Professor Emerita at the University of Florida and kayak/paddle/board/sailing devotee
WHITNEY spent her childhood summers playing in the tidal areas of Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia. When she moved to Florida, it was like coming home to an ecosystem she loved and missed. Florida’s rivers, barriers islands, springs, and ocean waters are their wilderness, and she and her husband Kevin spend as much time as possible exploring the waters by SUP, kayak, and sailboat. Whitney has kayak camped in the Keys and the 10,000 Islands, surfed her kayak in the Atlantic, and has recently learned to SUP surf. Whitney and Kevin and are longtime volunteers with Paddle Florida. Even though Florida is blessed with what looks like an abundance of water, its rivers, springs, and aquifer are threatened by pollution and over-consumption, among other things. So while she enjoys playing and surfing, she also works protect Florida’s waters.
When Whitney am not paddling, surfing, or sailing, she is a faculty member in the Religion Department at the University of Florida. She teaches and conducts research in UF’s Religion and Nature program, a unit that both asks how religious traditions understand the natural world and how religious traditions are responding to environmental crises such as pollution and climate change. Her classes, including Religion and Sustainability and Women and Religion, help students understand the various dimensions of human relationships to the natural world and our obligations to it and each other. Her work lies at the intersection of religion, environment, and social justice.
She recently completed a book entitled Being the Change: What I Learned from Intentional Community (Forthcoming, University of Kentucky Press, 2017) that explores how communities come together to live sustainably and harmoniously. She is just beginning a project on the ecoheritage of the St. Johns River in Florida which explores why communities, past and present, have come to love and protect the river and her springs. Whitney plans to start ethnographic and historical research on this project in spring 2016.
Whitney is interested in how environmental degradation affects people differentially, and women often bear the brunt of pollution, for example, especially in developing countries. She hopes to learn more about these issues in a transnational context and is eager to work with a diverse team on the issue of women and water. In Florida, the Caribbean, and beyond, we face enormous problems around water, and some refer to these as “wicked problems”, meaning that they are difficult to solve and require multiple solutions and approaches. Working with others and learning new viewpoints will help her own work, and Whitney will bring what she has learned to her research and to her students at the University of Florida.