Lourdes Vera Co-Led “Race and Equity Discussion Group” in June 2020

SSEHRI PhD candidate and Switzer Fellow, Lourdes Vera, co-led a Switzer Foundation Web Event titled, “Race and Equity Discussion Group: Environmental Data Justice,” on June 15th, along with Switzer Fellow Francisco Donez.

People facing chronic environmental exposure often face obstacles in accessing accurate environmental data about their exposures. In these cases, access does not only mean being able to retrieve the data but being able to assess data. For example, much environmental data provided by the U.S. EPA are self-reported by industry, such as data from the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) database.

While TRI data are extremely helpful to researchers and communities alike, they are often taken to be more accurate or rigorous than they actually are.

At the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), Fellow Lourdes Vera has found much data provided by the EPA to be incomplete, difficult to understand, or lacking relevant context. Through citizen science work, on the other hand, communities have produced data to challenge these issues of access and lack of transparency.

Environmental Data Justice (EDJ), at the intersection of environmental justice and data justice activism and scholarship, is a concept that addresses the common issues communities face in using data to further achieve environmental justice. In this presentation, Lourdes described the work she and EDGI have done so far in the realm of EDJ and facilitate discussions about how EDJ might look like in the lab or field, how she has struggled with environmental data access, and how EDJ might fit into environmental policy.

As this framework is forever evolving, she hopes that this conversation will contribute to and challenge our conceptions of EDJ so far.