Clements plans to earn his Ph.D. in sociology from MSU by studying environmental public health in the Caribbean and Central America. One potential project would study the health of workers in the chemical-intensive banana industry.
“For me the interest is finding out what they’re exposed to and what effect it has on their health,” he said.
By educating workers, business owners and public officials about the health effects of chemicals, Clements said he hopes to help improve the lax environmental regulations of some Caribbean nations.
“The basic policy (of banana plantation owners) is, ‘If the workers don’t want to put up with it, we’ll find people who will,’” he said.
His interest in policy was sparked while he was working as an environmental consultant, after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Aquinas College. That work gave Clements a glimpse of the major influence exerted by oil companies on state and national bodies that developed regulations for pollution cleanup.
“And I thought, ‘This just isn’t right. There have to be other ways of developing policy,’” he said.
He then went to Oregon State to study how agricultural chemicals get into groundwater, and earned his master’s degree from Grand Valley State by examining the economic impact of Michigan’s environmental nonprofits. He has spent the last 10 years developing educational programs and researching public health for Saginaw-based Synergy Medical.
Clements enjoys painting and travel, and is married with two kids, aged 12 and 17. “When I’m not studying, I’m hanging out with them,” he said.