Archive for February, 2015

Can Science Writing Collectives Overcome Barriers to More Democratic Communication and Collaboration? Lessons from Environmental Communication Praxis in Southern Appalachia

February 23, 2015 Comments off

As some of my other posts show, I have been interested in how writing collectives can operate and say different things than single or multi-authored writing projects.  This new paper reflects of efforts out of the Coweeta Listening Project’s (CLP) experience having written many newspaper essays under the moniker of “Science, Public Policy, Community”, but under the shared authorship of the Coweeta Listening Project Writing Collective.

Burke, B. J., M. Welch-Devine, S. Gustafson, N. Heynen, J. L. Rice, T.L. Gragson, S.Evans, D. R. Nelson. (forthcoming) “Can science writing collectives overcome barriers to more democratic communication and collaboration? Lessons from environmental communication praxis in southern Appalachia.” Environmental Communication

Abstract: Despite compelling reasons to involve nonscientists in the production of ecological
knowledge, cultural and institutional factors often dis-incentivize engagement between
scientists and nonscientists. This paper details our efforts to develop a biweekly
newspaper column to increase communication between ecological scientists, social
scientists, and the communities within which they work. Addressing community generated
topics and written by a collective of social and natural scientists, the column
is meant to foster public dialog about socio-environmental issues and to lay the
groundwork for the coproduction of environmental knowledge. Our collective approach
to writing addresses some major barriers to public engagement by scientists, but the
need to insert ourselves as intermediaries limits these gains. Overall, our efforts at
environmental communication praxis have not generated significant public debate, but
they have supported future coproduction by making scientists a more visible presence
in the community and providing easy pathways for them to begin engaging the public.
Finally, this research highlights an underappreciated barrier to public engagement:
scientists are not merely disconnected from the public, but also connected in ways that
may be functional for their research. Many field scientists, for example, seek out neutral
and narrowly defined connections that permit research access but are largely
incompatible with efforts to address controversial issues of environmental governance.

Keywords: science writing; democratization; public engagement; journalism;


If I am Troy Davis, I Failed Troy Davis: Abolishing the Death Penalty through an Antiracist People’s Geography

February 13, 2015 Comments off

When Troy Davis was executed in Georgia on the 21st of September 2011 many folks had a range of different responses.  While until that moment I had not written about the Death Penalty, I had thought a great deal about about, especially after I moved to Georgia which has played such an important role in Death Penalty history within the U.S.   When the opportunity presented itself via an invitation from Jim Tyner and Josh Inwood to participate in a special issue on Davis’ execution I did not feel like I could say no, as difficult a paper as it was for me to write.

Here is the forthcoming paper from these efforts:

Heynen, N. (forthcoming) “If I am Troy Davis, I Failed Troy Davis: Abolishing the Death Penalty through an Antiracist People’s Geography.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies.

Just a special note that this will be the third paper that I have published in ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies and I want to say what an absolute pleasure it has been working with the editorial team there over these occasions.  Lawrence Berg, and the rest of the team at ACME, over the years have worked tirelessly with limited resources because they believe in the politics of open access publishing and I think they deserve wide ranging support and recognition for their efforts.



Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kohl!

February 13, 2015 Comments off

I am a bit tardy on posting this, but wanted to send out a warm congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kohl who recently successfully defended and submitted her Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Permanence of the Struggle: Race, Gender, And Environmental Justice In Gainesville, Georgia”

Ellen’s research has been some of the most exciting I’ve advised to date.

Thanks to her research committee members Drs. Steve Holloway, Amy Ross, Patricia Richard and Laura Pulido.


In this dissertation, I examine the socio-spatial processes which contribute to and maintain places of persistent environmental injustices. I argue that there are compounding political, social, economic, and geographic processes that work in conjunction with the fatal coupling of difference and power to create almost insurmountable barriers to remedy social and environmental injustices. They would be insurmountable except for the sheer tenacity of activists and residents who work tirelessly to make positive change in their communities. Through an integrated lens of Black feminist thought and theories on the racial state I draw on my empirical research to introduce factors that independently and in their interactions with one another, lay the groundwork for the persistence of places of environmental injustice. I argue that while nuanced details differ from place to place, the challenges faced by environmental justice communities fall into six interrelated and compounding categories: 1) urban planning, (2) regulatory processes, (3) scale of analysis, (4) the role of science, (5) political economy, and (6) cultural capital. I consider these processes in a historic-geographical context because without explicitly considering these histories and their relationship to difference and power, regulators and activists intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate the uneven development of discriminatory processes. To do this, I rely on extensive participant observation, semi-structured interviews and archival research, with the Newtown Florist Club, a social and environmental justice organization in Gainesville, Georgia, elected and career representatives of the City of Gainesville, and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Southeastern Division. I examine how through every day experiences and narratives, activists and governmental officials contest or perpetuate persistent injustices. I also examine how activist use storytelling as a way to reassert themselves on the physical and political landscape they feel ignores their lived experiences. In this way, they use the stories of their lived experiences to not only draw attention to individual environmental hazards, but also to the structural processes which allow these injustices to exist, and persist, in the first place.

KEY WORDS: Environmental Justice, Race and Racialization, Black Feminist Thought, Environmental Policy, Urban Policy

Categories: Students