Celebrating Black Environmentalists during Black History Month

In the vibrant field of environmental activism, voices from diverse backgrounds bring unique perspectives and solutions to the forefront. Today, we shine a spotlight on black environmentalists who are making significant strides on the University of Kentucky’s campus-challenging stereotypes, making positive impacts on conservation, and driving positive change in their communities and beyond.

We recognizing that sustainability would be impossible without discussing the efforts of advancing inclusive and equitable solutions. In recognition of Black History Month, the Office of Sustainability would like to highlight the contributions and perspectives of a few UK faculty and their dedication to the environment and sustainability. We are grateful for these contributions and the many contributions of their fellow colleges across all intersections.

L. Sebastian Bryson, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE

Hardin-Drnevich-Huang Professor of Civil Engineering

Joint Appointment in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Chair, Department of Civil Engineering

“Black folks often face disproportionate environmental burdens, such as living in areas with higher pollution levels or lacking access to clean water and healthy food. Their perspectives and experiences are crucial in shaping environmental policies and practices that address these disparities. Overall, involving minorities in discussions about environmental sustainability is essential for fostering inclusivity, addressing environmental injustices, and promoting effective solutions that benefit all communities.”

Akinbode Adedeji, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department, University of Kentucky.

“Faculty members, as citizens of our planet, are not excluded from the environmental, social, and economic responsibilities that connect to the subject of sustainability. As a minority faculty, I see this more as a priority because of the historical impact of the inequity that exists within African American communities and the subject of sustainability. We are impacted more by the negative aspects of the sustainability spectrum. Flint Michigan is still fresh in our memory. Minority communities bear a higher burden of environmental degradation, which is often overlooked. There is a need for clear and consistent support from those of us who have or can scout for facts to support the effort to make a change.”

“My research programs here at UK ensure that the theme of sustainability is engrained in every aspect of my work. I have two research programs. One is on non-destructive testing (NDT) method development, and the other is on underutilized grain value addition. My research on NDT focuses primarily on method development, which reduces waste during food quality and safety evaluations. NDT ensures that there is less food waste from testing for quality and at the same time removes chemical and biological wastes from the process of food testing. Significant components of my research on grains look at ways we can develop plant-based proteins, that are alternatives to animal protein sources that are known of GHG emission. I also ensure that there is social equity in how I recruit and provide training to my students.”

Tayo Adedokun, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Department of Animal and Food Science

“The human population will continue to grow and so is the demand for animal protein. This increase in demand would result in an increase in the in animal production and subsequently would lead to an increase in animal feed and waste (excreta and feces). The excreta and feces from poultry and swine are often applied to fields as sources of nutrient to plants. Despite all the intentional efforts to reduce nutrient runoff and odor, large amounts of waste are carried away in water runoff after rainfall or irrigation and could lead to water pollution (eutrophication).”

“The research I conduct at the University of Kentucky seeks to indirectly address sustainability and environmental challenges. A section of my research focuses on increasing efficiency through feed ingredient evaluation and the use of dietary enzymes to increase digestibility. The use of exogenous enzymes (e.g. phytase, carbohydrase, etc.) supplementation with particular focus of protein (amino acids) and phosphorus can increase these nutrients digestibility and utilization. Data from these studies can be used to formulate diets that limit excess nutrients in diets, ultimately leading to more sustainable and environmentally friendly food production systems.”

Crystal A. Felima, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African American & Africana Studies

“Black voices and initiatives bring attention to environmental justice, equitable access to resources, and fair treatment in the face of climate change and disasters. Within Black environmental initiatives, you will find a connection to cultural landscapes and the commitment to care politics and equity. By amplifying the voices and efforts of Black people within the sustainability space, a more inclusive approach to environmental and climate actions emerges, fostering collaboration and inspiring meaningful change. Importantly, recognizing and valuing Black contributions addresses historical environmental inequities and prioritizes relationality, solidarity, and community repair for a just future.”

These UK faculty and black environmentalists exemplify the power of diverse voices in driving positive change and shaping the future of environmentalism. Through their advocacy, research, and activism, they are inspiring the next generation of leaders to build a more equitable and sustainable world.

Katherine Johnson

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