Uplifting Community Voices Through Data
Climate change and its associated impacts disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. Income, English language proficiency, and access to climate change data can affect how informed a community is about the climate-related risks in their own backyard. Socioeconomic vulnerability compounds environmental risk and can limit community involvement in mitigation efforts. Many Canal residents are aware and concerned about sea level rise, but varying levels of English proficiency and economic stressors make it difficult for my community to be as involved in important climate resilience efforts as our wealthier neighbors.
The Canal Community Resilience Planning Project recognizes the ongoing economic, social, and environmental injustices experienced by frontline Canal communities. However, they also recognize the great potential and value of robust community engagement to implement relevant climate solutions within disproportionately vulnerable communities. By elevating community roles in adaptation project planning, the most impacted communities will be able to make informed decisions about the future of their neighborhoods.
Environmental justice communities have relied on various tools and methods to address climate and social justice issues in their cities and towns. Toxic Tides, a collaborative project between non-profit community-based organizations and university partners throughout California, outlines a three-step process to identify and act upon sea level rise within communities living within and around hazardous sites.
- Identify and characterize flood risk within targeted areas.
- Create data visualizations, including mapping tools, to showcase the distribution and types of hazardous facilities in coastal communities.
- Communicate findings with advocacy groups and decision makers to implement community needs into emerging climate resilience policy and adaptation projects.
When shoreline communities have access to usable climate data, adaptation project proposals, and local and countywide support, they are better equipped to speak truth to power and protect their homes. This community-driven feasibility study may be in its early stages, but it has the potential to set the groundwork for climate resilience.
So often, low-income people are not considered environmentalists while wealthy communities get attention for their participation in sustainability. In reality, low-income neighborhoods, such as the Canal, use the most public transportation, recycle more, and engage less in consumerism. Despite this, we are forced to live in environmentally unjust areas.
The world outside of the Canal District is fearful of my community. There are even those who call for the destruction of our neighborhood. Rapid climate change threatens to do the same. This time, however, the community is building a toolkit to ensure we are on the frontlines of climate justice, not climate disaster.