You’ve heard of climate change, but how familiar are you with the term climate justice? It’s the topic of the week since it’s the theme of International Open Access Week 2022, an occasion for challenging each other to raise awareness and take action on climate justice through the open and interdisciplinary sharing of data and resources.
With hurricanes, heat waves, and forest fires appearing more regularly in our news cycle, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the discussion of our changing climate is becoming a bigger part of our lives. As we better understand the enormous threat that climate change poses to our planet, we more desperately than ever need to also have a grasp on climate justice–the aspiration to have all people, regardless of personal or community characteristics, treated fairly when it comes to protection, risks, policies, and decision-making around the impacts of climate change. In other words, when it comes to our environment and the changes happening globally, we must strive to consider everyone, understand how they’ll be impacted differently, and make decisions fairly.
While the term may be new to some, in reality calls for climate justice have been ongoing for decades. In fact, climate justice was born out of the environmental justice movement and is related to other calls to treat people more equitably such as movements for racial or social justice. Why is this so important? We know from past catastrophes that people’s level of vulnerability can vary widely based on their personal circumstances or their community’s demographics. This is one aspect of climate change where data and Open Access become very important; we need the open sharing of knowledge in order to address this important social and environmental issue and ensure justice for all. But, who has access?
Free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research on climate change and how various demographics and geographies are impacted would be a powerful tool to aid and equip the communities most at risk. Removing barriers to accessing climate research would also enable faster communication and better engagement of both the general public and policymakers on related societal issues. Instead of data being individually owned and only available to those who can afford to access it, the general public would have the right to use scientific research results as needed. The best examples of this have been projects attempting to map overburdened, at-risk communities by incorporating a wide range of data, going beyond looking at risk from a one dimensional geographical perspective.
For example, check out the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. Start by putting in the zip code of your hometown, and use it to have a look at the environmental and economic conditions of various communities. Then try exploring the area around FSU to familiarize yourself with the communities nearby and see how their issues compare to those in your hometown.
Such tools are a great visual way to represent the combination of so much data. Use them as inspiration for starting conversations about climate change and/or justice. Climate Justice demands cross disciplinary collaboration, so campus forums like the Open Scholars Project could also serve as incubators for the climate action needed in our region and beyond. Through open information exchange and collaboration, we can create resources for understanding the needs of communities as well as non-human environments by evaluating their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Join together with your neighbors, campus groups, or local organizations to consider how best to take action to improve the resilience of communities where you live, study, work, or play. Whether that means volunteering, marching, donating, or joining, we need everyone’s contribution to make our communities more just and resilient in the face of climate change.
For more information about how the FSU Libraries supports open access, please visit our Research and Publishing web page here.
Author Bio: Mila S. Turner is the Social Science Data & Research Librarian at FSU Libraries and a broadly trained environmental sociologist. Her research spans diverse areas including how social inequalities intersect with environmental justice, racial equity, and natural disasters. Her thought leadership has been featured in The Hill, World War Zero, Quad Magazine, and more.
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