Science, technology and society
“We have to be able to hold it all … grief and outrage, resilience and determination, and making the choice to stay in place to heal the soil for a better collective future.” Such were the poignant sentiments expressed by Neli Jasuja and Tayeh Carlisle, community activists from Young Women Empowered, who spoke about their partnership with soil scientist and IAS faculty member Melanie Malone at Marra Farms in South Park, Seattle.
Located near a former Superfund site and situated in a predominantly Black and brown community, Marra Farms represents an all-too-common environmental justice paradox: as an urban oasis and refuge, Marra Farms offers young people a safe place to be outdoors and build community through gardening. Yet, the soil itself is “sick,” holding within it sedimented histories of extraction and pollution, toxic waste, and chemical contamination.
What are communities to do in such situations? While there are no easy answers, Malone’s collaboration with Young Women Empowered highlights the importance and possibility of mitigating harm in the short term. By collecting and analyzing soil samples, community gardeners in South Park learn what vegetables are safer to grow than others (given variation in the uptake of toxins), how to protect themselves while gardening (wear gloves), and how to build raised beds to fill with toxin-free earth. Young people at Marra Farms thus both hold grief and root in resilience; they display a determination to protect themselves, their beloved communities, and to stay in the struggle for more life sustaining ways of being—and, for them, this collective struggle may well be life sustaining.
The contamination at Marra Farms also raises questions about science, technology, and their embeddedness in the socio-ecology of everyday life. This issue of Intersections explores Science, Technology & Society (STS) from the perspectives of three current students, an alum, and a faculty member who teaches in the major. The features below show a wide variety of approaches to how and why a critical understanding of science and technology is important for society, ecology, and justice.
Our student feature asks three current STS majors (Vy Mai, Daelen Gates, and Loren Herrera) why they chose the major, what Science, Technology & Society means to them, what it’s like being an STS major, and what students who are considering the major or minor should know.
Our alumni feature follows Mudasir Zubair’s academic and personal journey, which combines arts and storytelling with science, technology and society. Zubair’s work is inspiring for its focus on improved mental health through a skillful leveraging of media and technology to advance people’s well-being.
Our faculty feature profiles IAS faculty member Adam M. Romero, who recently published an award-winning new book, Economic Poisoning: Industrial Waste and the Chemicalization of American Agriculture. Romero’s scholarship helps us better understand the complicated roots of toxic contamination in places like Marra Farms in South Park.
Students at UW Bothell will soon be able to engage with STS challenges through a new Minor in Science, Technology & Society that IAS will launch in Autumn of 2022.
As always, you can learn more about what students, alumni, faculty, and staff are doing on the IAS News Blog. To keep up to date on IAS events open to the campus and the public, you can also subscribe to a weekly digest of upcoming events . If you are an IAS alum, discover ways to connect and get involved by visiting our alumni page online.
Past issues of Intersections are accessible from the right sidebar here.
Feel free to send comments on these stories or ideas for others to IASinfo@uw.edu.
Dean, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences