Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D.

Professor; James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Chair; Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; 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; analysis of the composition of the environmental workforce; 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 parts of the country.  A recently-published article on food justice in Detroit entitled, "Food Availability and the Food Desert Frame in Detroit:  An Overview of the City’s Food Systemstates" (Environmental Practice), exemplify this work. 

Other recent research activities include the 2014 national report analyzing racial and gender diversity in the environmental field -- see The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations:  Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies. My 2009 book, The Environment and the People in American Cities (Duke University Press), is an award-winning urban environmental history book. I published an edited volume in 2010 entitled, Environment and Social Justice:  An International Perspective (Emerald Press).  I published oxic Communities:  Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility (NYU Press) n 2014.  My newest book, Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection:  Social Inequality and the Rise of the American Conservation Movement (Duke University Press) is currently in press; it is slated for publication in 2015.

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:

  • Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan. (2015-2018).
  • James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Chair.  University of Michigan (2015).
  • Fred Buttel Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Environmental Sociology Award.  The Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association (2015).
  • Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Outstanding Alumnus Award (2015)
  • Carol Hollenshead Award for Excellence in Promoting Equity and Social Change.  The Center for the Education of Women.  University of Michigan (2014).
  • 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, 2013-2015).              
  • 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: 

  •  Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection:  Social Inequality and the Rise of the American Conservation Movement.  Duke University Press. (2015).
  • Toxic Communities:  Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility.  New York University Press.  (2014). 

From St. Louis to New Orleans, from Baltimore to Oklahoma City, there are poor and minority neighborhoods so beset by pollution that just living in them can be hazardous to your health. Due to entrenched segregation, zoning ordinances that privilege wealthier communities, or because businesses have found the ‘paths of least resistance,’ there are many hazardous waste and toxic facilities in these communities, leading residents to experience health and wellness problems on top of the race and class discrimination most already experience. Taking stock of the recent environmental justice scholarship, Toxic Communities examines the connections among residential segregation, zoning, and exposure to environmental hazards. Renowned environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor focuses on the locations of hazardous facilities in low-income and minority communities and shows how they have been dumped on, contaminated and exposed.

Drawing on an array of historical and contemporary case studies from across the country, Taylor explores controversies over racially-motivated decisions in zoning laws, eminent domain, government regulation (or lack thereof), and urban renewal. She provides a comprehensive overview of the debate over whether or not there is a link between environmental transgressions and discrimination, drawing a clear picture of the state of the environmental justice field today and where it is going. In doing so, she introduces new concepts and theories for understanding environmental racism that will be essential for environmental justice scholars. A fascinating landmark study, Toxic Communities greatly contributes to the study of race, the environment, and space in the contemporary United States.

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

(734) 763-5327