Mar 1, 2021 /

Science Denial in a World of Crises

What can decades of research on climate change denial tell us about fighting COVID-19? The world is currently faced with two crises—one immediate, one existential: a global pandemic and global climate change. Solving both problems will require intensive political action backed by public support, yet both suffer from a vocal minority that actively refute scientific consensus.
Exit polls from the 2020 presidential election show that almost a third of all voters fail to see climate change as a serious problem. 

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Feb 25, 2021 /

Our Responsibility to Indigenous Land Defenders

When you hear a land acknowledgment, or listen to Indigenous scholars like Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer talking about reciprocity with the land, you hopefully might think about responsibility. What is our responsibility to land? To water? To each other? What is our nation’s responsibility to people and ecosystems in other countries, near and far?
In 2016, Laura Zúñiga Cáceres traveled from Honduras to the Democratic National Convention to protest the assassination of her mother Berta Cáceres, founder of COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. 

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Feb 22, 2021 /

The First All-Woman Research Team to Overwinter in the Arctic

Hearts in the Ice is a citizen science project conducted by the first all-woman team to overwinter in the Arctic, composed of Sunniva Sorby and Hilde Fålun Strøm. Both women are skilled polar explorers, with years of collective experience in the Arctic and Antarctica. Sunniva was part of the first all-woman team to ski to the South Pole at the age of thirty during a multi-month expedition. 

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Feb 18, 2021 /

Giving Land Back is Really the Bottom Line: A Conversation with Dina Gilio-Whitaker

“Any diversity and equity or anti-racist work that doesn’t include an anti-colonial commitment, just perpetuates further erasure.” – Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Due to my interest in the history of the U.S. National Park Service and displacement of Indigenous peoples, last quarter I dug in a bit more and reached out to Dina Gilio-Whitaker, a prominent author and scholar on this topic, and read her book, As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice From Colonization to Standing Rock. 

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Feb 15, 2021 /

How COVID-19 Has Affected the SMEA Experience

The Currents board asked students in SMEA how their research has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, particularly for first-year students, what their experience has been like starting graduate school in the middle of a pandemic.
 Academic difficulties graduate students have struggled with due to COVID-19—like changing a research topic, curtailing lab or field work, canceling relationship-building opportunities, or reassessing post-graduation plans—all pale in comparison to the personal, often untold toll this pandemic has taken on so many, including those of us in the SMEA community. 

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Feb 11, 2021 /

From STEM to STEAM: An Interview with Isa Kelawili Whalen

Isa Kelawili Whalen is a senior at UW majoring in Anthropology and double minoring in Diversity and Oceania and Pacific Islander Studies (OPIS). She is also an Ocean Nexus Indigenous Ocean Ecologies Fellow, a year-long research fellowship focused on the intersections of sovereignty, wellbeing, and environmental justice among Indigenous coastal communities, especially in the Pacific Northwest. She also coaches soccer and plays on the Guam women’s national team. 

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Feb 8, 2021 /

The Highs and Lows of an Anxious Grad Student Grappling with Eco-anxiety

Trigger warning: This article briefly discusses thoughts of self-harm.
I’ve always been a pretty anxious person, and in a strange way, anxiety has been one of the oldest and most consistent presences in my life. So, when I first learned about climate change thanks to the Disney Channel’s programming, my gut reaction was anxiety. What will happen to me and the future children I wanted to have? 

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Feb 4, 2021 /

Dr. Sherry Pictou on Indigeneity, Feminism, and Resource Extraction

Sherry Pictou is a Mi’kmaw woman, former Chief from L’sɨtkuk (known as Bear River First Nation, Nova Scotia), and former Co-Chair of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples. She is an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, a member of the IPBES Task Force on Indigenous and Local Knowledge, and a Partnership Grant holder with KAIROS working on a project called: “Building Indigenous-Academic-Not-for-Profit Relations for Mobilizing Research Knowledge on the Gendered Impacts of Resource Extraction in Indigenous Communities in Canada.”
I first heard Sherry speak last fall as part of the UW School for Marine and Environmental Affairs’ (SMEA) Environmental Justice Speaker Series, and was immediately struck by her sincerity and compassion. 

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Feb 1, 2021 /

Lying through Art and Models to Uncover Truth

During college, I spent a summer working in Cape Cod, a headland known for its maritime personality, distinct architectural style, and the second homes of Massachusetts’s “East Egg.” On the weekends I would drive up the narrow cape, sink my toes in the dunes, and watch the sun disappear below the bay’s horizon. One weekend in Provincetown, at the tip of the Cape, I stumbled into a small art store owned by a woman who had lived in Cape Cod her entire life. 

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Jan 25, 2021 /

How a Biden Presidency Could Impact the EPA

“Fear never builds the future, but hope does.” Joe Biden spoke these words as the Democratic nominee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last year. His words may have been meant to inspire Americans at a time when divisions in the country had been made quite visible. Among many goals, the Biden administration has claimed that it will seek to bring economic relief while combating a deadly pandemic and rebuild the country’s trust in science. 

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Jan 19, 2021 /

Participatory Budgeting for Environmental Justice

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a process in which community members design and vote on projects to receive public funding. It is a tool for social justice and community empowerment that has gained momentum in Seattle following the protests to defend Black lives ignited by the murder of George Floyd. Although PB has been used to fund street improvement and park projects in Seattle since 2017, it is still unfamiliar to Seattle’s general population. 

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Jan 11, 2021 /

All the World’s a Climate Stage

As COVID-19 resulted in varying levels of economic shutdowns around the world last year, scientists were quick to predict a decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indeed, the peak of the decrease occurred in April 2020, with global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at seventeen percent below 2019 levels for the month, according to the Global Carbon Project. While recent estimates predict a seven percent overall reduction in GHG emissions for 2020, Earth has not escaped the tumultuous consequences of human-caused global warming. 

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Jan 4, 2021 /

Can Institutions Provide Equity and Environmental Justice?

Brian Tracey is a SMEA alumnus who graduated in 2019. He is the program coordinator for Seattle MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), an organization that provides hands-on STEM education to underrepresented or economically disadvantaged K-12 students in the city.
Brian wrote his thesis on the experience of underrepresented minorities at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) and was the head of the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) committees of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and of the College of the Environment during his time at UW. 

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Dec 14, 2020 /

“No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster” – Inequities of Hazard Events and Climate Change

“There’s no such thing as a natural disaster.” A gripping title and, perhaps, a seemingly controversial statement. During my undergraduate studies, I was assigned to read Neil Smith’s article on the subject in three separate classes. It captivated me from the beginning and began to shape my views as a budding social scientist and geographer.
So what exactly is meant by, “There’s no such thing as a natural disaster?” When we look at natural hazards, like hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes, they cannot all be coined as “disasters.” The location of a natural event determines whether or not it is a disaster. 

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Dec 7, 2020 /

Wellbeing at the Mountaintop

The trail winds around another switchback; your chest is burning and your legs are shaking. Your ankle is still throbbing from post-holing through remnants of late spring snow, and your hip belt has rubbed your skin raw. You fight back the urge to acknowledge that inner voice asking whether this is actually worth it. And then you reach the crest, overlooking craggy peaks that resemble cathedrals and alpine lakes colored hues of turquoise by glacial silt. 

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Nov 30, 2020 /

How the Demands of Black Lives Matter Extend to Climate Change

I am a habitual person; about four days a week this past summer, I biked south from my house in Wallingford to and around Mercer Island, traveling up and over Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. My route took me past the Seattle Police Department’s Capitol Hill precinct and through the former Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone that launched Seattle to national prominence as a center for change. 

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Nov 26, 2020 /

Ethnic Cleansing and Continued Indigenous Erasure within the National Park Service

Growing up I didn’t visit many of the U. S. National Parks, but I did look to them as paragons of the natural world. Watching the majestic Grand Tetons or towering redwoods flash across my television screen inspired awe and love for these places. I remember watching nature programs depicting fearsome brown bears feeding on bright red salmon in the pristine rivers of Alaska and packs of wolves and elk playing out the dramatic dance of life and death in Yellowstone. 

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Nov 23, 2020 /

There’s No Climate Justice without Gender Justice

There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about the link between racial and environmental injustice. But amidst efforts to address these issues, one crucial component often seems to get left by the wayside. What about gender justice? Women, particularly BIPOC women, are critical leaders at the forefront of environmental stewardship, but also one of the demographics most disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. 

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Nov 19, 2020 /

Brian Tracey on Changing the Paradigm for Young Minority Students

Brian Tracey is a SMEA alumnus who graduated last year. He is the program coordinator for Seattle MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), an organization that provides hands-on STEM education to underrepresented or economically disadvantaged K-12 students in the area.
Brian wrote his thesis on the experience of underrepresented minorities at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) and was the head of the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) committees of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and of the College of the Environment during his time at UW. 

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Nov 16, 2020 /

Water as Pedagogy: Six Weeks on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

After canoeing over 600 miles this summer, I could tell you about the visceral feelings that accompany being outside for forty days and nights in a row, or the adrenaline rushes inherent in a dynamic long-distance canoe trip. I could tell you about the jaw-dropping beauty, the moments of extreme tranquility, and the intimate and kindred encounters with moose, snapping turtles, and eagles. 

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