Students and faculty involved in environmental philosophy and ethics (EP&E) at MSU currently sustain several interdisciplinary projects throughout the University, the broader Lansing community, the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes region. These projects integrate philosophical skills and concepts with work that addresses felt environmental and agricultural issues.
Center For Regional Food Systems Food Justice and Sovereignty Work Group EP&E graduate student Ian Werkheiser and CRFS graduate student Shakara Tyler are coordinating a transdisciplinary work group on food justice and food sovereignty for the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS). This workgroup conducts and coordinates research, education, and outreach on food justice, and provides opportunities for cross-fertilization between faculty members, academic specialists, graduate students, and community partners.
Innovations in Collaborative Modeling: Addressing Complex Social and Environmental Problems Through Systems Modeling Techniques EP&E graduate student Ian Werkheiser is on the planning team for a transdisciplinary conference focusing on the use of systems modeling techniques in managing complex social and environmental problems. This first annual conference will be held on June 4-5, 2015 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, MI. The conference is sponsored by the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project (SMEP); more information about SMEP is provided on this page below. For more information about the conference, or to submit a paper or register, visit the conference website.
Humanities Without Walls-Global Midwest Initiative: The New Ethics of Food: EP&E faculty Gretel Van Wieren, Paul Thompson, and Kyle Whyte are working with MSU Digital Humanities Librarian Thomas Padilla, Nancy Tuana at Penn State, Robert Steiffer and Jesse Steinberg at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and EP&E graduate student Ian Werkheiser on a project entitled “The New Ethics of Food.” This project is part of the Mellon Foundation-funded Humanities Without Walls-Globale Midwest Initiative. The project seeks to build up a network of transdisciplinary research and activism centered on the emerging ethics of food coming out of the problems and potentials in the Midwest’s unique position.
Values and Policy in Interdisciplinary Environmental Science: A Dialogue-based Framework for Ethics Education: EP&E faculty Michael O’Rourke (PI) and Kyle Whyte, with MSU colleagues Sean Valles (philosophy) and Tom Dietz (sociology), are investigators in an NSF funded project to develop an approach to graduate ethics education in interdisciplinary environmental science courses that better prepares the next generation of environmental scientists to solve complex problems. A structured yet flexible ethics education framework will be created for developing course modules that can subsequently be adopted for use in classroom dialogue, building on results of work previously funded by NSF (the Toolbox Project). Students in courses using these modules will participate actively in identifying and assessing values-related challenges that are at the intersection of multiple environmental perspectives and at the intersection of science with policy.
Supporting Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Planning through Community Participatory Strategic Foresight Scenario Development: EP&E faculty Kyle Whyte is an investigator with Dean Fellman (PI) of the Center for First Americans Forestlands (College of Menominee Nation) and Mike Dockry of the U.S. Forest Service that seeks to re-imagine how strategic foresight processes can be included in Indigenous people’s climate adaptation plans in the Great Lakes basin. The project is funded by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center. Indigenous peoples have definite interests in planning in advance for how to adapt to climate change because of the impacts on their communities. Interests range from protecting and enhancing tribal members’ access to culturally significant species, like black ash and wild rice, to maintaining viable economic enterprises, like tribal forest and marine products industries, to being able to provide adequate social services to tribal members who may increasingly experience depression and distress in response to recognizable and felt ecological changes. The project will explore strategic foresight processes that meet Indigenous people’s the cultural, scientific, social, jurisdictional and legal goals.
Recognizing Value Pluralism among Ecosystem Services Experts and Public Stakeholders: EP&E students Christina Leshko, Samantha Noll, Zach Piso, & Ian Werkheiser received summer fellowships through the Kellogg Biological Station’s LTER program to research the ways that different communities value ecosystem services. Our research investigates the diverse values among ecosystem management experts as well as farming communities in Michigan. Because values are informed by an individual’s social, ecological, historical, and political circumstances, no single value system is likely to capture the plurality of values held within and between uniquely situated communities. The interdisciplinary project combines philosophical analysis with quantitative and qualitative social science methodologies.
Food Justice and Peace Annual Workshops: EP&E students Ian Werkheiser & Zach Piso are coordinating the second annual workshop on Food Justice and Peace in East Lansing after Ian and Samantha Noll founded the conference last year. Food justice is a growing movement that has inspired both on-the-ground community projects and theoretical articulations across multiple disciplines. This workshop aims to help scholars and practitioners identify and address the challenges and opportunities in food justice, including issues surrounding food access, food sovereignty, agricultural and environmental ethics, and agricultural sustainability. The conference will span three days and include scholarly talks and visits to local environmental justice projects.
The Toolbox Project: EP&E faculty member Michael O’Rourke is the principal investigator of the Toolbox Project. The project has partnered with three major environmental initiatives, providing communication enhancement and team development opportunities, along with data for use in evaluating integrative activities. These initiatives are the Northwest Climate Science Center (NW CSC) (US Department of Interior, USGS funded, co-directed by Oregon State University, University of Washington, and University of Idaho), the Regional Approaches to Climate Change—Pacific Northwest Agriculture (REACCH) Cooperative Agricultural Project (USDA-NIFA funded, involving University of Idaho, Washington State University, and Oregon State University), and the Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM) Sustainability Research Network (NSF funded, based at Penn State University). The Toolbox Project has conducted several workshops with graduate student and faculty groups associated with the NW CSC and REACCH, and will initiate activities with SCRiM in Fall 2013.
Everybody Eats Community Conference: EP&E faculty member Kyle Whyte coordinates Everybody Eats: Cultivating Food Democracy, a yearly conference on food justice for academics and the wider public in the greater Lansing area. EP&E colleagues Ian Werkheiser, Zach Piso, Samantha Noll and Esme Murdock have supported in the planning efforts during the last 3 years. The conference is a large forum involving dozens of public and private efforts – farms, farmers markets, gardens, food hubs, coops, restaurants, numerous nonprofits – who come together to discuss what it means to be self-sustaining and equitable, especially with regard to the processes being used and policies being developed for changing the food system landscape in Lansing. The conference forms a part of an on-going public conversation about maintaining an inclusive, democratic, and ethical food system.
Respecting Tribes and First Nations in Environmental Governance: This project is led by EP&E faculty member Kyle Whyte, Peggy Smith (Lakehead), Nicholas Reo (Dartmouth) and Deb McGregor (Toronto). It is funded by the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Supportive partners in this endeavor include the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ Cultural and Inland Fish and Wildlife departments, the Anishinabek Nation’s Lands and Resources Division, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Project. Certain natural resource and environmental issues have impacts across broad geographic areas and require cross-boundary management approaches. For example, when addressing topics like invasive species, fish/wildlife migration, climate change, or river restoration, intergovernmental cooperation may lead to improved ecological outcomes. The goal is to develop a set of well-tested principles and/or frameworks for the robust, authentic inclusion of Tribes, First Nations and Indigenous organizations in multi-party, regional resource management issues.
Ethics Education and Sustainable Agriculture: EP&E faculty and graduate students Kyle Whyte, Samantha Noll, Esme Murdock and Matt Ferkany are involved in a collaboration on ethics education with Laurie Thorp, Dale Rozeboom, Kevin Turner, and Lissy Goralnik in the College of Agriculture and Lyman Briggs College. Undergraduate and graduate students learn about ethics and sustainable agriculture through experiential learning at the MSU Student Organic Farm and MSU Swine Farm.
Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project (SMEP): EP&E faculty Paul Thompson directs SMEP, with EP&E student Ian Werkheiser as a Graduate Assistant. SMEP serves as a catalyst and convener of interdisciplinary dialogue and research around existing and emerging sustainability topics, and has invested considerable resources in exploring the implications of sustainability particularly for the future of Michigan. It has developed in depth conceptualizations about what comprises engaged sustainability scholarship and how that would translate into research, teaching and outreach. It has been able to clearly differentiate the types of research and knowledge where science alone can provide potential solutions (e.g. tame problems) and where the identification of potential solutions must be collaborative with stakeholders and other social actors (wicked problems). SMEP is now moving to widen the recognition of the significance of these differences for the role of science in addressing societal concerns. SMEP has recently funded a statewide Environmental Justice Summit planned by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, of which EP&E faculty member Kyle Whyte is a founding member.
Shifting Seasons: Tribal Adaptation Planning for the Northeast Region: EP&E faculty Kyle Whyte works with Chris Caldwell (College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute) and Sue Wotkyns (Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals) on a Bureau of Indian Affairs funded project that seeks to hold a summit centered around climate change adaptation planning training sessions tailored to the needs and capacities of tribes in the northeast. The summit activities will range from workshops connecting tribes and scientific resources on tribal terms to workshops discussing the ethics of partnership and cooperation. The summit, to be held in Fall 2014, will be developed into a webinar for wide distribution. The summit follows from the first 2011 Shifting Seasons summit hosted by the College of Menominee Nation.
Michigan Environmental Justice Summit: SMEP funded a statewide Environmental Justice Summit in 2014 planned by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC), of which EP&E faculty member Kyle Whyte is a founding member. SMEP and MEJC convened the summit to bring together groups and individuals from throughout the state who seek to achieve a clean, healthy and safe environment for Michiganders by working with all residents to hold public and private institutions accountable to the communities for whom they serve and in which they operate. This summit was designed to provide perspectives and stories on environmental justice (EJ) organizing and policy in Michigan and will lead to greater connections among organizers, community leaders, researchers, and government. This summit seeks to motivate future EJ summits in Michigan.