One of my main takeaways from my Environmental Justice (EJ) class was the importance of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and determining how to solve injustices based on one’s research rather than simply reporting on an injustice. This entire class actually helped to shape the entire trajectory of my life as it introduced me to Climate Justice (a field I was already interested in, but had no idea it had a name), but focusing on problem solving and advocating for communities affected by climate change in research was especially important for me.
In the thesis paper I wrote on climate-induced migration I discussed CBPR as a method of empowering communities and conducting vital research on adaptation methods. Here is a section from my paper:
Borrowing from the Environmental Justice field’s work in community-based participatory research (CBPR) can be helpful when designing community research in climate justice. There are many different ways of conducting CBPR including community environmental monitoring, community health characterization, community environmental justice assessment, and community driven planning and development (Minkler et al, 125). Without delving too deeply into the different uses of CBPR, I will mention that this type of research focuses on finding solutions to issues rather than simply reporting them. This is especially significant when dealing with issues of injustice, which makes CBPR a good fit for climate-induced migration research.
In my EJ course, we learned about a case in Oakland, California, where the community had a very high rate of asthma. The affected area was bordered by three highways and near the port where ships idled all day. The research included indoor air quality monitoring and counting the trucks that drove down the neighborhood streets. Their work concluded that the air quality was markedly worse than surrounding areas, which they used to advocate for a change in ship idling times and rerouting of truck routes in order. Therefore, the research not only highlighted the injustice, but was also used to solve the problem.
As my graduation draws closer and I plan for my future, it is becoming clear that this type of research will be central to the work I do in the climate justice field. I’m not sure what form it will take or where I will go, but involving the community I work with will be integral to my own research and (hopefully) the resilience of those most affected by the devastation of climate change.
Minkler, M., V. B. Vasquez, M. Tajik, and D. Petersen. “Promoting Environmental Justice Through Community-Based Participatory Research: The Role of Community and Partnership Capacity.” Health Education & Behavior 35.1 (2006): 119-37. Print.