McCourtney Institute and Sustainability Institute team up for virtual book club

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As extreme weather and natural disasters intensify across the United States, the government will inevitably play a role in responding to help citizens impacted by those events. But is that response as equitable as it could or should be?

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy and the Sustainability Institute will examine that question with a virtual book-club discussion on “The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities,” by Robert D. Bullard.

The virtual book club meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on March 22 via Zoom and feature a large-group discussion led by Peter Buck, academic programs manager in the Sustainability Institute, followed by smaller breakout groups.

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy and the Sustainability Institute will lead a virtual book club discussion of “The Wrong Complexion for Protection” by Robert D. Bullard at 4 p.m. on March 22, 2021, as part of a programming series on environmental justice.

Bullard is known as the “father of environmental justice” and has spent his career studying how environmental issues disproportionately impact communities of color. “The Wrong Complexion for Protection” places the government response to natural and human-induced disasters in a historical context over the past eight decades.

In the book, Bullard and co-author Beverly Wright compare and contrast how the government responded to emergencies, including environmental and public health emergencies, toxic contamination, industrial accidents and bioterrorism threats — and show that African Americans are disproportionately affected by those responses.

The Sustainability Institute’s theme for the 2020-21 academic year is environmental justice; its programming on that topic will culminate in a virtual event with Bullard on April 1.

The March 22 book club discussion is open to the entire Penn State community. Reading the book is encouraged but not required. Learn more and register at

Last Updated February 18, 2021

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