Web-GIS and Environmental Justice

May 11, 2001

This is the second GIS Applications workshop that is focused on the theme of Environmental Justice and GIS. It is intended to provide a forum where students can share their portable technical skills with community groups that bring place-based knowledge to a project. The cooperation between Cornell CRP and the Community University Consortium for Regional Environmental Justice is unprecedented. This workshop reflects two agendas: 1) identifying and developing strategies for planners and technology to assist community-based organizations in their day to day struggles for environmental and economic justice, and 2) the need to produce a system of web-pages that presents community defined environmental problem areas for Internet publishing.

Day/time: Tuesday 3:35-4:25 (?? 5 p.m.).
Location: Sibley Hall, Room 318

Lab sessions:
Wednesdays 10:10-12:05
Location: GEDDeS Lab, Sibley Hall, Room 222

Field Trips:
At least 2 weekends (possibly mid-September and end-of-September)


In the past few years, the availability and accuracy of Federal data relevant to environmental justice has exploded. As a result, a wide variety of decisions by private industry and by federal, state and local government are increasingly driven by the analysis of readily-available data sets like the Toxic Release Inventory, the Census, and the American Housing Survey.
This “information revolution” has not trickled down to communities struggling for environmental justice. When data-driven decisions (like RCRA permitting, emergency planning, or Clean Air Act attainment) are made, environmental justice communities have not consistently been able to mobilize data resources in their efforts to participate in decision-making. Other stakeholders in such decisions have a variety of “lenses” at their disposal through which to analyze and to use environmental data. The lack of such tools for EJ communities often leads to decision-makers overlooking key environmental justice issues. Equally important, the lack of “data lenses” tuned to communities· needs reduces the set of options available to all stakeholders. A number of GIS efforts in the past have attempted to mobilize data resources for a combination of reasons, including inappropriate complexity, lack of sustainability, and lack of accessibility. The Community University Consortium for Regional Environmental Justice is creating a model of enhancing Geographic Information Systems to address this void: the Web-GIS. The goal of the Web-GIS project is to provide community organizations and communities with a simple, community-specific way to access, to visualize, and to communicate information critical to their day-to-day work on local environmental issues.
The end product of this course will include a system of webpages that will serve as model/prototypes for the Web-GIS·s regional and national implementation later in 1999. Heavy emphasis will be placed on the design process to ensure that the interface developed grounds the data in the community·s experience and usefully represents their understandings of the geography of pollution in their community. A second product from the course will focus on the process of community mapping itself. A report on this model of University/Community partnership will be developed to provide other areas interested in this type of community-planning partnerships with an easily replicable step-by-step training manual.
Fall 2000 Workshop Tasks

In the fall of 2000, we will work with Magnolia Tree (Brooklyn, New York), Greater Newark Conservancy in collaboration with IronBound Community Corporation (Newark New Jersey), and South Bronx Clean Air Coalition.
The main workshop activities will include:
a. Lectures and discussions tied to key readings on environmental justice, social justice, advocacy planning, public domain data sets and web-GIS technologies.
b. Toxic Tours to be led by community leaders – Students involved with this workshop will tour communities and learn rich histories of community planning and development from the perspective of the community leaders. While on the tour, students will take photos and record key information about each site, in addition to noting geographic locations, landmarks and addresses. They will focus on situating problem areas of urban congestion, and environmental hazards in relation to housing, points of pride, community facilities (including schools and churches), parks and open spaces.
c. Community risk mapping (CRM)CRM allows the development of a group understanding of environmental hazards in large and small settings. Community residents begin by brainstorming the risks they faced in their communities. During that process, it is important for students to “facilitate” not “lead” activities. By design, the brainstorming is specific, naming the environmental risk along with its location in the community. Once the brainstorming was complete, the lists will be grouped and color-coded to represent a more manageable list of risk categories (e.g. air risks in red, hazardous waste in blue, etc.). Residents will then be asked to draw their communities on poster-board. In some cases the community organization will already have a map with boundaries, streets and landmarks. A combination of these physical and “mental” maps will then be transcribed onto large sheets of paper.
d. GIS mapping and Web page preparation – GIS technology (an information system for analyzing spatial data) makes this type of layering and spatial analysis much easier while the Internet provides the medium for making the data accessible a wider population base. Public domain GIS data sets will be collected and clipped to community boundaries. Different low-cost methods will then be explored for creating interactive web-GIS technologies attuned to the tasks that community-based organizations want to perform.
e. End of semester symposium – Representatives from CUCREJ and the community groups will be invited to Cornell to attend the students· final presentations and participate in a symposium on community-university partnerships. This symposium will be open to all.

* Class/project participation 20%
* Group Report 20%
* Web-GIS 20%
* Peer Evaluation 20%
* Mid-semester individual writing assignment 10%
* End-of-semester individual writing assignment 10%

Reading List

Section 1: Background information about CUCREJ and partners
* Package on “CUCREJ·s Vision For WEB-GIS”. Prepared by Dr. Michel Gelobter.

Section 2: Introduction to Environmental Justice Issues
* A Place at the Table: a Sierra Roundtable on Race, Justice, and the Environment.” Sierra May/June1993, 51-58, 90-91.
* McGranahan, G., J. Leitman and C. Surjadi. 1998. Green Grass and Brown Roots: understanding environmental problems in deprived neighborhoods. journal of environmental planning and management 41(4):505-518.
* Bullard, Robert. Environmental Justice: Strategies for Creating Healthy and Sustainable Communities(check Abstract and Transcript)

Additional References:

* Bailey, Conner et.al. 1995. Environmental Justice and the Professional. In Bunyan, Bryant ed. Environmental Justice: Issues, Policies, and Solutions. Washington, DC: Earth Island Press. pages 35-44
* Bunyan, Bryant. 1995. Issues and Potential Policies and Solutions for Environmental Justice: An Overview. In Bunyan, Bryant ed. Environmental Justice: Issues, Policies, and Solutions. Washington, DC: Earth Island Press. pages 8-34
* Faber, Daniel. 1998. The Struggle for Ecological Democracy and Environmental Justice. In Faber, Daniel, ed. The Struggle for Ecological Democracy: Environmental Justice Movements in the United States. New York, New York: Guilford Press, pp. 1-26.
* Ferris, Deeohn and David Hahn-Baker 1995. Environmentalists and Environmental Justice Policy. In Bunyan, Bryant ed. Environmental Justice: Issues, Policies, and Solutions. Washington, DC: Earth Island Press. pages 66-75.
* Handouts from United States Environmental Protection Agency

Section 3: Gathering information with community groups
* Heiman, M. K. 1997. Science by the People: Grassroots Environmental Monitoring and the debate over scientific expertise. Journal of Planning Education and Research 16(4):291-299
* Garcia, M. 1997. Science and the people: a response to science by the people. Journal of Planning Education and Research 16(4):299-300
* Heiman, M.K. Ours is not to question why, ours is just to quantify: a response. Journal of Planning Education and Research 16(4):301-303
* Dewar, M. E. and C.B. Isaac. 1998. Learning from difference: the potentially transforming experience of community university collaboration. Journal of Planning Education and Research 17(4):334-347.
* Briggs, X. 1998. Doing democracy up-close: culture, power, and communication in community building. Journal of Planning Education and Research 18:1-13.
* Mudrak, L. 1979. Sanborn fire insurance maps: a tool for identifying closed landfills and other sites that may contain hazardous wastes. Ithaca, NY; Community Environment Program, Dept. of Natural Resources.

Section 4: Information technologies and communities
* web.mit.edu/sap/oldfiles/www/colloquium96/papers (Preface, Introduction, Chapters 6,7,8 in “High technology and low income communities: prospects for positive use of advanced information technology”)
* Kellog, W.A. 1999. Community-based organizations and neighborhood environmental problem solving: a framework for adoption of information technologies. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 42(4):445-469.
* Kellog, W.A. 1999. From the Field: Observations on Using GIS to develop a neighborhood environmental information system for community-based organizations. Journal of Urban and Regional Information Systems Association 11(1): 15-32
* McMaster, R.B., H. Leitner and E. Sheppard. 1997. GIS-based environmental equity and risk assessment: methodological problems and prospects. Cartography and Geographic Information Systems 24(3): 172-189.
* Schroeder, P.C. 1999. Changing Expectation of Inclusion: Toward Community Self-Discovery. Journal of Urban and Regional Information Systems Association 11(2): 43-51
* Sieber, R.E. 2000. GIS Implementation in the Grassroots. Journal of Urban and Regional Information Systems Association 12(1): 15-29 (Winter 2000)
* Talen, E. 1997. Visualizing Fairness: Equity Maps for planners. Journal of the American Planning Association 64(1):22-38.
* Talen, E. 2000. Bottom-Up GIS: A New Tool for Individual and Group Expression in Participatory Planning. Journal of the American Planning Association 66(3); 279-294.

Section 5: Web-GIS technologies
* Harder, Christian. 1998. Serving Maps on the Internet: geographic information on the world wide web. Redlands, CA: Environmental Systems Research Institute.
* www.maps.ci.ithaca.ny.us(City of Ithaca dynamic GIS Web mapping)
* www.mapcruzin.com/EI/index.html(Environmental Inequality Silicon Valley Toxics and Demographics)

  • update-img-new

    Get updates on what's new in the Campus Compact Network