By David N. Pellow

About David N. Pellow

David N. Pellow is Dehlsen Chair of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project at the University of California–Santa Barbara. His teaching and research focus on environmental and ecological justice in the United States and globally. He has served on the Boards of Directors for the Center for Urban Transformation, Greenpeace USA, and International Rivers.

About this Site

Keywords for Environmental Studies analyzes the central terms and debates currently structuring the most exciting research in and across environmental studies, including the environmental humanities, environmental social sciences, sustainability sciences, and the sciences of nature.

The print publication includes sixty essays from humanists, social scientists, and scientists, each written about a single term, reveal the broad range of quantitative and qualitative approaches critical to the state of the field today. From “ecotourism to ecoterrorism,” from genome to species,” this accessible volume illustrates the ways in which scholars are collaborating across disciplinary boundaries to reach shared understandings of key issues—such as extreme weather events or increasing global environmental inequities—in order to facilitate the pursuit of broad collective goals and actions. This site includes the volume’s Introduction,” 7 web essays from the volume, the list of works cited for all the essays, …


A book of this scope, exploring topics this complex and urgent, requires the time and effort of a great number of good-willed people if it is to be done well. All the contributors who accepted our invitations to write, and many other experts in their disciplinary fields who, for various reasons, could not accept our invitations, were generously willing to talk at length with us about the project. Each played a significant role in shaping the book by helping us construct an initial list of over 180 possible terms and then identify names of people qualified to write the essays. Later, they helped us decide how to narrow our list to sixty. We thank each of them for their time, expertise, and influence on our thinking, although all decisions on the final list of keywords were ours alone.

The book was incubated in spaces and places that sharpened our thinking …


The term “eco-terrorism” invites and courts confusion, misinterpretation, and misuse. It is a fine example of doublespeak, and is probably best thought of broadly as a terrain of power or, in a narrower vein, as one scholar writes, “nothing less than one vast attempt at control” (Gibbs 1989, 339). The term is believed to have been coined by anti-environmental activist Ron Arnold (Arnold 1983, 1997 [2010]), whose writings caught the attention of conservative media and political leaders who injected it into national and international discourses to exert greater control over a critical public policy issue, leading to hearings in the U.S. Congress and the passage of laws targeting eco-terrorism in most U.S. states and increasingly in other nations. Arnold famously defined “eco-terrorism” as a “crime committed to save nature” and is just one of many public voices that generally characterize “eco-terrorism” as any violent act against property or persons in …


This volume creates a new “state of the field” inventory and analysis of the central terms and debates currently structuring the most exciting research in and across environmental studies, including the environmental humanities, environmental social science, sustainability sciences, and the sciences of nature. Inspired in part by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies, and linked to that volume through Vermonja Alston’s essay, “Environment,” which she revisits and expands here for Keywords for Environmental Studies, we, and each of our contributors, aim to show how, in its broadest sense, the term “environment” enables “a questioning of the relations of power, agency, and responsibility to human and nonhuman environments” (Alston 2007, 103).

The deeper roots of this Keywords project may be found in cultural theorist Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society and the iconic “blank pages” at the end of that volume. Williams …

Note on Classroom Use

Like the other volumes in the series, Keywords for Environmental Studies is designed for use in a broad range of teaching environments, both disciplinary and interdisciplinary. It can also be adapted for use at a variety of levels, from introductory undergraduate courses to graduate seminars. While every essay in the volume has been prepared by a field expert, they are all also written in clear prose crafted to be understood by non-experts.

This is, after all, part of the design of the volume: to create opportunities not only for disciplinary and interdisciplinary conversations, but also for trans- or cross-disciplinary ones, in which we speak to each other across the often artificial divides that separate bodies of knowledge and expertise. (Or, as the essay on “Translation” in the volume suggests, literal divides of language and meaning.) If we learned anything while preparing this volume, it’s not only that every …

Sample Discussion Questions

In our Note on Classroom Use, we outline a variety of ways you might use Keywords for Environmental Studies in the classroom, particularly in developing syllabi and formulating student activities and assignments. In what follows, we provide a broad range of sample discussion questions that you can use to stimulate student conversation and hopefully encourage action.

As you’ll see, rather than provide separate discussion questions for each individual keyword, we’ve grouped the entries into keyword clusters, to help students draw connections among related concepts. We have also further organized the clusters according to the three broad disciplinary divisions that inform environmental studies: environmental humanities, environmental social sciences, and environmental sciences.

These divisions are meant to inspire, not to constrain. (You’ll notice, in fact, that many terms cross from one category to another.) Feel free to mix and match among the different sections, and to invite students to develop their …

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