Kay Jowers Discusses Challenges of Addressing Environmental Inequality

Duke Today recently surveyed ongoing environmental justice research at Duke, highlighting the work of Kay Jowers, the Director of Just Environments at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. 

Jowers emphasizes that transforming existing physical infrastructure to address persistent racial inequality is a challenge. While attitudes around race may have changed over the past century, the legacies of segregation still shape the built environment. This can lead to disproportionately negative environmental impacts on Black communities. 

“This is about the built-in environment that already exists. So we are not going to wipe the slate clean with the existing landfills. We cannot rebuild all the housing stock in Durham,” said Jowers.

Jowers says we also have to acknowledge that institutions like Duke have contributed to these conditions; for instance, by selling properties with racial covenants in the neighborhoods surrounding West Campus in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

“It’s important to be sensitive to the role institutions have played in the impact of racially restrictive covenants.” – Kay Jowers

Read the full article by Thomasi Mcdonald about Jowers and other environmental justice programs on the Duke Today website.