CRCL Co-Leads Earth Networks 2020 Environmental Justice and Climate Just Cities Network

Environmental injustices leading to poor health and quality of life for people of color and low income communities are rife everywhere, with long legacies. Environmental injustices are well documented within our cities and metropolitan regions, provoking community-based activism and creativity around alternative, more just futures. CRCL is proud to partner  with the Goddard Space Flight Center Environmental Health Group, Barnard College, Riverkeeper,  Mailman School of Public Health, Lamont Doherty, the Center for Sustainable and Urban Development at the Earth Institute, and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law to organize efforts around the realization of a just future and the role of Columbia in supporting communities and this aspiration. Over a three-year project funded by the Earth Institute, the network will review existing EJ and CJ work at CU and within the community and begin a directory of online resources for students and community members in order to inform the climate justice track at The Climate School as well as expand the network of community-based organizations involved in the network. Then, the network will focus on collaborative research project development and workshops that directly support climate justice projects with EJ communities and seed creative curriculum development. 

We start with a recognition that Columbia University is not only an important global academic institution but also a local community partner in Northern Manhattan, New York City and New York State. However, understanding how to actually implement and monitor these goals concretely and support the move towards climate justice is a pressing matter. We will aim to address a number of core questions: 

  1. How do we assess and implement climate justice policies, programs and planning efforts in cities and communities? 
  2. How might Columbia University with The Climate School better engage, research and teach about environmental justice and climate, and be part of building climate just cities? How can our institutions center applied research, pedagogy, and engagement around EJ as a primary and underlying value system that cross cuts the effort of the school? 
  3. How can Columbia University become an accountable and trusted partner in the communities such that our research, teaching and engagement efforts support the most pressing needs of our neighbors?
  4. How could the climate crisis be leveraged to envision alternative climate just futures that support healing from past environmental injustices and race-based traumas while ensuring equity, justice, and inclusion for the underserved?

This EI Earth Network will reach out to environmental justice advocates, organizations and networks and create a forum that allows mutual learning and collaboration with its first year focused on a speaker series around climate justice. This series would allow for listening and building authentic partnerships. In such partnerships, community challenges and concerns are as important (in planning, implementation, and evaluation) as student learning/development and faculty research. Taking the time to develop communication channels and common agendas with new partners requires a change in behavior and an upfront investment of time. However, as time goes by, partners reap the benefits of long-term relationships built on mutual trust and respect. Out of such relationships, we expect to understand research gaps, develop better methods of assessment and monitoring climate justice goals and produce cutting edge co-created research, enhanced learning and strong connection between university and community, city and state on building climate just cities and societies.


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