STEP Seminar: Dr. Roopali Phadke, “The Unmaking of the Mississippi River”

Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy
March 29, 2022 - 11:30 am CDT
- 12:30 pm
Humphrey School
Join us in-person or online for a lunchtime seminar with Dr. Roopali Phadke, Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies at Macalester College, who will discuss her NSF-funded study on infrastructure futures on the Upper Mississippi River. 

The Unmaking of the Mississippi River


In 2018, the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) officially began its process of reimagining the Upper Mississippi River. Congress charged the agency to conduct a “disposition” study to examine the costs and benefits of continuing to operate hundred year old projects that no longer serve their original navigation and flood control purposes. The ACE’s multiyear, multimillion dollar disposition study asks what “value” the American public derives from the operation of infrastructure on the Upper Mississippi. If the Corps finds the infrastructure is no longer valuable, it will make a recommendation that Congress “dispose” of it. This could result in dam removal or sale of the assets to the private sector or other public entities.

There are no US precedents for dispossessing or undamming a river the scale of the Mississippi, encompassing the fourth largest watershed in the world. The mere act of imagining this future will have major consequences for how the ACE operates around the nation, and ripple effects for downriver Mississippi communities.

Based on our NSF-funded study, this presentation describes the modes of engagement that open up or close down imaginings of the future Mississippi. Melding insights from STS and geography scholarship on critical infrastructure studies, we will reflect on public survey data collected in 2021 that signals how river infrastructure is understood and the future river imagined. We also discuss how more inclusive forms of deliberation, that connect with BIPOC communities and histories of settler colonialism, may shape opportunities for landback and shared governance.


Dr. Roopali Phadke
Dr. Roopali Phadke
About the Speaker


Roopali Phadke is a Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies at Macalester College, and served as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Her received her PhD from the Univ. of California Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies and served as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the Science, Technology and Society Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Her teaching and research focus on energy and climate policy, citizen science, community based research and sustainable development initiatives. She is currently the principal investigator on a multiyear National Science Foundation study on infrastructural futures on the Upper Mississippi River. She just completed a multiyear NSF-funded study titled “Mining Futures”. She also directed a NOAA funded project on diversity and deliberation in urban climate adaptation called Ready & Resilient, which received a 2016 award from the Climate Adaptation Partnership and a 2018 Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Award. Dr. Phadke was also one of co-organizers of the WorldWide Views on Climate and Energy project, sponsored by the Danish Board of Technology to provide citizen input into the UN Climate Summit.


STEP Seminar Series


The STEP Seminar Series is an interdisciplinary platform for scholars and practitioners to discuss research and policy issues in the broad domain of science, technology, and environmental policy. The seminar series provides an informal setting for feedback and engagement with ongoing research projects and policy debates.

We invite scholars from all disciplines and practitioners working in all action arenas with connections to the fields of scholarship that shape science, technology, and environmental policy. The seminar series takes place throughout the academic year at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, typically over lunchtime on Mondays.

Contact Info
Questions? Contact [email protected]