Profs promote environmental law textbook with ‘food justice’ updates

Professors at the University of New Mexico are lobbying for students to buy the latest version of a law textbook that has been updated to advocate for more progressive policies. Both professors are authors of the textbook. 

University of New Mexico Professors Clifford Villa and School of Law Professor Emeritus Eileen Gauna are advocating for the latest edition of an environmental law textbook titled Environmental Justice: Law, Policy & Regulation, the same book they co-authored.

The professors argue that the currently required second edition of the textbook, which was published in 2009, has some outdated material surrounding developing ideas around climate change. 

Villa did not contribute content to the second edition but is an author of the latest edition.

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“The last textbook also didn’t address dimensions of Environmental Justice such as the subjects of disaster and food justice,” Villa explained to Campus Reform.

Villa argues that although the second edition of the textbook was good when it came to instructing students and practices in the subject of environmental justice, the new edition of the textbook “allows professors in this specific law practice to focus on suggestions for solving problems of environmental injustice.” 

The exact changes of the new edition include new chapters that go into detail about the subjects of “public enforcement,” “disaster justice,” and “food justice.” An excerpt from the textbook shows its manner of intertwining environmental law with progressive social justice advocacy.

“Throughout history, our country’s laws, politicians and decisionmakers [sic] have seen Black and Brown communities as the dumping grounds for everything wealthier communities would never accept,” reads the textbook. “In these forgotten areas, we find coal-fired power plants bellowing out mercury and arsenic at alarming rates.”

“Recently, the Clean Air Act has been under attack, putting many more lives of color in the crosshairs of pollution,” the text continues. “We have an additional 94 environmental rules being rolled back, dismantled and deconstructed, further weakening the environmental and public-health safety net that so many in our country depend on for a basic level of protection.”

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The book’s foreword is byMustafa Santiago Ali, an activist who characterizes himself as “committed to the fight for environmental justice and economic equity.” He writes that the book is “so incredibly critical at this time in the history of our country.”

“At a time when science is under attack and policy is being manipulated, the law has become our greatest defense against the erosion of our civil, human, and environmental rights,” writes Ali. “The law is also our greatest weapon to ensure that our most vulnerable are truly protected. We need men and women of good conscience to stand up, but they must be prepared with the tools to fight injustice of both the past and the present.”

“Today, few people would argue that there is no such thing as environmental injustice (as if there were also no such thing as racism).  The challenge today is how to address cases of environmental injustice, and the new book provides plentiful examples of how people across the country are doing exactly that,” Villa told Campus Reform.

Many of the chapters in the newly updated version of the textbook are also based largely upon Villa’s personal experiences while he was an attorney practicing environmental law.  Villa told Campus Reform that while writing the third version, he hoped the new version would educate and also inspire students to become advocates for climate change activism in their communities as well as at the university.  

“I expect that anyone concerned with environmental justice, which may include community activists, commercial developers, and government agencies, will be able to use this book as a reference guide by flipping through the index in order to identify information that will help them do their work while protecting communities in the process,” said Villa.

“I want students to know there’s hope for making the world a better place. There are particular tools that can help people in this endeavor, and there’s certainly cause for despair in the world, but if people are educated and committed there are also causes for hope,” Villa added.

Follow the author of this article: Kyra Bowlby