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2020-21 Environmental Justice Salons


It is not always obvious how equity and justice relate to environmental issues. Yet we know there is considerable experience on this subject across the University of Washington. By providing a venue to share insights with a broad audience, we hope to start a much-needed cross-disciplinary conversation on the question of “What does it mean to center equity and justice in environmental work?”

What does it mean to center equity and justice in environmental work?

The EarthLab Salon is a 3-part quarterly public lecture and workshop series designed to highlight expertise and leadership on this subject in the UW-wide community, especially among students, and build a foundation of shared understanding, values and language among participants. In doing so, we hope to foster opportunities for a new cross-cutting community to connect and collaborate on shared interests. We plan to take lessons learned into our work at EarthLab.

EarthLab’s mission is to work in partnership with others to accelerate and focus UW expertise to address large-scale environmental challenges, making a positive impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Underpinning this mission is a commitment to put equity and justice at the core of our work. We recognize that addressing complex environmental challenges requires an understanding of how inequities and injustices are both causes and consequences of such issues. Furthermore, we must redress inequities and injustices in how we bring people and knowledge together in our work and workplaces to make decisions and co-create solutions.

Past Presentations


Community-Led Partnerships for Environmental Justice in the Duwamish Valley

May 4, 2021 | 6:00-7:30 PM

There is only one river in Seattle. The Duwamish River Valley needs us — all of us — working together for a better future.

In order to foster healthy communities and the advancement of social justice in the face of adverse health impacts which will be exacerbated by climate change, community-led partnerships with universities and the public sector are the key to creating inclusive solutions which heal the cumulative impact of systemic inequity.

Due to the complex legacy of environmental racism in the Duwamish Valley, building community resilience through community ownership, decision-making and power-building is imperative to establishing equitable safeguards for a resilient district.

Together we can knit together critical systems and infrastructure to support public health, social cohesion, environmental justice, economic relief and cross-cultural identity for thriving communities.

Presented by: The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, Seattle Public Utilities, the Seattle Port Community Action Team & environmental justice community leaders.


How We Present Native Knowledge is Environmental Justice: A Case for Indigenous Storytelling in Museums

December 1, 2020 | 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM 

Presented by Oliver L. Owen, Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies and Racquel West, Bill Holm Center.

Part of centering equity and justice in environmental work includes honoring the knowledge and work of communities that disproportionately face environmental harms. This idea comes to bear when we consider the social and ecological harm Indigenous communities are experiencing due to large environmental events such as climate change, yet much of the academic and institutional community dismiss Native knowledge as non-scientific and non-relevant. 

As public institutions, museums are often the primary, self-proclaimed expert of knowledge. They present Indigenous cultures and discuss their relationship to lands while suppressing the voices of the disenfranchised. The presentation focused on presenting some of the treasures of the Burke Museum along with commentary by Indigenous activists and poets, who will reclaim their history and stories creating a larger shift in how we present Indigenous Knowledges in Western institutions.


Equity and Justice-Centered Action for Climate Empowerment

May 14, 2020 | 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Presented by Deb Morrison, Learning Scientist for UW Institute of Science and Math Education and Frank Niepold, Climate Education Coordinator for NOAA.

How can we accelerate equitable and just climate action? In this talk we explore this question, considering what kind of system changes are needed to ensure that everyone knows how to rapidly contribute from their sphere of influence to improve our shared future with respect to climate change and intersections issues. We will share about the nature of climate science as a field, the ways in which learning can be organized, and new transformative opportunities in practice that are emerging in the field of climate justice.

This presentation was recorded on May 14, 2020.

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