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Ryan Thomson

Faculty ~ Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Ryan Thomson is an Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology in the College of Agriculture. His research, teaching, and organizing efforts center around poverty, community health, and environmental injustice. By highlighting issues of environmental injustice, he applies a critical focus to often-overlooked Deep South issues such as land theft, crimes against nature, threats to biodiversity, and community health. He is a passionate social researcher who wants to bring environmental equality to the people who have been deprived for a long time. 

His passion for this work is reflected in his research priorities, grassroots initiatives, and advocacy campaigns that address sustainability challenges on the Auburn campus, in Alabama and the South, and across the United States.  Ryan has served many roles over the years, from grassroots organizer to non-profit chair focused on climate justice, and most recently a scholastic mentor. He sees sustainability as a multi-dimensional effort integrating social institutions, personal agency, economic needs, and ecological limits as integral pieces of the larger sustainability puzzle. 

Ryan has spent the past several years working closely with frontline communities. One such community is the Afro-Indigenous Gullah/Geechee Nation in South Carolina, where he collaborates with families so they can regain access to their land, community resources, and ancestral waterways.  His work in Green Crime (crimes committed against the environment) has advanced the profession by examining the effects of toxic waste disposal on the environment and underprivileged communities and minority populations. Green Crime studies also focus on helping the underserved, as structural disadvantage increases the possibility of poor water and air quality, chemical dumping, and other sorts of severe impacts on disadvantaged and minority populations. 

Ryan brings a certain green spark to the Auburn campus. His enthusiasm for knowledge and passion for strong sustainability is contagious. He serves on the College of Agriculture Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, AU Senate Academic Freedom Committee, and chairs the Southern Rural Development Center’s Heirs’ Property Research Committee, to name a few.  Ryan’s holistic worldview, embracing the interconnectedness of public health, biological conservation, environmental economics, and social justice, informs and guides all his efforts. 

Image of Ryan Thomson with their award