Minnesota Environmental Data Project

Communities of colour shoulder a disproportionate burden of environmental degradation and lack access to environmental benefits, with profound implications for health and quality of life. The environmental justice movement has collected stories and data from across the country to push regulatory agencies, lawmakers, and environmental nonprofits to address these disparities. Despite numerous legislative and regulatory wins, however, environmental injustice persists, leaving communities with few institutional resources to do the labour-intensive work to advocate for clean up or investment in their neighbourhoods. 

In collaboration with the CREATE Initiative and Dr. Hillary Waters at the University of Minnesota, I am developing the ‘ Minnesota Environmental Data Project’, a user-friendly tool that we hope communities will use to pursue their own ideas of sustainability and justice. My role in the project is to advise on the communication of complex data via text and data visualization, assist in data analysis, and prioritize tasks. The tool aims to support the efforts of community members, researchers and journalists to access, visualize and communicate social and environmental data. 

The tool is designed to help users visualize the location of air emissions, contaminated sites, water quality, land use, and other hazards and how the distribution of these threats overlaps with social and economic data. The maps are organized into categories (air, land, water, climate, and energy) that capture environmental hazards as well as the potential health impacts (via public health and epidemiological data).

Example screenshot of the tool. The black dots are the facilities, and the diameter of the red circles indicates the potential cancer risk, relative to the diameter of the other red circles. These data are overlaid on 2018 US Census data on percent black/indigenous/person of colour.