Nature and Health Equity and Racial Justice Task Force

Gina Aaftaab, Sara Breslow, Sean Watts, and Isabel Carrera Zamanillo

Researchers: Naheed Gina Aaftaab, Sara Breslow, Sean M. Watts, Isabel Carrera Zamanillo,

Nature and Health (N&H) launched the Equity and Racial Justice Task Force in September 2020 to build and strengthen our scholarly transdisciplinary relationships. At the intersections of ableism, colonization, oppression, and structural racism, N&H recognizes that nature-health research often prioritizes Western knowledge. Our approach to the field of nature and health embraces multiple worldviews and builds an ethic of anti-racism, equity, and justice. N&H will connect our shared principles through multiple framings that involve Anti-Racism, Critical Race Theory, Decolonization, Geography, Indigenous Research, Philosophy, and Socio-Cultural Anthropology among other areas. Our current short-term tasks involve defining N&H while acknowledging the colonial origins and the impacts of institutionally white spaces in the field of nature and health research. We will build a powerful coalition that connects nature and health in critical and strengths-based scholarship. Our long-term tasks include support for social scientists and community participants who are doing work to improve nature access and resilience and forming a research affinity group that is centered on the intersectional realities faced by Black, Indigenous, and people of color, LGBTQ, and disabled communities.

Naheed Gina Aaftaab is the Assistant Director for the UW Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity. The Center strives to be a space where our community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni gather to promote greater equity. Gina holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology, and her current work focuses on political and economic justice, community building, and how we connect the personal with the structural. In collaboration with community and units across campus, she creates innovative learning spaces and research projects, building bridges between academia and our community partners. Outside of the UW, Gina works with local immigrant and refugee communities.

Sara Breslow is an environmental anthropologist and transdisciplinarian interested in collaborating across the sciences, arts, and humanities and partnering with local communities to address complex challenges in the human-nature relationship. She has worked to develop foundational concepts, build institutional capacity, and promote policies that advance sustainability and social justice in a variety of positions locally and abroad, including at UW EarthLab, NOAA, IPBES, the Western Governors’ Association, The Puget Sound Partnership, and The Nature Conservancy. Sara holds a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s in biology from Swarthmore College.

Sean M. Watts is the owner of SM Watts Consulting, LLC – empowering communities to drive environmental and land use policy and helping traditional conservation and environmental organizations move from awareness to action on diversity, equity and inclusion. He has spent his career seeking environmental solutions that yield the greatest human and ecological benefits. Most recently, as Director of Community Partnerships for the Seattle Parks Foundation, he created programs to advocate for and build capacity among resident-led groups to enhance open space in Seattle. He has worked to bridge gaps between science, policy and society as faculty at Santa Clara University; as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation and as founding Director of the University of Washington, Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. Sean received his BA in Biology from the University of Virginia; and PhD in Ecology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Isabel Carrera Zamanillo has over a decade of non-profit and community organizing experience. Born in Mexico, Isabel has a professional background in biological and environmental sciences, as well as in Science, Technology, and Society studies. She has collaborated with a wide range of organizations and institutions in the development and management of science outreach programs and independent social justice projects. Isabel has also experience working in environmental justice-related projects in Mexico and the United States, incorporating methods in ethnobiology and community-based participatory research. In 2012, Isabel relocated to the United States and in 2017 completed a doctoral degree in Environmental Sciences at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. She will soon be working at Stanford University as DEI Assistant Director for the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences. She previously held a diversity specialist role at the University of Washington College of the Environment in the office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.