Critical Environmental Theory: Examining the Mainstream Environmental Movement with a Critical Race Theory Analysis

Senior Project Advisor

Velez, Verónica N. (Verónica Nelly)

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2019


Environment, CRT


Critical Environmental Theory examines the mainstream environmental movement with a Critical Race Theory Analysis. The author starts by laying out the dominant narratives within the mainstream environmental movement, and examining the history and a counter to this analysis. From here, the author moves into an examination of nature as a site of exploitation in which relationships between humans and nature are one-sided, with humans using nature to only take and exploit, and never give. Pulling primarily from the work of Robin Kimmerer and her ideas of reciprocity and the honorable harvest, CET centers Indigenous ideologies and epistemologies around nature, allowing for a needed shift in relationship in which there is a two-sided relationship with the non-human world, and restoration, of the land and relationships, is not an end goal but an ongoing process. Combining the components of the alternate history and Indigenous ideologies of nature, the paper concludes with understanding Critical Environmental Theory. The ultimate goal of Critical Environmental Theory is to create a movement that is truly liberatory for people and planet. Grounded in Critical Race Theory, with the frameworks of settler-colonialism and intersectionality, this analysis concludes with the five tenets of Critical Environmental Theory, the role of theory in movements, and seeks to understand if liberation in the current systems is truly possible.


Secondary Education

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Critical theory; Nature--Effect of human beings on; Ecology--Philosophy; Human-plant relationships; Environmental justice


student projects; term papers




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