Participatory action research for environmental justice

The UC Davis Center for Regional Change launched their newest report yesterday: Land of Risk/ Land of Opportunity: Cumulative Environmental Vulnerability in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The report documents how exposure to environmental pollution tends to go hand and hand with social vulnerability, creates maps that visually depict this relationship, and provides several case-studies.

This report was created by the authors with partners from the San Joaquin Valley through the San Joaquin Valley Cumulative Health Impacts Project.  I attended one or two of the group’s earliest meetings several years ago and have tracked their progress through conversations with the lead author (my former advisor Jonathan London) and the environmental justice advocates that are part of my own research.  I also donated a few of my photographs for use in the final report.

When I give guest-lectures on divisions between campus-community divides, I often use this project as an example of ways that scholars and activists can work together productively.  In particular, I find it helpful to show students the detailed agreements that the group worked out ahead of time to guide their collaboration.  Because the work of scholars and activists are judged in different ways, these kinds of guidelines can go a long way toward anticipating and resolving the tensions that often come up.  You can see their agreements (shared with the lead author’s permission), in this post.

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