OOS 18-10
Uptake of social and socio-spatial science in urban environmental justice advocacy

Tuesday, August 12, 2014: 4:40 PM
307, Sacramento Convention Center
Jonathan K. London, Department of Human and Community Development, Center for Regional Change, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

Recent advances in socio-spatial analysis of environmental justice issues in urban areas, including concentrations of hazardous waste facilities, facilities with toxic releases, air pollution, and other issues coupled with measures of social vulnerability (e.g., poverty, limited formal education, limited English proficiency) have provided unprecedented ability to identify environmental justice communities. Environmental justice analysis and visualization tools that have offered researchers, policy makers, and community advocates the visual resources to make more strategic decisions to allocating funding, personnel, and other organizational resources. However, despite access to these new information sources, actual application (uptake) to decision-making has been uneven. This study examines the reasons for this pattern of connection and disconnections between analytical capacity on the one hand, and policy and advocacy decision-making on the other. The study draws on data gained through participant observation of several key regional environmental justice mapping initiatives in California, covering both urban and rural communities in the Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Coachella Valley. The author’s team served as either the direct producer of environmental justice analysis and mapping tools or as advisors to processes led by other teams.


Significant variations in the applications of EJ analysis and mapping resources have been shown to be associated with several key factors. More extensive and sustained application of the EJ tools have resulted from:

(1.)  the level of trust and mutual-respect between tool producers and users

(2.)  the level of user participation in the process of the tool development;

(3.)  the early identification of the policy or advocacy target to be addressed,

(4.)  the level of capacity-building on the use of the tools;

(5.)  the inter-active and adaptability of the tool for place and context specific applications

(6.)  the sustained collaborative relationship between producer and user and

(7.)  the sense of the identification or ownership of the tools and association reports and products.

These results can serve as guidance for future EJ analysis and mapping initiatives in metropolitan regions around the country.