Weekly Update: Environmental Justice in N.C., Nic Assists Duke-Delta Program, Di Giulio Joins EPA Subcommittee and more....

January 25, 2018

A weekly roundup of Nicholas School news, awards and grants from Dean Jeff Vincent

james peterson story northampton county

Sari Palmroth and five of her students are working with Northampton County farmer James Peterson and a regional non-profit to help him manage his forests for revenue. See more below. Photo by Raul Rubiera.

Hi Everyone,
This is a good week to draw attention to the issue of environmental justice (EJ), which EPA defines as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” 
Like much else in the U.S. environmental field (for example, science-based natural resource management), EJ started in North Carolina, when a predominantly African-American community in Warren Countyprotested the siting of a hazardous waste dump in their community. The movement has grown since and become the focus of many organizations’ work and an increasing body of rigorous academic research.
The impacts of EJ can be subtle and lasting. See the first story below, which indicates how a Master’s Project by three of our Master of Forestry students revealed unjust tree-planting practices in Durham nearly a century ago. A new partnership between Duke and Delta Airlines is taking a step toward redressing that wrong, while benefiting the global climate.
Environmental protection efforts themselves can inadvertently be a source of injustice. Two-thirds of forestland in North Carolina is owned by private households, roughly half a million in total. Those households include ones in communities of color. (Look for a forthcoming story in Dukenvironment about an outstanding project by Sari Palmroth and her students to assist African-American forest owners.)

Rural forest owners typically have incomes below the state average, and they depend on income from harvests of timber, wood fuels, and other forest products to make ends meet. Environmentally motivated restrictions on sustainable wood harvesting can impose economic costs on them that are difficult to bear—and potentially backfire environmentally, by encouraging households to sell their land to developers instead of keeping it in trees.
Whether the topic of EJ is new to you or you’re already deeply immersed in it, I strongly encourage you to come to the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic’s first annual Environmental Justice Symposium on Feb. 9 at Duke Law School. The symposium, which focuses on access to water and sanitation in underserved communities, will include a panel discussion with community organizers from across the U.S. who are addressing barriers to clean water and sanitation services.

Environmental rights advocate Catherine Flowers will present a keynote address about her work on water and sanitation access in historically African-American communities in rural Alabama. Nic School facultyErika Weinthal and Betsy Albright and their students have been partnering with Catherine and her nonprofit, the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), since 2014. You can sign up to attend the symposium here. I hope to see you there.
Read on for more news.

  1. Duke has partnered with Delta Airlines for a first-of-its-kind sustainability program that will purchase 5,000 carbon credits to offset emissions from all university business travel on Delta in 2017. They also will plant 1,000 trees in the Triangle – offsetting an additional 5,000 metric tons of CO2. Approximately half of the trees will be planted in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods identified through a Nicholas School Master’s Project by Michael Asch MEM/MF ’16, Gregory Cooper MEM/MF ’16, and Anne Liberti MF ’16 and their advisor Nicki Cagle. Michael, Greg and Anne’s MP mapped the impacts of racially motivated red-lining policies in the 1930s that resulted in trees being planted at that time in mostly wealthy white neighborhoods. Great to see student research yielding real-world benefits! 
  1. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has appointed our own Rich Di Giulio to the Chemical Safety for Sustainability Subcommittee of the EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors! Rich will serve a yearlong term. The Board of Scientific Counselors advises the EPA’s Office of Research and Development on its research programs, and helps set priorities. 
  1. MEM student Adam Fisher has been selected as an inaugural fellow in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Environmental Entrepreneurs program. As part of Adam’s fellowship, he’ll receive $25,000 to supplement his Master’s Project research, which accesses opportunities for strategic collaboration as well as obstacles to joint implementation among  cities and companies that have committed to using 100 percent clean energy sources. 
  1. PhD student Linchen He has received a $5,000 scholarship for graduate research from Jacobs. He’ll use the funding to advance his research on the impact of air filtration intervention on asthmatic children in China. Linchen earned his MEM and a Certificate in Sustainable Systems Analysis from the Nic School in 2015; he’s another great example of MEMs who go on to pursue careers in research. Jim Zhang is his faculty advisor. 
  1. Jackson Ewing was named a faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute last month. Though based in Durham, he’s responsible for planning and implementing collaborative research and outreach activities with Duke Kunshan University's Environmental Research Center and the Nicholas Institute while developing educational activities for the International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) program to help it grow on campus. The iMEP program is a joint initiative of the Nic School, Sanford School of Public Policy and DKU. Students from its inaugural 2017-18 class will visit and take classes at the Nic School and Sanford School for one semester next year.  
  1. The Nic School is joining with the Pratt School of Engineering to sponsor Duke Conservation Technology’s second annual Blueprint Conference on Feb. 2-3. The conference brings together scientists, engineers, students and conservation practitioners from across the country to explore new advances in conservation technologies. This year’s focus will be on new approaches to tackling illegal poaching, invasive species, habitat degradation, deadly human-wildlife interactions and other problems that can arise at the human-wildlife interface. To register or learn more, go here.

Keep me up to date on what you are doing. Submit your items here.