Using GIS to investigate Environmental Justice

Abu Badruddin, , Cayuga County Community College

I have been teaching GIS and remote sensing courses with the inception of our GIS program. I always intended to bring students to my GIS classes from across the disciplines to expose them to the power and capabilities of technologies to investigate and analyze the issues of common interest. Often we focus on how to solve a particular problem and spend very little time on the problem itself outside of the technical domain. After discovering more about our critical environmental issues, I see a pressing need to include more socio-environmental topics in our geoscience exercises. In one of my GIS classes, students have to complete a final project where they are encouraged to do a community/service-learning based activity. An important aspect of the GIS Final Project is for students to gain practical experience in solving real-world problems with real data. Students need to use GIS technology that they have used over the years to address relevant problems. Environmental Justice (EJ) came across several times and generated interesting discussions among the students.

Teaching in a small class setting provides me with a better opportunity to work closely with my students. I strongly feel that incorporating the concepts of EJ in my GIS classes will broaden classroom discussions to include more intriguing topics and theories. EJ issues are so common and widespread that everyone in the class will be able to connect and contribute. I think our students will able to unlock the true power of GIS by analyzing important EJ issues. Exposing students to the environmental issues in our community will surely ignite awareness about our limited and depleting resources. Knowing more about EJ will definitely give my students and me the chance to create a link between GIS and our society, a connection that will ultimately make the teaching and learning process more practical and meaningful.

I have years of geoscience experience, but this will be my 1st formal participation in any environmental justice workshop. I am eagerly looking forward to share my experience and learn from the expertise of others. I like to see how others are incorporating EJ issues and field trips within the geoscience classes to make the activities socio-environmental and cross disciplinary.

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