Spring 2011

Gender and the Environment

Listed in: Special Seminar, as BRUS-33


Amrita Basu (Section 01)
Martha Saxton (Section 01)


This seminar will compare relationships between gender and the environment in a developed country, the U.S., and a developing country, India.  We will look at the history of gender constructions of nature and natural resources and their relationship to environmental practices. We will examine the disproportionate impact of environmental destruction on women and children, particularly from poor and minority communities, as well as rapidly changing ideas and practices about environmental degradation and climate change. Among the topics we will consider are gender constructions in the history of each country’s agricultural policies and their effects on attitudes and practices toward the land and other resources like minerals, water, and forests. We will analyze gender, land tenure, and the law as it affects resource control and allocation in India. We will look at related questions concerning the control of natural resources in the U.S. like the disputed ownership of the water of Lake Erie in an impoverished suburb of Detroit. We will explore women’s roles in environmental struggles in both countries.

Scholars and aid workers have long observed that environmental destruction has differential impacts on men and women. Women are the major victims of natural disasters, like the Tsunami of 2002 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Environmental destruction affects women’s health and reproduction in unique and dangerous ways. Pesticides and nuclear wastes cause birth defects, complications in labor, and toxic concentrations in women’s breast milk. The growing field of environmental justice has drawn attention to the significance of race in the location of hazardous waste facilities and the disproportionate number of people of color and women who are affected by workplace hazards. Following the earthquake in Haiti, after years of demands by women’s activist groups, the U.N. decided for the first time to deliver aid directly to women because it recognized this was the most effective way of reaching the children who need it.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professors Basu and Saxton. 

If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to WAGS majors, Environmental Studies majors and upper level students.


Speaking attentive


2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011