Saturday, April 12, 2008

Abstract: GIS Applications in EJ Research and Activism

Title: Workshop: Geographic Information Systems Applications in Environmental Justice Research and Activism

Abstract: Since the incipience of the modern Environmental Justice Movement, cartography and map interpretation have played significant roles. The 1983 U.S. General Accounting Office study “Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities,” and the 1987United Church of Christ report “Toxic Waste and Race in the United States” were both largely based upon spatial analysis of the correlation between toxic hazards and geographic regions occupied by people of color groups.

The pivotal 1992 National Law Journal article “Unequal Protection” included regional demographic analyses to reveal that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been posing much higher fines for polluters in “white areas” than for polluters in “minority areas.” Dueling applications of geographic information systems (GIS) maps were the focal point in the seminal “Select Steel Case” during the late 1990s at Flint, Michigan. The EPA Region V “Environmental Justice Assessment Process Flowchart” specifically mentions using GIS as a means to determine the status of “environmental justice communities.”

Drawing from over 20 years experience with GIS, the presenter will detail the evolution of GIS and geospatial technology from the beginnings of the movement to the present. Cases studies will be described in order to demonstrate effective applications of GIS-based approaches in environmental investigations. Options for making software available to grassroots organizations will be shared, in addition to the numerous mapping tools now available online to support environmental justice investigations. Opportunities for free and/or low-cost GIS training will be noted.

David A. Padgett, Associate Professor of Geography, Tennessee State University

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