Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Whitney Mauer discusses socio-ecological resilience in an academic article written for Rural Sociology and on the TreeHugger podcast.
In a new academic article and podcast appearance, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Whitney Mauer discusses how predominant avenues toward resilience through environmental restoration can fall short in practice within marginalized communities, as they have for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
Appearing in the journal Rural Sociology, “Unsettling Resilience: Colonial Ecological Violence, Indigenous Futurisms, and the Restoration of the Elwha River” suggests that healing the damages of settler colonialism likely requires explicit and targeted approaches to indigenous self-determination even in apparently best-case scenarios. The piece is an academic companion to one recently published in Contexts, which eschewed discipline-specific jargon to be accessible to the general public.
Mauer explains that it was hoped that an ecological restoration project that undid years of upstream damming in the Elwha River would restore ecological vitality, especially with respect to salmon presence, and that the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe — whose culture and economic stability traditionally relied on salmon — would then also experience a renewed vitality and resilience.
Though she acknowledges that the Elwha River restoration has had many positive impacts, her primary takeaway from her research is that “justice for peoples doesn’t naturally follow improved or restored ecological conditions.”
Mauer discusses her research and findings in a new episode of the Treehugger Podcast, which focuses on the science, practice and humans of ecological restoration. “The tribe is taking on a pretty substantial burden for an environmental problem that they never created in the first place … burdens from the restoration of damming that they were neither responsible for nor did they want,” she said during the conversation. “It is part of this settler-colonial structure that continues to disadvantage indigenous nations.”
Mauer describes resilience as “often framed as the capability of a system to bounce back after disturbance,” but notes that isn’t necessarily desirable. “What is desirable is an indigenous self-determined future.”