Rebecca RobinsonI am a burgeoning young professional in the field of sustainability, and a fresh graduate with a Master of Arts in Social Sciences from Humboldt State University's Environment & Community Program. I am passionate about climate change and social justice in relation to public health concerns. I belief strongly that many environmental and human health issues are rooted in exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution caused by fossil fuels. I have an interdisciplinary and whole-systems mindset that shapes how I understand the world and the many problems we are dealing with today. My desire to change the world for the better, in even a small way, drives my work and my personal interests.

I believe that in order to improve human well-being and the planet, we must move away from our current model of neoliberal capitalism, which has produced immense social and economic inequities, environmental degradation, and normalized hyper-consumerism and commodification. A strikingly applicable quote for our current market-driven system comes from the political economist and philosopher Karl Polanyi, who stated that unregulated free enterprise results in:

The fullness of freedom for those whose income, leisure and security need no enhancing, and a mere pittance of liberty for the people, who may in vain attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the owners of property.

To address climate issues, we must also address socioeconomic, gender, and racial inequalities produced by a system that prioritizes industry and business over human welfare and environmental protections.

My master’s thesis illuminates some of the consequences of this neoliberal system, as we see exemplified in the current breast cancer awareness culture. I am examining breast cancer awareness campaigns within a framework of neoliberalism, which emphasizes individualism and consumption. I argue that by reinforcing the dominant discourse around breast cancer awareness, which emphasizes pink ribbon products to raise money, early detection through mammography, individual risk and responsibility, and searching for a cure, these campaigns dismiss and deflect discussion about environmental causes of cancer.