Intersectional Sustainability: An activist framework to address social justice on university campuses

Authors: Keara Hudler*, Southwestern University, Nataley Ford*, , Joanna Mendez*, , Lilly Dennis*, Southwestern University, Muriel DiNella*,
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Higher Education, United States
Keywords: Sustainability; social sustainability; intersectionality; student activism
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Formal definitions of ‘sustainability’ include three components: the social, environmental, and economic. Universities in the United States have made recent progress in addressing environmental and economic sustainability, but have generally devoted fewer resources to social sustainability. Scholars attribute this oversight to the malleability of the term “social sustainability” and its interpretations. Narrow understandings of what makes up “the environment” contribute to this incomplete interpretation of sustainability. To clarify this issue, we define the environment as “a space in which a community lives” in this paper. We argue that universities struggle to address issues of social sustainability as a result of persisting oppressive ideologies, exclusionary policy language, and obstacles that keep students from enacting their agency. In order to address the absence of intersectional and comprehensive sustainability initiatives on United States’ campuses, this paper outlines the concept of social sustainability and identifies issues of social sustainability on college campuses. With this framework in mind we argue for the formal inclusion of social sustainability into policies and initiatives on college campuses. We then provide a detailed account of our own university’s relationship with sustainability, drawing from students’ personal accounts, and compare this to those of other universities.

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