The Resource Curse, the phenomenon that countries that are endowed with vast natural resources – in specific, non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels – tend to have worse development outcomes, has perpetuated the cycle of conflict, poverty and disease in many developing nations. Inequality and injustice follow the same trajectory as consumption levels, where increased global consumption of fossil fuels and minerals (i.e., oil, gold, diamonds) has lead to increased inequality and injustice in communities that host these valuable economic entities. As a global citizen that has lived, worked and travelled in various parts of the world, my passion for environmental justice and health has grown tremendously as I believe that violations of basic human rights should not be the foundation for economic advancement and development in emerging countries.
My research broadly looks at the environmental, health, economic and political impacts of extractive industries in West Africa (i.e., Oil, Mining and Natural Gas companies) and the development of strategies to get these industries to reverse their impacts and reduce injustices and inequity in the communities they operate. This interest grew not only out of my academic work, but my extensive professional experience working for international and national organizations focused on economic development, health services, and conflict resolution based in the United States, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe. Prior to my studies at MSU, I co-authored a paper on the Global Geographies of Environmental Injustice and Health: A Case Study of Illegal Hazardous Waste Dumping in Côte d’Ivoire published in the peer-reviewed Geospatial Analysis of Environmental Health in April 2011. This study was an investigation of the spatial patterning and potential health impacts of illegal toxic wastes that were dumped in Abidjan in August 2006.
My dissertation will expand on my Dual Master’s Thesis from American University’s School of International Service, which focused on environmental injustice in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria (in process). Using a case-control study design, I will assess the impact(s) of the oil industry on the health and economic development of two communities: one that is in proximity to gas flares and whose population is directly or indirectly involved in economic activities associated with the oil industry; and one that is not in proximity to gas flares and whose population is not involved in economic activities relating to the oil industry. Since gas flares are a known source of respiratory and other illnesses, they are used as the primary hazard by which people are directly exposed. Historically, economic activities related to the oil industry have prevented the development of other local industries (i.e., agriculture and aquaculture) in host communities and are therefore, also investigated in this study. This research will help to disentangle the relationships between poor economic development, poor population health and the multinational extractive (oil) industry in the Niger Delta to inform future development initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.