Climate and Power

Bernadette Austin, Acting Director

Last week the California Strategic Growth Council convened policymakers, researchers, and community leaders for a symposium on climate change. During the opening panel, USC Professor Manuel Pastor joined Tribal Chairman Valentin Lopez and CRC Regional Advisory Committee Member Carl Anthony. In this dialogue, the panelists shared stories elucidating issues of environmental racism. Professor Pastor pointed out that when examining the siting of environmental disamenities, race dominates income. "It is not about the economy," he said. "It is a function of power."

For many of us, it has become clear that the intersection of climate change and social equity is the work of our time. This sentiment has been echoed not just at the state level, but at the local and global levels as well. As a member of a technical advisory committee to the Mayor's Commission on Climate Change, I have joined civic and community partners in elevating concerns that the communities most impacted by climate change are often those with the least amount of power. As a member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, UC Davis Global Affairs is convening faculty and administrators from across campus who are committed to integrated approaches to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These goals include "No Poverty," "Gender Equality," "Reduced Inequalities," and "Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions."

So what is the role of research at this intersection of climate change and social equity? Tribal Chairman Lopez said, "I don't call what universities do 'research' anymore. I call it validation of the way our ancestors did things." Dr. Megan Jennings, a conservation ecologist from San Diego State University, said, "Community organizations that are prospective research partners want to know, 'What is the value add for us?' [They] have imminent economic crises, climate crises. Research partnerships need to be strategic in uplifting our communities' multiple needs." Researchers and community partners like these underscore core values of the CRC and our affiliates who honor multiple ways of knowing and have the courage and humility to act as allies and true partners.

-Bernadette Austin, Acting Director, Center for Regional Change


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