‘Father of environmental justice’ to speak, accept social justice award at WSU

A climate march in San Francisco
The People's Climate Movement led a march in San Francisco in 2018 to raise awareness and demand action on climate issues.

PULLMAN, Wash. – America is segregated and pollution is too, says Robert D. Bullard, 2019 recipient of Washington State University’s William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice. Widely known as the “father of environmental justice,” Bullard will accept the award and deliver a free, public address on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 7:00 p.m. in the Compton Union Building (CUB) Junior Ballroom, WSU Pullman.

Non-Pullman audiences can view the talk via WSU Online.

His address, “The Quest for Environmental, Climate, Racial, and Economic Justice in the United States,” is part of the biennial William Julius Wilson Symposium, which enables students and the wider community to honor and engage with leading figures in the promotion of social inclusiveness and diversity in social policies.

“Dr. Bullard has devoted his career to producing careful research that documents the ills of social inequality and promotes equity in all its forms,” said Justin Denney, William Julius Wilson distinguished professor of sociology at WSU and chair of the symposium organizing committee. “This is a unique opportunity for WSU students and community members alike to engage with a trailblazer and prominent thinker in social and environmental policy.”

The subject of Bullard’s talk intersects themes in WSU’s 2019–20 Common Reading book, “Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World,” by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.

Research by Bullard and others shows that race and class map closely with pollution and unequal protection of residents against environmental threats to their health. They have found that people who live in particular zip codes are exposed to greater environmental hazards and suffer higher rates of preventable diseases.

A recent WSU-led study also shows that neighborhood immigrant status, low English proficiency, economic disadvantage and non-white composition are strong predictors of proximity to harmful air pollution.

About the speaker

Closeup of Robert Bullard
Robert D. Bullard is a former dean of the Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and currently a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at TSU.

Bullard is a former dean of the Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and currently a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at TSU. He was an expert witness on the 1979 Bean v Southwestern Waste Management Corp. lawsuit, the first of its kind to challenge environmental racism using civil rights law.

He works closely with the broader Environmental Justice Movement to reduce environmental, health, economic and racial disparities among individuals and communities through equal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

Bullard became known as the “father of environmental justice” after his 1979 study “Solid Waste Sites and the Houston Black Community,” which laid the foundation for four decades of environmental justice research. He is co-founder of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Change Consortium and the author of 18 books. His “Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality” was the first book to introduce many readers to the field of environmental justice (Westview Press, 1990). It won the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award in Science.

His latest books include “Race, Place and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina” (2009), “Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States” (2011), and “The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities” (2012).

Bullard recently was listed among the world’s “100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy” by national public policy group Apolitical and received the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication from Climate One.

In 2018, the Global Climate Change Summit named him one of 22 “Climate Trailblazers.” In 2017, the Children’s Environmental Health Network presented him with the Child Health Advocate Award. In 2015, the American Bar Association presented him with its Environmental, Energy, and Resources Stewardship Award. In 2014, the Sierra Club inaugurated an Environmental Justice Award in Bullard’s name and, in 2013, honored him with the John Muir Award. In 2008, Newsweek named him one of “13 Environmental Leaders of the Century.”

About the William Julius Wilson Award and Symposium

Washington State University created the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice in 2009 to honor individuals who promote social inclusiveness and diversity in social policies and strive to reduce joblessness.

Wilson received his doctorate in sociology from WSU in 1966 and is widely considered one of the nation’s most influential sociologists. He is the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University.

The symposium and award are sponsored by the WSU Office of the Provost, Office of Equity and Diversity, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences, Common Reading Program, Sociology Graduate Student Organization, Pre-Law Resource Center, Environmental Science Club and the Environmental Sustainability Alliance.

For more details, visit the William Julius Wilson Award and Symposium website.

Media contacts:

  • Justin Denney, professor, Department of Sociology, justin.denney@wsu.edu, 509-335-4595
  • Adriana Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences communications, adriana@wsu.edu, 509-335-5671

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