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Urban Environmental Justice


Today’s urban challenges are embedded with critical inequities in how people and communities relate to and are affected by their surrounding environments. These inequities are often the result of entrenched policies and institutions that have protected some groups while marginalizing others to lands and situations where environmental protection and health are lacking; in the United States, this dynamic particularly disadvantages low-income communities and communities of color. Moreover, the massive pressure on cities’ infrastructure and services as people worldwide continue to move to urban areas is exacerbating these existing injustices, and often creates new ones.

Urban@UW views urban environmental justice as a key challenge to long-term societal resilience. We are tackling this issue by building a network of UW researchers and community leaders from across the region to understand the structural and situational causes of injustice, and their repercussions on communities as decisions are made about land use, energy infrastructure, transportation and more. Our aim is to support collaborative work across research fields and with local and regional communities affected by these challenges in order to inclusively develop new insights and robust solutions that allow equitable access to and just allocation of natural resources and environmental health.

Urban Environmental Justice: Initiative Leadership

Active Projects Supported by Urban@UW’s Urban Environmental Justice Initiative

  • Living Landscapes Incubator – a collaborative effort to support pilot initiatives, projects, or programs focused on the understanding and/or design of livable, sustainable cities. Urban@UW folks are co-PIs in this effort. The projects funded by LLI include the following, which will be completing in spring/summer 2022:
    • Weaving Realities, a project exploring augmented reality story maps in the Lower Duwamish River Valley, in partnership with Duwamish Tribal Services
    • Increasing Community Connections at Yes Farm, a partnership with the Black Farmers’ Collective to plan the landscape/ design of the entrances to Yes Farm to maximize the community benefit and connection to the urban farm and community building space
    • East Duwamish Green Belt: Planning A Piece of SLEJ in Our Backyard(Beacon Hill Brick Pits Project), a project to secure protection of land for environmental, health, and climate justice of the surrounding neighborhoods
    • Toward the Design of a Socio-technical Platform for Environmental Reporting, Response, and Action to Support Thriving Communities, a partnership between Front and Centered and UW researchers to develop community-driven improvements to reporting systems for documenting chronic environmental justice issues to government agencies
  • Nehemiah Initiative – a faith-based community development initiative. Its mission is to empower the African American community in the Seattle region and beyond to support the retention of historically Black institutions by advocating for development of real property assets owned by those historically Black institutions. Urban@UW supports this project through funding of student research.
  • Stay Healthy Streets – Urban@UW supported an evaluation of the equitable distribution and use of the Safe and Healthy Streets mechanism put into place by Seattle’s Department of Transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Urban Camas Meadows Project (UCMP) – a collaboration between the Burke Museum, UW Facilities, the Department of Landscape Architecture, and other stakeholders to generate and communicate knowledge of culturally significant camas meadows in the Pacific Northwest and develop ongoing maintenance and management plans for this unique landscape type on the UW campus. The UCMP is a 3-year program funded by the UW Campus Sustainability Fund. Urban@UW has provided additional funding.


Publications and Resources

Partners & Collaborators