Orfalea Center Thematic Research Cluster​

Environmental Justice & Climate Justice​ Studies

John Foran

John Foran is professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also involved with the programs in Latin American and Iberian Studies, Global and International Studies, Environmental Studies, and the Bren School. He was visiting professor of sociology and Latin American Studies at Smith College from 2000 to 2002, and Visiting Professor of Sociology at Goldsmith's College, University of London, from 2009 to 2010. His current areas of intense focus and interest include the climate crisis, 21st-century movements for radical social change, and sustainable development or “building better futures.” His books include the multiple award-winning Taking Power: On the Origins of Revolutions in the Third World (Cambridge, 2005), in which he presents a new theory of the causes of revolutions in Latin America, to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, spanning the period from 1910 to the present, and a comprehensive Marxist history of Iran up to the revolution: Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution (Westview, 1993; available as a free pdf). His six edited or co-edited volumes touch on issues of revolution, radical social change, and women, culture and development, and can be found on his cv, along with numerous other publications. He is currently working on a book, Taking Power or (Re)Making Power: Movements for Radical Social Change and Global Justice, which assesses the new forms of such movements as the Zapatista and Kerala experiments, the global justice movement, the Pink Tide in Latin America, the global Occupy movements, the Arab Spring, and his new passion, the global climate justice movement. His reports and essays on the global struggle for climate justice can be found at the websites of the Climate Justice Project and the International Institute of Climate Action and Theory. He is involved in an initiative of activist scholars and others on the UN climate treaty negotiations, which can be found at http://www.parisclimatejustice.org/

Lauren Gifford

I am a critical geographer exploring the intersections of global climate change policy, conservation, markets and justice. My work asks how, and by whom, climate and conservation policies are enacted. Recently I've been studying the climate tech space, particularly as it relates to carbon offsets. I am a Visiting Researcher at the Environmental Justice / Climate Justice Hub of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. I also maintain a research affiliation with CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences at CU Boulder. And I teach about climate change at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Ken Hiltner

Ken Hiltner received his PhD from Harvard University, where he garnered a number of distinctions as a researcher and Teaching Fellow, including the Bowdoin Prize. He has written a number of books and articles, mostly on Renaissance literature, ecocriticism, and the intersection of the two. He has served as Director of the Literature and the Environment Center, Director of the Early Modern Center, and Chair of the Graduate Program. Prior to becoming an English professor, he made his living as a furniture-maker. As a second-generation woodworker, he received commissions from five continents and had collections featured in major metropolitan galleries. More information can be found at hiltner.english.ucsb.edu(link is external)

David Pellow

Professor David N. Pellow is the Dehlsen and Department Chair of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he teaches courses on environmental and social justice, race/class/gender and environmental conflict, human-animal conflicts, sustainability, and social change movements that confront our socioenvironmental crises and social inequality. He has volunteered for and served on the Boards of Directors of several community-based, national, and international organizations that are dedicated to improving the living and working environments for people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and working class communities, including the Global Action Research Center, the Center for Urban Transformation, the Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health, Global Response, Greenpeace USA, and International Rivers. Pellow’s research has included: 1. Supervising a group of UCSB students in developing a Green New Deal for California's Central Coast region in collaboration with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network; 2. Leading a collaboration between UCSB and the Central Coast Climate Justice Network to advance our knowledge base concerning fossil fuel development projects in the region and to support campaigns that promote energy and climate justice; 3. A study of how environmental privilege and environmental racism shape the local ecology and life chances of native born and immigrant residents of Aspen and Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley; 4. A study of radical environmental and animal rights movements’ goals, successes and failures, and the impact of government repression on these activists who are frequently labeled “eco-terrorists.” 5. A study on conflicts over the disproportionate location of garbage dumps and incinerators in communities of color in Chicago from the 1880s to the 2000s 6. A study of immigrant and working class laborers and environmental justice activists who pushed Silicon Valley companies to become more attentive to demands for sustainability, environmental justice, and occupational safety and health

Richard Widick

Richard Widick is a Faculty Research Fellow at UC Santa Barbara’s Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from UCSB, where he lectured on theory, culture, media, globalization, social movements and environment before coming to the Orfalea Center. He taught Representations of the Holocaust and courses on Marx, Freud and Nietzsche for the Departments of German and Slavic Studies and Comparative Literature at UCSB. He is the author of Trouble in the Forest: California’s Redwood Timber Wars (2009, University of Minnesota Press) — an ethnography, cultural analysis, and 150 year social history of the colonization and industrialization of California’s northern redwood region by the culture system of modern US capitalism, a history of the so-called 'Indian wars' and labor trouble that set the legal, social and ecological conditions for converging peoples, labor and environmental movements in the present era of globalization. Widick then applied that same framework to the global struggle over emergent global climate governance and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. During that research, nine years in row (2011 — 2019). Widick represented the University of California as an Official Observer Delegate to the Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COPs) — and plans to do so again at the 2024 UN climate conference. Inside the UN climate talks, Widick conducts conflict-seeking theoretical, historical, visual and participatory ethnographic filmmaking research that documents the ongoing struggle over emergent global climate governance. In December of 2021 he released The Edmund Pettus Bridge to Climate Justice (to watch, use password TheEPBCJ2021)— a full-length documentary film on the making of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the following four years of struggle to implement and complete the so-called Paris Rule Book for implementation. The film concludes that the struggle for just climate governance must now move to the front lines of racial justice in the United States — specifically the struggle to protect and expand voting rights. In 2022-2023 Widick documented this frontline struggle at regional and national actions of the Poor Peoples Campaign and National Call Moral Revival (watch film clips). From Trouble in the Forest to the UN climate talks and the Poor Peoples Campaign, he has been developing a framework for interpreting large scale social change being driven by the colonizing culture system of the modern social imaginary — that often unspoken and increasingly embodied assemblage of value-laden institutions and laws that energizes the emergent empire of unfettered economic globalization now threatening ecological integrity on a world scale. In 2023, Widick is launching the next phase of this integrated research, publication, teaching and filmmaking program aimed at understanding the modern social imaginery: Violence Archive and Memory in the Making of Chile’s New Constitution — A study in media, politics and environment in the era of energy transition.

Noa Cykman

Noa Cykman is a Fulbright scholar and PhD student in Sociology at UCSB. She researches connections between social and ecological elements in regenerative agriculture, from an interdisciplinary and decolonial perspective. She has a Master's in Political Sociology from UFSC, in Brazil, where she co-founded the Utopia Lab (Luta) action-research project. Her second Master's in Sociology from UCSB was an ethnography of the Isla Vista Food Forest, in Santa Barbara, of which she is a core organizer. She is currently working on her dissertation project, which will be a multispecies ethnography of a food forest of the rural landless workers' movement in Brazil (MST). She is the graduate student coordinator of the Orfalea Center's Environmental Justice/Climate Justice cluster at UCSB.

Somak Mukherjee

Somak Mukherjee (He/Him) is a Doctoral Candidate (ABD) at the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Visiting Lecturer in the Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones (DEPA) at the University of Paris 8 in 2022-2023. His interests lie at the intersection of environmental criticism, urban history, cinema and media studies, and visual culture. At UCSB Somak’s teaching, and research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC), Dean’s Prize for Teaching Fellowship, and UCSB Graduate Division Dissertation Fellowship, among others. He has also received fellowships and grants for his research nationally and internationally from the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), the Fulbright Scholar Program, and the Erasmus Mundus program of the European Union. His public writings have appeared in various print and digital publications in India, including Huffington Post, Scroll, The Citizen, Humanities Underground, and Anandabazar Patrika (ABP). He joined the Environmental Justice and Climate Justice Studies hub as a research fellow in late 2021. Somak can be contacted at somakmukherjee@ucsb.edu

Jeffrey Adler

Jeffrey Adler is studying Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations at UCSB. He is involved in a wide variety of campus activities; including serving as an Associated Student’s Off-Campus Senator and a staff photojournalist for the Daily Nexus, his college paper. He has worked as a public policy aide for the Santa Barbara City Council, serving under the Mayor Pro Tempore, where he played a pivotal role in the exploratory research for Santa Barbara's implementation of the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program. After a year’s work for the city, Jeffrey traveled to Washington D.C. for a UCDC Internship Program and worked for Stratus Firm – a global event production company where to took a shaping role in the production of a number of prestigious award shows & government summits: most notably the Congressional Black Caucus Phoenix Awards and the IV CEO Summit of the Americas. Working at Stratus Firm enabled Jeffrey to continue honing his skills photography and video production skills, which he has been sharpening while pursuing his passion for exploring the power of photography and visual media and their role in affecting political change. At Stratus Firm, Jeffrey became acquainted with renowned arms-trafficking expert Kathi Austin and began work as a contributing researcher for the U.S. Mexico Double Fix – a binational security project whose work seeks to understand the relationship between southbound arms-trafficking and irregular migration. Currently, Jeffrey is studying abroad in Chile and Argentina, workIng to understand the legacies of military dictatorships and the role of human rights and cultural production in contemporary political processes.

Liz Carlisle

Liz Carlisle is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at University of California, Santa Barbara, where her work focuses on fostering a more just and sustainable food system. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University, and she formerly served as Legislative Correspondent for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Office of U.S. Senator Jon Tester. Recognized for her academic publishing with the Elsevier Atlas Award, which honors research with social impact, Liz has also written numerous pieces for general audience readers, in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, and Stanford Social Innovation Review. She is the author of two books about transition to sustainable farming: Lentil Underground (winner of the 2016 Montana Book Award) and Grain by Grain, coauthored with farmer Bob Quinn. Research Dr. Carlisle's research program focuses on sustainability transition in the food system, and she works closely with farmers to understand both barriers and opportunities for scaling out agroecological management of farmland

Alenda Chang

Alenda Y. Chang is an Associate Professor in Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara. With a multidisciplinary background in biology, literature, and film, she specializes in merging ecocritical theory with the analysis of contemporary media. Her writing has been featured in Ant Spider Bee, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Qui Parle, the Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, and Ecozon@, and her first book Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games (University of Minnesota Press, December 2019), develops ecological frameworks for understanding and designing digital games. Along with Film and Media Studies professor Laila Shereen Sakr, Chang is also the co-founder of the digital media studio Wireframe (Music 1410). Wireframe was established to support collaborative and cutting-edge research and teaching in new media, with an emphasis on global human rights, social justice, and environmental concerns. Located adjacent to the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons, the studio provides a space for production and critical engagement across media including games, data visualization, installation art, virtual/augmented reality, projection mapping, performance and installation, livestreaming, 3D modeling, mobile apps, and social media.

Summer Gray

Summer Gray is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara, where she teaches courses on infrastructure, adaptation, and the environment. She is also a founding member of the Climate Justice Project at UC Santa Barbara and a DIY filmmaker. Prior to joining the Environmental Studies Program in 2017, she was a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz. Research Summer’s research is focused on connecting practices of shoreline stabilization with the emerging and uneven geographies of sea change, especially in low-lying countries and island nations. Her work highlights the lived experiences of coastal communities throughout the world facing the threat of sea change and the unintended consequences of coastal development and sand mining.

ann-elise lewallen

ann-elise lewallen’s research focuses on critical indigenous studies, energy policy, gender studies, intersectionality, and environmental justice in the context of contemporary Japan and India. She is also concerned with ethnographic research ethics and issues of knowledge construction in relation to host communities. In her newest book, The Fabric of Indigeneity: Ainu Identity, Gender and Settler Colonialism in Japan (School for Advanced Research Press and University of New Mexico Press, 2016), lewallen analyzes indigenous Ainu women’s use of cultural production as an idiom of resistance against ongoing Japanese settler colonialism and for trans-generational cultural revival initiatives across the Ainu community. In the book, she explores how Ainu women forge identities to demonstrate cultural viability, by tracking their efforts to both produce and preserve material arts as a way of memorializing ancestors and recuperating self-worth. Ainu women’s strategies to reinscribe traditional gender-complementary labor, she argues, enable network-building with indigenous women globally, while challenging feminist discourses favoring gender equity for all women. Her work analyzes how indigenous politics, practices, and identity formation are all profoundly shaped by social constructions of gender. Lewallen’s current research investigates how discourses of science and politics shape development policy and impact indigenous sovereignty in transnational relationships between India and Japan. For her second major book, In Pursuit of Energy Justice: Embodied Solidarity in India and Japan, lewallen is focusing on how indigenous communities in India have sought to incorporate Indigenous knowledge in mapping development projects with Japanese ODA funds. Indigenous communities in India describe such models as rooted in “energy justice” rather than extractive industry, and struggle to incorporate these through solidarity networks with Japan’s civil society.

Julie K. Maldonado

Julie Maldonado is Associate Director for the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), a link-tank for policy-relevant research toward post-carbon livelihoods and communities. She is co-director of Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Sciences, works with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals to support tribes’ climate change adaptation planning, and is a lecturer in University of California-Santa Barbara’s Environmental Studies Program. Dr. Maldonado is also a founding member of the Culture and Disaster Action Network. As a public anthropologist, Julie has consulted for the UN Development Programme and World Bank on resettlement, post-disaster needs assessments, and climate change. She worked for the US Global Change Research Program and is an author on the 3rd and 4th US National Climate Assessments. Her doctorate in anthropology from American University focused on the social and cultural impacts of environmental change and habitual disasters in coastal Louisiana. She was the lead editor for a special issue for the journal Climatic Changeentitled, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions,which was published in 2012. Her book, Seeking Justice in an Energy Sacrifice Zone: Standing on Vanishing Land in Coastal Louisiana, and co-edited volume, Challenging the Prevailing Paradigm of Displacement and Resettlement: Risks, Impoverishment, Legacies, Solutions, were both released in 2018. As part of LiKEN, she organized and is executive producer of the Paper Rocket Productions film, Protect, which will be released in December 2018.

Elana Resnick

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I am also the founder/director of the Infrastructural Inequalities Research Group Lab. My research interests include racism and racialization, waste, materiality, critical environmental politics, labor, linguistic anthropology, nuclear energy, infrastructural inequalities, activism, and humor. Based on over three consecutive years of fieldwork in Bulgaria conducted on city streets, in landfills, Romani neighborhoods, executive offices, and at the Ministry of the Environment, my book manuscript examines the juncture of material waste management and racialization, specifically highlighting how environmental sustainability becomes racial practice. ​My research has been funded by the School for Advanced Research, ​Woodrow Wilson Center, Council for European Studies, Fulbright-Hays, American Research Center in Sofia, Wenner-Gren Foundation, U.S. State Department, Hellman Fellows Program, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). As a public anthropologist, Julie has consulted for the UN Development Programme and World Bank on resettlement, post-disaster needs assessments, and climate change. She worked for the US Global Change Research Program and is an author on the 3rd and 4th US National Climate Assessments. Her doctorate in anthropology from American University focused on the social and cultural impacts of environmental change and habitual disasters in coastal Louisiana. She was the lead editor for a special issue for the journal Climatic Changeentitled, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions,which was published in 2012. Her book, Seeking Justice in an Energy Sacrifice Zone: Standing on Vanishing Land in Coastal Louisiana, and co-edited volume, Challenging the Prevailing Paradigm of Displacement and Resettlement: Risks, Impoverishment, Legacies, Solutions, were both released in 2018. As part of LiKEN, she organized and is executive producer of the Paper Rocket Productions film, Protect, which will be released in December 2018.

Sylvia Cifuentes

Sylvia Cifuentes is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was recently a Visiting Instructor at Pitzer College, where she taught a course on Social Movements in the Global South. Her research and teaching interests are in climate politics, critical indigenous studies and decoloniality, and science and technology studies (STS). Sylvia’s dissertation research focuses on the ontological and epistemic aspects of multi-scale and multi-ethnic indigenous climate change politics in the Amazon basin. Her engaged research approach integrates a political ecology of scale perspective and indigenous research methods. By putting forward the concept of integral territorial ontologies, she discusses how indigenous politics can challenge the premises of neoliberal climate governance and expand understandings of global climate politics. She further explores how climate change becomes a politically significant object for indigenous organizations and their processes to “scale-up” ancestral knowledges. Sylvia’s work broadly interrogates how ethnicity, power and development imaginaries shape climate knowledge and politics. Her research projects have also analyzed indigenous responses to COVID-19 in the Amazon basin; the co-production of land change science and development policies in the Amazon; and traditional ecological knowledge in the Tibetan Plateau, China. She has further collaborated in research projects about environmental science and politics in Chile. Sylvia is affiliated to the Environmental Justice / Climate Justice Hub of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at UCSB. She is an Editorial Fellow of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and has collaborated with indigenous organizations including the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon basin (COICA). Before joining UCSB, she completed her MSc in Environment and Development at the London School of Economics. She has also worked in environmental and public health projects with the United Nations Development Program, the Peace Corps, Conservation International, among other organizations.

Jéssica Malinalli Coyotecatl Contreras

Jéssica Malinalli is a graduate student in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Her research focuses on infrastructural projects as territorial and social transformations in Mexico and in the United States. Jéssica pursues this investigation through three venues : 1) Her dissertation research, “Sonora and Morelos Pipelines: underground chokepoints in energy transition in Mexico” engages with Indigenous and peasant struggles in central and northwestern Mexico against transitional energy infrastructure (i.e. natural gas pipelines for electricity); 2) She works with a feminist collective to explore urban cycling infrastructure and the gendered right to the city in Western Mexico; and 3) She studies oil Infrastructure abandonment in Central California through UCSB-community undertakings. Her research builds on a feminist perspective of social reproduction and anti-extractivism. She approaches research as a political commitment and with community partnerships. Her work has been featured in peer-reviewed articles in Ecología Política: Cuadernos de Debate Internacional (ISSN: 1130-6378, ENT Barcelona), and Ciudades (ISSN 0187-8611, BUAP Mexico), as well as online pieces for broader audiences. Jéssica is a graduate affiliate to the Environmental Justice/Climate Justice Studies Research Hub and also a co-convener of the “Energy Justice in Global Perspective” Research Focus Group at UCSB, with faculty and graduate students. Before coming to UCSB, Jéssica completed a Masters in Social Anthropology in Mexico.

Julia Fine

Linguistics department. Graduate student. Sociocultural linguistics; linguistic anthropology; language and gender; sociophonetics; prosody and affect; language documentation, description, and revitalization; Eskimo-Aleut languages

Alexander Karvelas

Alexander is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also participating in the Interdisciplinary PhD Emphasis in Environment and Society, and his research is focused on the intersections of music, sound, and environment. Alexander’s dissertation project engages permaculture landforms as sites of human and more-than-human sonic creativity and collaborative expressivity, with an ear toward the relationship between listening practices and environmental justice work. Alexander also studies the modal traditions of the Middle East, Central Asia, and India, attending specifically to the relationship between musical practices and nation-building projects in these regions. These various research directions are guided by an underlying commitment to understanding how acoustic and musical experiences shape senses of community, belonging, and responsibility within and across social and ecological levels.

Miranda O'Brien