UW News

October 31, 2016

UW hosts two-day event on urban environmental justice

News and Information

From access to green space to pollution exposure, environmental issues in cities often disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color.

Climate change can exacerbate those issues, affecting everything from housing to food systems. And growing numbers of people moving to urban areas further strains infrastructure and creates additional challenges.

The complex interplay between urban development, climate change and environmental and social justice is the focus of a two-day symposium to be held at the University of Washington Nov. 7 and 8. The free, public event will feature speakers from around the country and panel discussions on topics ranging from urban population health to teaching about environmental justice.

Co-hosted by Urban@UW and the UW-based Climate Impacts Group, the event will bring together academics, community organizations and local leaders to discuss challenges and solutions, said Jen Davison, program manager for Urban@UW.

“Seattle has always been considered a leader in environmental issues,” she said. “It’s a community that’s rich with ideas, with people who are working hard on environmental justice and climate justice. We want the University of Washington to contribute to that work.”

UW participants will come from departments and schools across campus — from environmental and forest sciences to sociology, history, medicine and global health. The event’s visiting speakers include Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program and the co-founder of Women of Color United. Patterson has worked as a researcher, program manager and activist on women’s rights, violence against women, HIV/AIDS, racial justice and environmental justice.

Patterson will give a Walker-Ames endowed lecture at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7, in Kane Hall 120, on “Upholding the Beloved Community: Advancing a Just and Equitable Transition to a Low Carbon World.” The talk is free but registration is required.

Other guest speakers throughout the two days are:

  • Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network and a recipient of the 2016 Gandhi Peace Award
  • Rachel Morrello-Frosch, a professor of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley, whose research focuses on environmental health and justice
  • Julie Sze, chair of American Studies at UC Davis and the founding director of the Environmental Justice Project at the university’s John Muir Institute for the Environment
  • Mia White, an assistant professor of environmental science at The New School in New York City, whose research focuses on environmental history, race and resource management

The event grew out of roundtable discussions following the October 2015 kickoff event for Urban@UW, an interdisciplinary initiative that brings together researchers, city decisionmakers and citizens to collaborate on significant challenges facing the rapidly growing city and region. Environmental justice and climate change came up repeatedly during those talks, and Urban@UW recognized the need for a broader forum to address those issues, program coordinator Jess Hamilton said.

“We saw this as an opportunity to bring people in from different disciplines to tackle a big urban challenge,” said Hamilton, a UW graduate student in landscape architecture. “This is something that’s going to affect everybody, regardless of where you’re positioned geographically.”

The symposium is from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days at the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, 3931 Brooklyn Ave. NE. A full schedule is available online. Space is limited, so participants are encouraged to register in advance.

For more information, contact Davison at jnfrdvsn@uw.edu or 206-240-6903 or Hamilton at jesshami@gmail.com or 646-369-9015.