Much scholarship has demonstrated that chronically under-resourced or oppressed communities are disproportionately impacted by disasters--a pattern apparent in recent impacts of COVID-19. Thus, social scientists have long argued that there are no "natural" disasters; the circumstances that make environmental events disastrous are socially produced (Oliver-Smith, 1996; Smith 2006). Such disparities in vulnerability and resilience might seem to fit neatly with the concept of environmental justice. Traditionally, however, environmental justice movements have focused on disparities in environmental harm that are both more directly manmade, such as industrial pollution, and more perduring, such as lead poisoning. Scholarship on environmental justice has largely followed suit. Scholarship on disasters, on the other hand, tends to emphasize community adaptation over disparities in impacts and is framed by event-driven cycles of disaster management.
The next generation of scholarship in both of these areas is moving toward addressing these gaps. Critical Environmental Justice scholars have argued for greater inclusion of different types of environmental hazards, such as climate change, that may cause disasters or compound their impacts (Pellow, 2018). There is also a movement among disaster researchers to address "slower"Ãï¿½ impacts that tend to disproportionately impact marginalized groups (Nixon, 2011; Billiot & Mitchell, 2018). Within social work, more research in these overlapping areas is needed (Mason, Shires, Arwood, & Borst, 2017).
These presentations demonstrate multiple approaches to integrating disaster research and scholarship on environmental justice. Willett's community-based participatory study reveals how hidden environmental disasters unfold along multiple, intersecting timelines of environmental injustice. Examining intersections of social inequity and disaster impacts, Billiot explores methods for measuring impacts of both acute and slow disasters on Indigenous populations, while Ferreira examines the roles of race and gender in how the consequences of disasters are perceived. Focusing on environmental justice and disaster response, Mathias' interdisciplinary ethnographic study shows how cultural practices of disaster aid as "gift" can compound impacts on vulnerable communities, while Powell tests an intervention to improve coping and resilience among professionals who serve the most vulnerable during disasters. Mason will offer synthetic comments and facilitate discussion on how to integrate disaster and environmental justice scholarship for greater public impact and social change.