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Racism drives environmental inequality — but most Americans don’t realize

Survey finds that most people think poverty is why pollution disproportionately affects Black people, despite evidence that racism is the major cause.

Most Americans do not think that Black people are any more likely to be affected by pollution than white people, despite significant evidence that racism is a root cause of environmental injustice in the United States, a survey has found.

Dylan Bugden.
Bugden

Numerous research papers over the years have shown that people of colour and poor people are significantly more likely to live in areas of high pollution — a result of the deliberate construction of polluting industries in these communities, says Dylan Bugden, an environmental sociologist at Washington State University in Pullman.

But Bugden found that respondents to the survey were more than twice as likely to identify poverty as the main cause of environmental inequalities, instead of blaming structural racism. This is despite scientific evidence clearly demonstrating that “race, rather than poverty, is the primary factor behind environmental inequality”, notes Bugden in his study, published in Social Problems. Additionally, many people suggested that a lack of hard work and poor personal choices were responsible for increased exposure to pollution.

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Nature
Scientific American
WSU Insider

Stepping up for students ‘just like me’

Forty-one years after being accepted to WSU — and after donating about $31 million to students in need of tuition help — Gary Rubens earns his degree in Pullman.

Gary Rubens first considered attending college in 1981 after he graduated from Issaquah (Wash.) High School, but even after being accepted to Washington State University he found the cost of the college education too much to afford.

Rubens instead chose to enter the workforce, where he would build a successful lighting supply company, ATG Stores, based in Kirkland, Wash., which he sold to the Lowe’s Corporation in 2011.

This sale got him thinking about what he wanted to do next.

“I thought back about what I wanted to do to help others and I just realized that I should really focus on helping people that are just like me, that have high potential but low opportunities,” Rubens said.

More than four decades after he graduated high school, Rubens walked across the stage at the Washington State University commencement ceremonies in Pullman to receive his degree in the social sciences with a focus on psychology and sociology.

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News
WSU Insider

WSU women to attend national leadership conference this summer

Seven women who hold teaching, research, and administrative roles at WSU will receive nationally recognized leadership training and development under a new effort launched by the university.

Kimberly Christen.
Christen
Christine Horne.
Horne

From the College of Arts and Sciences, Christine Horne, a professor in the Department of Sociology; and Kim Christen, a professor and director of the Digital Technology and Culture Program, were selected to participate in the program.

Nominations were made by WSU System President Kirk Schulz, WSU Pullman Chancellor, Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton, Todd Butler, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Kate McAteer, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at WSU Tri‑Cities. Chilton is an alumnae of HERS’ Leadership Institute and has served as a faculty fellow for the program.

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WSU Insider

Service workers’ volatile shifts linked to high‑cost debt

Time, more than money, appears to influence whether service sector employees end up turning to so-called predatory lenders.

A study by Washington State University and Harvard University researchers found service employees’ unpredictable work schedules played more of a role in their reliance on high-cost debt than their income. Service employees work in industries such as retail, food service, grocery and hospitality as well as delivery and fulfillment – with many in the study sample working for the nation’s largest retail employers, Amazon and Walmart.

Mariana Amorim.
Amorim

“The experience of schedule volatility is pretty common among service sector workers,” said Mariana Amorim, WSU sociologist and lead author on the study in the journal Sociological Science. “We found that the more schedule volatility people experienced, the more likely they were to take out expensive loans, such as those from pawn shops and auto-title lenders—or they use credit cards in ways that are problematic.”

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WSU Insider
Phys.org

WSU Experts discuss work linked to environmental justice

WSU experts in diverse fields, ranging from environmental science to sociology, economics, biosystems engineering and community building, will discuss links between their work and environmental justice issues during a free, public event hosted by the School of the Environment on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 1:30 p.m.

Seats are still available in the CUB Junior Ballroom at WSU Pullman. Registered guests can also participate in the event online.

The panel features educators from across the university whose work intersects the theme of “Environmental Justice in Rural America,” the topic of SoE’s 2022 Lane Family Lecture in Environmental Science.

Four faculty and staff members and one graduate student will provide insights about their teaching and research as well as related engagement opportunities for WSU students and the broader community.

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WSU Insider