Biocitizen is so pleased to welcome Ursa Heidinger as the Assistant Director of Biocitizen NY!
My name is Ursa Heidinger, and I study political science and human rights at Columbia University with a specialization in American and international politics. Conservation and environmental justice are passions deeply rooted in my upbringing. Family trips to the beach always included a careful examination of the local estuaries; drives to elementary school were always accompanied by an update on the war in Iraq with NPR’s Democracy Now; denuclearization rallies create the backdrop for my baby pictures. My keen interest in the outdoors began with a fascination and amazement with my physical space — my local rivers, forests, and mountains — and eventually transformed into a sense of responsibility to and solidarity with the land and creatures as I began to realize the destruction they were experiencing. This sense of responsibility, and at times indignation, only became more complex as I saw that it wasn’t just the wild creatures that were being hurt by unsustainable development and lack of environmental regulation, it was also my neighbors; it was also people. It was here that I developed an interest in the confluence between social justice and environmentalism — also known as environmental justice. I hope to instill this same sense of solidarity with our physical environment in my students — through all the stages from awe to kinship — so that they too can experience the magic of our place and learn to protect it.
My area of study, at Columbia and beyond, has allowed me to examine the macro causes that affect cases related to environmental justice (such as neoliberalism, global conflict, humanitarianism) and the micro effects and case studies (such as Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipeline project in southern Pennsylvania and indigenous populations surrounding Bears Ears National Monument in Utah). The field environmental philosophy approach at Biocitizen has cemented my understanding that environmental and social justice movements are inextricably linked and allowed me to tackle similar issues from multiple perspectives, encouraging me to pursue law school and policy after college.