Lauren Richter will give the next Human Ecology Forum talk at College of the Atlantic on Feb. 26. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

Richter to speak about environmental justice

BAR HARBOR — Sociologist Lauren Richter will examine how structural racism produces both “disparate exposure and failed institutional recourse in marginalized spaces” at College of the Atlantic’s Human Ecology Forum in McCormick Lecture Hall on Monday, Feb. 26, at 4:10 p.m.

The talk is cosponsored by the COA Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative.

Drawing on a case study of a contested birth defect cluster in Kettleman City, Calif., Richter’s research deepens scholarship on environmental justice.

Drawing on perspectives from environmental sociology and critical race theory, she asks if Mills’ (1997) “conceptually invisible space” might also be “scientifically and legally invisible space.”

Her work highlights the responsibility of scientists in bringing environmental justice to such invisible spaces.

“Science is a central tool in identifying and evaluating the existence of adverse environmental health effects,” Richter said. “Expert knowledge acts as a gatekeeper to scientific, regulatory, and legal recourse for residents of highly polluted communities.”

Richter is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Northeastern University and a member of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute. She studies social and environmental inequality, specifically controversies surrounding chemical exposures and health outcomes.

Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Richter worked at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in California from 2009-2013. She serves on the board of directors at Alternatives for Community and Environment, a Roxbury, Mass.-based environmental justice organization. In 2015, she received the graduate department’s Outstanding Public and Applied Research Award.

Richter is a 2017-2018 Switzer Environmental Fellow and received a 2017 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement award.

The Human Ecology Forum is a free, weekly speaker series based on the work of the academic community, which also draws on artists, poets, and political and religious leaders from around the world. Members of the public are invited to attend.


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