Vol. 1, No. 1, October 2016
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What is NEJRC?

noun. [KNEE-jerk]

The Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative is a multidisciplinary research collaborative made up of scholars engaged in political ecology and environmental justice initiatives. Based at Northeastern University in Boston, the collaborative works on a wide range of local, regional, national, and international topics and issues. Professor Daniel Faber, a long-time researcher and advocate around environmental justice, serves as the Director.
Find more information here.

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In the News

Conservation Law Foundation
Sues Exxon for Polluting Mystic River

The Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is suing ExxonMobil for allegedly dumping toxic pollutants into the Mystic River in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The CLF claims Exxon has failed to comply with The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and The Clean Water Act. Additionally, they allege that a significant storm could leave much of Exxon’s local facility underwater, which would flood the town with a plethora of dangerous pollutants. The CLF offered flood maps from the Federal Emergency Relief Agency to demonstrate the imminent threat of flooding in the area. This is no new issue to the residents of Chelsea; in 2006, Exxon spilled 10,000 gallons of oil into the Mystic River, eventually reaching a $5.6 million settlement.

United States 
Reports Reveals
EPA Indifference Towards Environmental Discrimination

A report released on Friday, September 23rd slammed the EPA for failing to meet it’s Civil Rights obligations. The report, created by The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, showed that the EPA rejects 90% of complaints regarding environmental discrimination and the disproportionate location of waste disposal sites. Environmental justice is a serious issue, and it is affecting minorities and the disadvantaged every day. The EPA Office of Civil Rights takes, on average, around a year to process a single complaint; while they fail to act, people continue to be affected adversely. Additionally, the report recommends that the EPA readdress the issue of coal ash in drinking water. This requires testing drinking water wells near coal ash lagoons; assessing the effectiveness of high-risk coal ash dams and disposal sites; and fund research on the ash's health effects.

The World Quietly Passes
Major Climate Milestone

The world finally passed a major climate milestone, and there’s no turning back. With all of the attention on the U.S. presidential race this September, such important news has fallen by the wayside. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have just passed 400 parts per million, in what has historically been the month with the lowest levels. It is unlikely that the world will ever dip below 400 ppm again, at least not in our lifetimes. Almost a decade ago, renowned climatologist, James Hansen, proclaimed that in order to avoid more than 1.5º C of warming, atmospheric CO2 levels would have to stay below 350 ppm (this is where gets their name). Recent data from the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii shows that this has been the first September ever to be above 400 ppm, and it looks like it will only continue to rise.
In The News Sections Written By, Ben Vanderlan
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NEJRC’s Assistant Director,
Becca Berkey, PH.D., completed the writing process for a book, Environmental Justice and Farm Labor, published by Routledge, which is to be released in early 2017. Becca is also the Director of Service-Learning in the Center of Community Service at Northeastern University and works closely with NEJRC's working research group on pesticides and the circle of poison. This book focuses particularly
on farmworkers and their rights in the agricultural industry, specifically the injustices they face, the impact of history and policy on their lives, and how they can best improve their situation. Becca describes the actual justice issues (injuries, illness, immigration policy discrepancies, etc.) and proceeds to describe how they affect the rest of the food system and the role of grassroots organizations in fighting these injustices.


Written By, Dorothy Chaput
Downloadable Report Here


Student Section

In an effort to convince the Northeastern University administration to divest from fossil fuels, students at Northeastern University camped in tents and occupied a central and largely visible area of campus every day during the first half of October. Northeastern University had previously announced a plan to invest $25 million of their $700-million-dollar endowment in sustainable practices; however, they still stood adamantly behind their current fossil fuel investments. According to Thomas Nedell, treasurer and senior vice president for finance, “We have deliberately chosen to invest, not divest. This approach is consistent with Northeastern’s character as an institution that actively engages with the world, not one that retreats from global challenges.” The Northeastern administration has yet to respond to DivestNU’s and faculty calls for divestment, so students will continue to mobilize around this issue. 

Universities that have divested:

UMass - May 25, 2016

University of London School of Oriental
and African Studies
- August 4, 2014

University of Dayton - June 23, 2014

Union Theological Seminary - June 10, 2014

Stanford University - May 7, 2014

Pitzer College, California - April 12, 2014

Prescott College, Arizona - February 28, 2014

Peralta Community
College District
- January 31, 2014


Naropa University - October 31, 2013

Foothill-De Anza Community
College Foundation
- October 24, 2013

San Francisco State University - June 11, 2013

Green Mountain College - May 14, 2013

College of the Atlantic - March 12, 2013

Santa Fe Art Institute - February 15, 2013

Sterling College - February 6, 2013

Unity College - November 5, 2012

Hampshire College - December 16, 2011
Written By, Savannah Kinzer
Jennie Stephens

An Interview with
Jennie Stephens, PhD.

Stephens is the Dean's Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy at Northeastern's School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Associate Director of NEJRC. 


“I have always been interdisciplinary in my education, focused on the interface between environmental science, technology and society. My undergraduate degree is in Environmental Science and Public Policy (Harvard ’97) and my masters (MS) and PhD are in Environmental Science and Engineering (Caltech 2002). The goal in all of my work is ultimately to empower individuals, communities, and organizations to engage with the rapidly changing world in ways that reduce inequality and minimize the unequal impacts of climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. My 2015 book, Smart Grid (R)Evolution: Electric Power Struggles, for example, explores the politics, power, and perceived social implications of electricity system change. The possibilities for increasing individual, local, and community-level engagement in energy system change are great as new renewable energy jobs emerge.

We have a lot of rigidity in many of our societal systems and in our organizations that hinders more flexible and compassionate approaches that can foster greater resilience. But I believe that through innovative collaborations and a willingness to adapt and change there is a lot to be optimistic about – especially working with passionate and engaged students!"

Interview Conducted By, Nina Rossiter

Death By Design Film Poster

Film Review
Death by Design: An E-Waste Documentary Film

From shocking conditions in electronic factories in China, to the high tech labs of Silicon Valley, Death by Design directed by Sue Williams, illustrates how even the smallest devices can carry environmental and health costs. In this documentary we see young Chinese workers in Foxconn (one of the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer) working in unsafe conditions. This documentary also tells the story of American families like Yvette Flores living with the tragic consequences of the industry’s toxic practices. While pregnant and working at IBM, Flores was using lead oxide to build lasers; this was not something she was aware of and, though IBM new about this, the company ignored them. Because of this Flores and her now adult son Mark has severe developmental disabilities.

In Death by Design, we also see entrepreneurs developing more sustainable devices and practices to protect our planet and our future.  However, the film could have provided better coverage on the manner in which environmentalists and other social movements are mobilizing in the United States and all over the world to push for more comprehensive solutions to the e-waste crisis, including new regulatory policies and systems. This includes a discussion of the necessity for greater labor and human rights, economic democracy, fair trade over free trade agreements, and stronger international environmental regulation and treaties. Consumer awareness is not enough to change the destructive practices in these industries. Overall, the documentary those an amazing job at illustrating how our pursuit for the latest gadget is leading to environmental degradation, health tragedies, and the nearing tipping point between consumerism and sustainability.

Written By, Stacy Alabre
Check Out The Film's Website Here
Did You Know?

Sweden Proposes
Economic Incentive
to Reduce Waste

Mass produced labor typically makes it less expensive to buy a new product rather than repair an old. In an effort to reduce waste using economic incentive, Sweden plans to cut taxes on repairs from 25% to 12%, according to the new budget plan presented to the Parliament. This would help consumers be more sustainable and less wasteful, in order to reduce carbon emissions from consumerism.

The NEJRC Reaction:
Per Bouland,  Minister for Financial Markets in the Government of Sweden states, “We believe that this could substantially lower the cost and so make it more rational economic behaviour to repair your goods...I believe there is a shift in view in Sweden at the moment. There is an increased knowledge that we need to make our things last longer in order to reduce materials’ consumption."

Written By, Natalia Katz

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Upcoming Events

1. The Kind Environment

October 26th, 6:00-7:30 pm

($10) Join us as we discuss the Massachusetts November ballot initiative designed to help prevent farm animal cruelty, promote food safety and aid responsible family farmers. There will be ice-cream from FoMu, Boston’s first premium ice cream brand made exclusively with plant-based ingredients.
More information here!


2. October Boston Sustainability Breakfast

October 26th, 7:30-8:30 am

By Net Impact Boston Professional Chapter

October Sustainability Breakfast is an informal breakfast meetup for sustainability professionals. It’s important to remind ourselves that we are not the only ones out there in the business world trying to do good! Feel free to drop by anytime between 7:30 and 8:30am.
More information here!


3. Sustainable Urbanization:
The Future of Aviation, Buildings and Food

October 26th, 12:30-1:20 pm

By Center for Health and the Global Environment: HSPH

Hear from John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer at United Technologies, and learn about our new Master of Public Health in Sustainability and the Global Environment.
More information here!


4. Local Sustainability:
Climate and Health at Harvard and in Boston

November 9th, 12:30-1:20 pm

By Center for Health and the Global Environment: HSPH

Hear from Heather Henriksen, Director of Harvard University Office of Sustainable, and Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space, as they talk about the new Master of Public Health in Sustainability and the Global Environment.
More information here!

Found By, Nina Rossiter


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Copyright © 2016. Northeastern University: NEJRC, All Rights Reserved.

Edited by Laura Bernstein CSSH'19 and Natalia Katz CSSH'19
Designed and Edited by Anna Driscoll CAMD'18

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