Environmental Justice


A sound understanding of environmental issues comes from recognizing the interconnectedness of social and biophysical factors.  As we comprehend these relationships better, we gain more insight into the roles that equity and justice play in environmental affairs.  Around the globe, Environmental Justice has emerged as a field of study to examine the actions, processes, and institutions through which environmental inequalities arise and are maintained. 

At SNRE, we have developed and international environmental justice program that focus on historical as well as contemporary issues.  Faculty and students are working on projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and North America.  They are tackling global issues such as climate change, renewable resources, environmental health, governance, sustainability, agriculture, food security, forest dynamics, exposure to hazards, mitigation, spatial analysis, community revitalization, green jobs and environmental workforce dynamics, and open space.  Faculty and students are engaged with these and other topics on several levels:  they are at the forefront of conducting research, proposing and enacting policy, building institutions, collaborating with communities in which environmental justice problems arise, and providing services to strengthen the field worldwide. 

“Environmental Justice has revolutionized the way we understand the environment and SNRE has played a critical role in facilitating this process,” says Professor Dorceta Taylor, Coordinator of the Environmental Justice field of study.

As an environmental justice student you will develop a broad understanding of the historical and contemporary factors that shape environmental justice movements around the world.  You will study the mechanisms that give rise to class, gender, racial, and other kinds of disparities.  You will study affected constituents -- communities, industry, government, environmental activists, policymakers, and scholars – to learn about the causes and consequences of inequitable distributions of environmental benefits and hazards.  You will also learn about various methods for researching environmental justice issues and strategies for formulating policies and collaborating with communities.

What you will study

An interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach is crucial to the understanding complex environmental issues because environmental problems cross local, regional, and national boundaries. The curriculum is designed to develop your research, problem-solving, interpersonal, communication, and administrative skills within the context of understanding broad environmental dynamics.

You will examine the historical, scientific, social, legal, cultural, and political complexities of the relationship between people and the built and natural environments. You will be exposed to course work that covers Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.  There are also opportunities to have field experiences or conduct research in these and other regions of the globe.

You will devise strategies to promote sustainable communities and participate in efforts to educate policymakers, educators, lawmakers, health professionals, industry leaders, and the public about environmental disparities.

Launching your career

The Environmental Justice field of study enables students to acquire an interdisciplinary perspective on natural resource and environmental issues. You can leverage your knowledge and skills to pursue a career in environmental education, work in governmental policy development and management, consulting, grant writing, or in a nonprofit organization.

Graduates work at the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration as well as state and local environmental agencies.  They also work in environmental consulting firms, conservation organizations, environmental justice organizations, and law firms. They can be heard on National Public Radio; they also work as journalists for international newspapers. Others work in academia as faculty members, post doctoral fellows, or in student affairs.  Our graduates are also found in environmental grant-making foundations as program officers and hazard mitigation specialists. Some of our graduates have founded successful consulting companies or community-based organizations. For more information on Environmental Justice, please visit the EJ track careers page or contact snre.admissions@umich.edu.

Environmental Justice Certificate

The University of Michigan has a long-standing commitment to the academic study of Environmental Justice. It is the site of the first environmental justice curriculum of any university in the nation. The objectives of the Environmental Justice Certificate are to provide fundamental skills and knowledge; methods and applications of Environmental Justice to enhance the education of students from a wide-range of relevant disciplines at the University of Michigan.  Click here to learn more about the EJ certificate program.

Click here to read more on the Environmental Justice companion site.