Gender, Eco-Justice, and the Commons

Project Background

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing humans, as it concerns the future of life on earth. In fact, environmental impacts of our choices as humans have disproportionate impacts on groups with the least power–for example, in the United States, low-income and communities of color bear the brunt of toxic manufacturing, waste disposal, and other land uses that compromise health. Our environmental commons project focuses on ways to educate younger generations about of the fundamental interdependence of humans with one another and with other species and life forms, and about how our collective choices as humans impact the wellbeing of current and future generations of humans and species we may never meet.

Connie Flanagan is conducting a mixed methods study of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative’s (GLSI) and the Southeastern Michigan Stewardship (SEMIS) Coalition’s Place-Based Stewardship Education (PBSE) model with several hundred K-12 students, most of whom are from ethnic minority and low-income backgrounds. This is a longitudinal study looking at change in students’ understanding of human impact on the environment and their collective capacities to gather data and work with fellow citizens to address environmental issues in their communities. Data collection for this project is funded by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.

Project Goals

  • To determine the efficacy of a place-based environmental stewardship model emphasizing students’ collective learning and action on local environmental issues for engendering their understanding of and commitments to the environmental commons that we all share
  • To assess whether students from ethnic minority and low-income backgrounds develop an increasing interest in science when it is applied to public problem solving to benefit their communities
  • To assess changes in students’ awareness of human interdependence with other living things, of human impact on their local ecologies, and of their sense of efficacy in organizing collective efforts to improve their local ecologies


We have the following papers and chapters in press, based on the theory informing this project and on the pilot data that we have collected. These papers involve SoHE graduate students and our community partners as co-authors.

  • Flanagan, C., Byington, R., +Gallay, E., & Sambo, A., (2016). Social justice and the environmental commons.  In Horn, S., Ruck, M., & Liben, L. (eds.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 51, Equity and Justice in Developmental Sciences: Implications for Young People, Families, and Communities (pp. 203-230). Oxfordshire, UK: Elsevier.
  • Gallay, E., Marckini-Polk, L, Schroeder, B., & Flanagan, C. (2016). Place-based stewardship education: Nurturing aspirations to protect the rural commons. Peabody Journal of Education, DOI: 10.1080/0161956X.2016.1151736
  • Gallay, E., Lupinacci, J., Sarmiento, C., Flanagan, C., & Lowenstein, E. (2016). Environmental stewardship and youth activism for the environmental commons. In Conner, J. & Rosen, S. (eds.), Contemporary Youth Activism: Advancing Social Justice in the United States (pp. 113-132). ABC-CLIO Praeger Publishing.
  • Flanagan, C., & Gallay, E. (2014). Adolescents’ theories of the ‘commons’. In J. Benson, (ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 46, 33-55, Oxfordshire, UK: Elsevier.
  • Flanagan, C., Pykett, A., & +Gallay, E. (2014). Community contribution to moral and character development. In L. Nucci, D. Narvaez, & T. Krettenauer, (eds.), Handbook of Moral and Character Education (pp.441-455). Routledge.