Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D.

Professor, Environmental Justice Field of Studies Coordinator, Past Chair of the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association

Ph.D. Environmental Sociology, 1991, Yale University (Joint doctorates from the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Department of Sociology)
M.A. Environmental Sociology, 1988, Yale University
M. Phil. Sociology, 1988, Yale University
M.F.S. Social Ecology, 1985, Yale University

My research interests include urban agriculture, food access, and food insecurity; institutional diversity; green jobs; social movement analysis; environmental justice; leisure and natural resource use; poverty; and race, gender, and ethnic relations. My current research includes an assessment of food access in Michigan and other Midwestern states.  Other recent research activities have included an analysis of the green jobs sector, and four national studies of racial and gender diversity in the environmental field. My 2009 book, The Environment and the People in American Cities, is an award-winning urban environmental history book. I completed an edited volume in 2010 entitled, Environment and Social Justice:  An International Perspective.  I just completed a book that will be published in 2014 entitled, Toxic Communities:  Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility.  I have another completed manuscript slated for publication in 2014 also entitled, Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection:  Social Inequality and the Rise of the American Conservation Movement.

My main areas of research include:

  • Food access, justice, and food insecurity
  • Urban agriculture
  • Green jobs
  • Social movement analysis
  • Environmental justice
  • Leisure and natural-resource use
  • Poverty and urban issues
  • Diversity in environmental institutions
  • Environmental history and ideology
  • Social inequality
  • International development issues.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

  • Currently conducting studies of food insecurity and access to healthy foods in Michigan.
  • Conducting on-going research on the status of diversity in environmental institutions.
  • Conducted analysis of the green jobs sector in the U.S. Examining green employers' workforce demands and the efficacy of green jobs training programs.
  • Conducting on-going analysis of mainstream and environmental justice groups in the U.S.
  • Examining environmental ideology, activism and experiences in 19th and 20th century America.
  • I examine the role of race, class and gender in influencing environmental attitudes, perceptions, ideology, and activism.
  • I am interested in social movements, particularly how minority communities organize around environmental issues.
  • Have studied the media and the framing of environmental justice issues.

Current Research Funding:

  • US Department of Agriculture.  “Examining Disparities in Food Access and Enhancing the Food Security of Underserved Populations in Michigan.” Duration:  2012-2017.   Role:  Principal Investigator.   Amount:  $4,000,000.00.   Abstract
  • Mott Foundation.  "An Assessment of Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Environmental Advocacy in the Great Lakes Region."  Duration:  2013-2015.  Amount:  $100,000.  Role:  Principal Investigator.

  • Joyce Foundation.  "An Assessment of Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Environmental Advocacy in the Great Lakes Region." Duration:  2013-2015.  Amount:  $100,000.  Role:  Principal Investigator.


Recent Awards, Recognition, and Leadership Roles:

  • 29 Black American Environmentalists. (2014).
  • Recipient of the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the University of Michigan.  (2012).
  • Co-Director of the Envoys and Diversity Allies Program, University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment (2012-2013).
  • Chair of the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.  (2012–2013).  Chair-elect (2011-2012).
  • Field of Studies Coordinator for the Environmental Justice Program in the School of Natural Resources and Environment (2011-2012).              
  • Winner of the Outstanding Publication Award for book, Environment and the People in American Cities, 1600s-1900s:  Disorder, Inequality, and Social Change.  The Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.  (2010)
  • People to Celebrate – Game Changer, Dorceta Taylor.  Earth911. (2010).
  • Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates Faculty Fellow.  Chosen to lead undergraduates on a trip to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands in 2010-2011.
  • Telluride Honors Program Summer Teaching Fellow.  Selected to teach high school honors course to be taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (2010).

Projects and Initiatives Developed

I am the Program Director for the Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative (MELDI) a project in SNRE. MELDI is aimed at providing resources that students and environmental professionals can use to help develop their careers and find out about jobs and funding. MELDI's website also provides information on environmental justice research, organizations and events of interest in the field. For more information visit the MELDI website at

Teaching Interests:

I believe that each person has the capacity to learn and get excited about environmental issues. I think a thorough understanding of the past informs present thinking and actions. I believe that teaching that is built on a foundation of solid knowledge, rigor and freedom to push the boundaries and think beyond the ordinary produce the mosti exciting results. To this end, I employ a variety of proven traditional techniques in my teaching. However, I complement this with cutting-edge approaches to help students to become well grounded in the discipline but still be able to think creatively about issues.

Current Teaching:

  • ENVIRON 222: Introduction to Environmental Justice
  • NRE 501-055: Poverty, Environment, and Inequality
  • NRE 501-055: Food Systems:  Implications of Unequal Access
  • NRE 701-055: Master’s Project – Food Insecurity in Michigan
  • NRE 596: History of Environmental Thought and Activism.

 Selected (Forthcoming and Recent) Publications:

Winner of the 2010 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award for the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association for publication completed between 2009 and 2009.

Listen to podcast of interview on Progressive Radio about the Environment and the People:

In The Environment and the People in American Cities, Dorceta E. Taylor provides an in-depth examination of the development of urban environments, and urban environmentalism, in the United States. Taylor focuses on the evolution of the city, the emergence of elite reformers, the framing of environmental problems, and the perceptions of and responses to breakdowns in social order, from the seventeenth century through the twentieth. She demonstrates how social inequalities repeatedly informed the adjudication of questions related to health, safety, and land access and use. While many accounts of environmental history begin and end with wildlife and wilderness, Taylor shows that the city offers important clues to understanding the evolution of American environmental activism.

Taylor traces the progression of several major thrusts in urban environmental activism, including the alleviation of poverty; sanitary reform and public health; safe, affordable, and adequate housing; parks, playgrounds, and open space; occupational health and safety; consumer protection (food and product safety); and land use and urban planning. At the same time, she provides a historical analysis of the ways race, class, and gender shaped experiences and perceptions of the environment as well as environmental activism and the construction of environmental discourses. Illuminating connections between the social and environmental conflicts of the past and those of the present, Taylor describes the displacement of people of color in early America, the cozy relationship between middle-class environmentalists and the business community, and the continuous resistance against environmental inequalities on the part of ordinary residents from marginal communities. See for further details.


2576 Dana