“You’ll need permission from the mine to work here” – Navigating Power and Cultural Idiosyncrasies in Legacy Rural Mining Communities

Authors: Monica Ramirez-Andreotta*, University of Arizona
Topics: Environmental Science, Cultural and Political Ecology, Communication
Keywords: environmental health, community science, justice, structural change, social-ecological change, community science
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


An Environmental Justice (EJ) Framework was developed to uncover the underlying assumptions that may contribute to and produce unequal protection. In addition to characterizing risk, political and ethical questions need to be asked about who gets what, why, and how much. These social and economic complexities require new forms of investigation. Environmental health risks are disproportionately co-located with communities in poverty and communities of color. Sometimes, participatory research projects have effectively addressed structural causes of health risk. However, failure to recognize the limits of epidemiology and technical elitism may lead to project let down. Even when these fundamental challenges are confronted and a participatory approach is used, researchers may be met with industry serving as community gatekeepers and discouragement from regulatory agencies, ending in failure to catalyze change at a structural level. Strategies for confronting power dynamics and creating structural change include: 1) having community members hold formal leadership roles, 2) designing the project with decision-makers and policy goals, and 3) sustaining partnerships and funding. Tactics for successfully sharing results include: 1) building transdisciplinary teams, 2) data standardization and interoperability among existing community generated and governmental datasets, and 3) ensuring data report-back products serve as boundary objects for use in multiple social spheres. Together, these efforts can build environmental health literacy with communities to then persevere the unique set of challenges justice projects face when they stive for structural social-ecological change.

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