Dr. Giovanna Di Chiro
Dr. Giovanna Di Chiro is Director of Environmental Programs at Nuestras Raíces, Inc. in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and Research Associate at the Five Colleges Research Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. She has published widely on the intersections of environmental science and policy, with a focus on social and economic disparities and human rights. She is co-editor of the volume Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power and is completing a book titled Embodied Ecologies: Science, Politics, and Environmental Justice. Her current work examines environmental justice activists' reframing of the climate change debate to focus on the local, bodily impacts of wide-scale environmental problems like global warming. She is widely known for her research and practice focusing on community-based approaches to sustainability and the intersections of social justice and sustainability. Di Chiro teaches environmental studies and collaborates with environmental justice organizations to conduct community-based research on environmental health concerns and on developing culturally relevant sustainability initiatives in poor and low-income communities. She has received numerous research fellowships and grants, including from the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the American Association of University Women, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. She serves on the international editorial board of Zed Books' series on gender and environment.
Di Chiro has a background in Biology with a Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in History of Consciousness from the University of California, an interdisciplinary program integrating her background in biology, environmental studies, and socio-cultural theory. Both her research and teaching emphasize the interdisciplinary linkages among the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities with an applied problem-solving focus integrating the fields of environmental justice, community-based environmental science, and sustainable development for social change. Di Chiro worked as a marine biologist for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and conducted research in tropical biology and environmental education through the Smithsonian Institute and the Organization of American States. Di Chiro has over 20 years teaching experience, and has held faculty positions in Environmental Studies at Deakin University (Australia), University of California (Santa Cruz), Allegheny College, and Mount Holyoke College. Joining together her expertise in environmental science and policy and her commitment to human rights and social justice, Di Chiro has collaborated with numerous community organizations representing poor communities in the United States, India, Puerto Rico, and Indigenous communities working at the U.S./Mexico border and for Native American struggles for environmental justice.
Di Chiro's co-edited volume, Appropriating Technology (Minnesota, 2004), consists of a series of case studies documenting marginalized communities' use/appropriation of a range of technologies in their social change efforts. In the book's environment section, Di Chiro analyzed the fluidity of the border zone between community activism and technological innovation for social and environmental justice to show how collaborative efforts across differences of race, class, gender, and expertise often work to bring about change. These ideas are illustrated in topics such as community members' use of GIS mapping systems to track air and water quality in New York City, village-based agroforestry and co-management approaches in Kenya, and video and film technologies in Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land rights struggles in Nevada.
Di Chiro's current manuscript, Embodied Ecologies: Science, Politics, and Environmental Justice, focuses on her concepts of "embodied" or "situated" environmental science and community-based environmental justice activism. The central argument of the book interrogates conventional environmental science and policy approaches, which tend to concentrate on macro-level frameworks of organized power: states, markets, global institutions, global environmental sciences, and international environmental organizations. With attention to local, community-based environmental change efforts, Embodied Ecologies examines the creation of innovative coalitions that produce new, hybrid forms of environmental expertise and dynamic, local environmental advocacy that see the critical connections to non-local, national, and global processes.
As a faculty member in Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, Di Chiro partnered with the environmental justice organization, Nuestras Raíces through her community-based courses Urban Ecology and Environmental Justice Studies. During this time she served as a faculty partner supporting the organization's environmental health projects and wrote several grants for the organization including an EPA CARE Level I grant (2006) and EPA CARE Level II (2009). Since 2009 Di Chiro has been directing Nuestras Raíces' EPA CARE program developing training programs for local leaders advancing the organization's mission to promote sustainable economic development, community/urban agriculture, and environmental health. This program has brought together academic, government, and community members to develop culturally appropriate environmental education programs to solve local problems and to create sustainable and just economic development policies in the region. Together with other community partners involved in these social and environmental change efforts, she helped found the community-based energy services corporation, Energía (energiaus.com). Energía is a hybrid for profit/not-for-profit, community-owned enterprise organized around the "triple bottom line" business philosophy committed to employing low-income community residents, establishing a worker cooperative management structure, and promoting energy conservation and wider environmental benefits. Under Di Chiro's leadership, Nuestras Raíces' EPA CARE funded environmental program has been recognized by the EPA in its upcoming "Promising Practices" publication and was nominated in October 2011 as one of the EPA CARE program's "Champions of Change."