Awe-inspiring natural spaces in the U.S., like national parks, are also tarnished with racist histories, according to Tracy Perkins, an assistant professor at Arizona State University who studies social inequality and environmental justice. Many environmental conservation efforts starting in the late 1800s were led by eugenicists, like Madison Grant, to create spaces for white people to get fresh air and exercise in order “to preserve the vitality of white race,” she said.
To be abundantly clear, my quote does not describe my beliefs, but rather the beliefs of some eugenicists of the late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States. I’ve assigned this subject recently in my Environment and Justice class, as well as in my class titled The Multiracial American West. I’ve found that while some students are versed in the conversations about John Muir’s racism and ongoing symbolism within the environmental movement, none are aware of the early conservation movement’s connections to eugenics. I have used the following readings introduce the subject to them and further my own learning:
I highly recommend these readings. They provide an important historical reference point for understanding ongoing racism within the environmental movement. They are also vital to understanding contemporary efforts to return access and management rights to the resources and lands within national parks to the indigenous peoples who once lived there, as well as to indigenous land-back campaigns.
My book is officially published today! I’ve received my hardcover and paperback copies from UC Press, two friends have texted me pictures of their copies, and my mom forwarded me an e-mail saying that her copy has been delayed until April 15th. It’s been a long process to get here, and I look forward to seeing the work move out into the world.
I’ve given a few talks on it so far. Last fall, I presented the chapter on California’s climate policy AB 32 at the new University of California Center for Climate Justice run by Tracey Osborne. In February, I got to discuss the book with Martha Matusoka, Michael Méndez, Danielle Purifoy and Jonathan London at the American Association of Geographers’ annual meeting. Next week, I’ll zoom into Michelle Glowa’s graduate seminar on research methods at the California Institute of Integral Studies. My undergraduate students in Environment and Justice here at Arizona State University are also reading it now. I’ve enjoyed these opportunities and hope to have more of them. I’m even more interested know where the book may travel to without me. I hope I’ll get messages in a bottle from unexpected places with signs that the book has been there.