Disabled Ecologies

Disabled Ecologies: Lessons from a Wounded Desert

A powerful analysis and call to action that reveals disability as one of the defining features of environmental devastation and resistance.

Deep below the ground in Tucson, Arizona, lies an aquifer forever altered by the detritus of a postwar Superfund site. Disabled Ecologies tells the story of this contamination and its ripple effects through the largely Mexican American community living above. Drawing on her own complex relationship to this long-ago injured landscape, Sunaura Taylor takes us with her to follow the site’s disabled ecology—the networks of disability, both human and wild, that are created when ecosystems are corrupted and profoundly altered.

What Taylor finds is a story of entanglements that reach far beyond the Sonoran Desert. These stories tell of debilitating and sometimes life-ending injuries, but they also map out alternative modes of connection, solidarity, and resistance—an environmentalism of the injured. An original and deeply personal reflection on what disability means in an era of increasing multispecies disablement, Disabled Ecologies is a powerful call to reflect on the kinds of care, treatment, and assistance this age of disability requires.


“Brimming with insight and wisdom, Sunaura Taylor builds a strong case for her profound central idea: that disabled bodies and environments are fundamentally the same, that they’ve been harmed by the same forces, and that they can be saved by the same ideals. Disabled Ecologies is a vital work of scholarship and a rousing call for solidarity between ourselves and the natural environments from which we are inseparable.”
—Ed Yong, author of An Immense World
“Taylor’s is a unique and generous genius. With breath-catching insight and enveloping compassion, she shares a secret of epochal urgency: people living with injury and impairment have much to teach about how to survive, and perhaps even thrive, on an injured and impaired planet.”
—Naomi Klein, author of Doppelganger
“Disabled Ecologies stages a much-needed dialogue between critical disability studies and environmentalism. Refusing boundaries, toxins flow both through landscapes and through bodies; it will not do to cut attention off at the skin. By bringing disability into landscape studies—and landscape into disability studies—Taylor adds analytical power to each. The concept of a disabled ecology pulses with the dynamism of contaminated aquifers.”
—Anna Tsing, coauthor of Field Guide to the Patchy Anthropocene: The New Nature
“Taylor has gifted us a deeply original, brilliantly written work on the entanglements between ecological harm and human disability. This book illuminates what Taylor calls ‘the expansive web of injury’ that binds human bodies to bodies of land, water, and other beings. Like Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Disabled Ecologies is intimate yet conceptually ambitious. Moreover, like Rankine, Taylor enhances our understanding of systemic injustice through the felt life of aesthetic experiment.”
—Rob Nixon, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor