Sustainability scientist receives Public Humanities Scholars Award

Joan McGregor

The Arizona Humanities council has named Arizona State University professors Joan McGregor and Natalie Diaz as recipients of the Dan Shilling Public Humanities Scholars Awards. McGregor is a senior sustainability scientist and a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. A ceremony to celebrate the honor took place April 14 at the Mesa Arts Center.

McGregor began her career as an academic with a focus on legal philosophy and applied ethics, frequently teaching courses on bioethics and environmental ethics. From there, she became interested in climate justice, which eventually segued into a focus on food systems.

“It’s hard to get people worked up about the climate but when we start thinking about the effects on food systems, people are more likely to get engaged,” she said. “The deeper I got into it, I saw that food is just a huge issue with an array of ethical issues connected to it.”

It encompasses everything from food insecurity to food quality to farmworkers’ rights to food production’s impact on climate change.

Currently, McGregor is working on a project to map areas of food insecurity in Maricopa County, where she said 1 in 4 children are food insecure. Related to that, she’s also on the board of Slow Food Phoenix, where she and others are working to introduce school gardens and lunchroom chefs who can both prepare and teach students about healthy food.

Dinner 2040 and Just Food are other projects McGregor has initiated to engage the public in thinking about the kind of food systems they want to see in the future.