainable development and environmental justice.
Dr. Rubin Patterson, the Africana Studies program director, has published broadly on sustainability issues in peer-reviewed journals and book publications. In 2014, his book, the first that organically connects Africana Studies and Sustainability Studies, will be published by the Temple University Press.
The specialized areas of sustainable development and environmental justice emerged to correct the long-term environmental, biological, and economic adverse effects of industrial production, as well as the attendant racial and class-based discrimination regarding the distribution of industrial and municipal pollution, brownfields, and noxious facilities.
While African Americans are overrepresented in and around census tracts that house brownfields and hazardous waste, they are underrepresented in the professional areas of environmental public policy, environmental studies, environmental activism and NGO administration, environmental sciences and engineering, and environmental entrepreneurship. By combining Africana Studies with Sustainability Studies, our program strives to become a national leader in increasing the number of students from underrepresented communities who will become trained professionals working to address challenges such as mitigation and adaptation associated with climate change and environmental injustice, as well as create new knowledge and innovate products and services that will sustain communities, both ecologically and economically. Our program provides excellent preparation for students who are interested in pursuing graduate and professional studies and training for entrance into environmentally oriented careers.
The University of Toledo’s Africana Studies program provides students with opportunities to concentrate on addressing environmental justice and sustainable development issues in black communities either in the United States or in Africa. In addition to becoming steeped in the associated scholarship, students will have the opportunity to engage in either community-based and participatory action research in Toledo or in policy-level research in Africa.
African Americans constitute about a quarter of Toledo’s population of nearly 300,000 in a metropolitan area of approximately 700,000. Toledo provides a terrific space for the study of sustainable development and environmental justice, especially since the city is right in the middle of the old industrial rust belt. After formally being the “glass capital of the world” and subsequently a leading manufacturing center, particularly in association with the Big Three automotive producers, the decline of glass and manufacturing production left Toledo searching for a third act. The federal, state, and local government, as well as the private sector, has invested significantly in capacity-building in the renewable energy sector. Metropolitan Toledo has emerged as one of America’s leading centers for the research, development, and commercialization of renewable energy, particularly solar PV (photovoltaic). As part of its community engagement, Africana Studies strives to help inform, prepare, and mobilize black Toledo around a whole new green economic sector that is poised for take off. Overall, society will be better off when all communities can effectively collaborate on increasing the number and quality of green-collar jobs as well as compete for them.
In addition to gaining the training needed for careers associated with the renewable energy industry and other sustainable development economic activities, there are also career opportunities related to addressing the lingering environmental injustices from the twentieth century. Not unlike in other urban areas, brownfields and noxious facilities in general are disproportionately located in black communities in Toledo. Students in our program will learn the theory and practice of addressing environmental justice by working with community-based organizations, establishment NGOs, and government agencies at all levels.
With regard to Africa, the continent may have the smallest carbon footprint, but it suffers the most from climatic shocks. The growing season and agricultural yields are both being reduced due to environmental changes triggered primarily by the industrial West, and more recently by newly emerging industrial powers such as China and India. Students will have an opportunity to engage African sustainable development and environmental justice issues in some of the leading institutions in Southern Africa, institutions that were founded to give citizens more choices on the continent. Opportunities are available for students to do fieldwork on environmental and other development issues at universities where the UT Africana Studies program has relationships, particularly in Southern Africa.
Students can consider international internships and subsequently career opportunities with institutions such as the United Nations Environment Program . With a focus on sustainable development and environmental justice, the Africana Studies program at the University of Toledo uniquely helps prepare students for important and rewarding leadership positions in environmentally oriented careers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Some of the available courses include: Environmental Inequalities & Opportunities; Environmentalisms in Urban Communities; Environmental Justice; and Women and the Environment in Africa.