Beth Rose Middleton Manning of UC Davis presents “Currents of Resistance: Water Quality/Quantity Struggles in Indigenous Northern California Homelands,” and Michael Mascarenhas of ESPM offers “Thirsty for Environmental Justice: Flint, Detroit, and the War over Michigan’s Water.”


Beth Rose Middleton Manning
Currents of Resistance: Water Quality/Quantity Struggles in Indigenous Northern California Homelands

The current matrix of water management and conveyance in California is built on a system of institutionalized exclusion that was solidified in the early to mid-20th century. Tribal members throughout California have long fought for recognition of their responsibilities to water, which include but are not limited to their rights to water. The work to reclaim lands through the Stewardship Council process, to fight for adequate flows and fish passage in the face of dams, and to change water quality regulations to recognize the depth and breadth of tribal water uses exemplifies decolonization–with all its attendant challenges to reform a system that historically excluded California Indians from decision-making on a resource that is central to the continuation of nations and communities.


Michael Mascarenhas
Thirsty for Environmental Justice. Flint, Detroit, and the War over Michigan’s Water

The hard, and pressing, questions about the responsibilities of sociologists, social scientists, and academics to speak with society, as a whole, as well as how to create more spaces for rigorous academic work that is of interest to wider publics was recently raised at this year’s American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting.[1] I want to extend this claim and probblematize the words, language, and symbols—the discourse—we use to describe, understand, and theorize environmental justice in Flint and Detroit, and other spaces of color in which these crimes of neoliberal lunacy take place. I suggest contemporary framings of environmental racism evidenced in government reports, newspapers, and academic journals have been insufficient in explaining the social experiences and conditions of those living without access to safe and secure water access. What makes critical environmental justice “critical” is a commitment to equity and empowerment for those disadvantaged and dispossessed by the structures of environmental injustice. Today I feel the discursive bandwidth of environmental justice has lost its intellectual, theoretical, and social movement footings rooted in black radical and anti-racist traditions. We have invoked an arsenal of language, metrics, and measures to better articulate the conditions with which people of color suffer in this country but we have not mobilized the means to empower non-white efforts from this form of racial inequity and white supremacy.