Spring 2018

On Teaching

  • The Power of Self-Reflection Faculty in higher education are seldom ‘taught’ how to do most of the things they’re asked to do as faculty. They're not taught how to incorporate technology in ...
    Posted Apr 10, 2018, 12:42 PM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Transparent Teaching to Engage Students Transparent teaching means loosening your grip on your own course and even allowing students to participate in its creation. The transparent teaching approach has been proven effective in improving student ...
    Posted Mar 15, 2018, 12:27 PM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Make time to breathe After twenty years of teaching, a senior faculty member decided to try having his students focus on their breath at the start of each class in his First Year Seminar ...
    Posted Feb 22, 2018, 2:04 PM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Create and Maintain a Positive Learning Environment Start the spring semester off fresh and set the proper tone for a positive learning environment by creating agreements for classroom citizenship. Every student should explicitly understand what is expected ...
    Posted Jan 23, 2018, 7:42 AM by Rita Breidenbach
  • How to Foster Effective Discussion and Engage Reluctant Students Students who are shy or have public speaking insecurities shouldn’t have to feel excluded from classroom engagement. In a recent Faculty Focus article, Meriah L. Crawford, Associate Professor at ...
    Posted Nov 30, 2017, 10:56 AM by Rita Breidenbach
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 20. View more »

Welcome to The New School Faculty Professional Development Network, your resource for all things related to faculty, including teaching and learning, research and creative practice, grants, new faculty support services, and leadership development. 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: talking environmental justice with Ana Baptista

Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Sustainability and Associate Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center 

What is environmental justice? 

Environmental justice means that everyone has a right to a clean and healthy environment where they live, work and play. 


Who is most vulnerable and suffers the most from environmental injustice? 

People of color and low income communities in the United States typically suffer the most. Wherever you have black, brown, and poor communities you’ll see pollution concentrated in those areas along with fighting over gentrification and displacement of residents from housing. So you have multiple layers of injustice and racism, and environmental pollution is just one expression of that. Burdens that impact people's health and quality of life are another symptom of a larger environmental problem that we see. And of course, it’s not just in the United States. A lot of what I do focuses on environmental justice in Newark which is my hometown where I grew up, but there are communities that are marginalized all around the world like indigenous communities, poor communities and rural communities. They are often the most powerless and vulnerable to pollution.


Did growing up in Newark impact your interest in environmental justice?  

I didn't know the term environmental justice existed when I was younger. I didn’t know there was a name for it. I think most young people in particular have a strong sense of fairness, and social justice appeals to them because intuitively you know when things don't seem right. Growing up in Newark, you see the conditions of your environment and it may not stand out to you because it’s sort of just what you know. But when you go outside of your neighborhood to a suburb and you see the conditions are so much better, you start to wonder why. When I was a young person my parents were really involved and active in fighting the waste dumps that were being proposed for the neighborhood so I became very involved in the protests and that made me more politically aware that it wasn’t just a coincidence, but there are forces out there actively seeking to target your community because they believe that you are powerless. That was a real awakening for me and certainly helped shape and form my professional interest in my career going forward. 


What are “zero-waste systems”? 

As a society we consume a lot and we throw a lot of things away. But there really is no “away” and that garbage that we produce is harming people at the sites of disposal like incinerators or landfills. We discard these things in the communities that are most vulnerable which creates a lot of negative impacts and are unjustly placed on them. Zero waste systems are an attempt to reconfigure these systems so that we produce less harmful products and consume less so that we don't throw away so many things. And when we do throw things away, we find ways to reuse or compost them. Zero waste means that we have a society where there’s, if not zero, very little waste. Zero waste means that all the material that runs through our economy and society has some useful purpose and can be reused again. It’s sort of an ideal but it’s striving to make the systems of consumption and disposal more just and sustainable. 

Tell us a bit about your Environmental Justice tour taking place in Newark, NJ on April 20th. 

It’s a tour that highlights a couple of different areas of development in Newark. One is the ecological, economic and environmental history in Newark along with the racial and social injustices that have occurred over the decades. We are going to go through the seaport and industrial zones and I think that’s really interesting for people because Newark is home to the third largest sea port in the country. Most of the goods that we consume throughout this entire region come through the port of Newark and Elizabeth so we’re going to see the underbelly of the entire region’s infrastructure of consumption. And then we’re going to go into the neighborhood and talk to residents and community organizers about some of the initiatives to combat environmental injustice. You’ll get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. 


What do you say to those who believe climate change is a hoax? 

There are two kinds of people who say that nonsense. One are the people who don't really believe it but their political ideology demands that they make use of this rhetoric as a part of their agenda and the second kind are those who say it because they are truly ignorant. They haven’t taken the time to look at the evidence on their own. It’s harder to convince the first type of people because they’re not coming from a place of truly wanting to see the evidence. They want to promote a world view or political agenda. No amount of data or evidence is going to sway those people. For me, it’s about paying attention to the people who aren’t paying attention because they could be helping to sway the conversation but they don’t feel it’s something they need to be a part of. So they tune out, become apathetic or feel like there is nothing that can be done. Those are the people I would rather turn my attention to. We can motivate people by appealing to their social and moral compass and to their love of family and the things that they hold dear because climate change will surely impact those things, if not in this generation, then certainly in the next.


What is the biggest obstacle that environmental justice faces?

The biggest obstacle is apathy and people feeling like there's nothing that can be done. People have so many needs in their life and there are so many competing issues vying for their attention like getting food on the table, getting their kids educated, and basic things that everyone is worried about. Climate change may seem abstract or irrelevant so the biggest challenge is getting people to focus on the urgency of the moment. It doesn’t feel like it’s an urgent problem until the hurricane happens. 


Any advice for professors interested in transdisciplinary opportunities for bringing awareness to environmental justice in their classroom? 

One of the easiest things to do is to become affiliated with the Tishman Environment and Design Center because it’s a great resource for faculty from different disciplines. It provides a platform and a venue for faculty to meet each other, share resources and collaborate on classroom projects. Also, we had a curriculum disruption week in February in an attempt to engage The New School community in provocative questions dealing with the idea that climate change will impact the most vulnerable people in the world the worst. The curriculum disruption website has resources for the ways different faculty integrated that week. There were some really great ideas that were generated from faculty in very different disciplines.  

Read prior interviews here.