This map aggregates data for Albuquerque, New Mexico and the surrounding area and serves as a communal resource for municipal, environmental, and demographic data. The site is a place where people can make maps and visually explore different environmental justice issues, regardless of prior geographic information science (GIS) knowledge. abqMaps was developed with the belief that that spatial questions are often better answered when paired with a visual component. The functionality and data included on the site were carefully chosen after reviewing the environmental justice literature and other interactive environmental justice web maps and can be used to explore questions related to data sovereignty, information accessibility, self-representation, and civil participation.
The site is a case-study on the current state of particular open-source web-mapping technologies (in this case, Leaflet) and highlights the tradeoffs between web-mapping and creating maps using traditional GIS software. All of the code for abqMaps is freely-available to view, download, modify, and share on GitHub, providing a template for communities interested in creating their own interactive web maps to explore environmental justice issues.
The City of Albuquerque sits on the unceded lands of the Tiwa Pueblo people. The Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache Tribes have stewarded this land since time immemorial. The Tribal areas used on the map are administrative and downloaded from Census.gov. I acknowledge that Indigenous People may have different ideas of how they want to be represented and that the land shown on the map is contested space. If local Tribes are interested in collaborating, using this tool, or changing how their lands are represented on this map please do not hesitate to reach out to the Center for Community Geography.
As Mohai et al. (2009) review, environmental injustices can have economic, sociopolitical, and/or racial roots. Part of this has to do with what framework a researcher or politician is using in defining environmental justice, but another important piece is that environmental inequalities are often intersectional. Historical economic and sociopolitical initiatives like housing segregation can exacerbate current environmental injustices along racial lines (Grigsby et al., 1994), for example. I hope that by providing different boundary datasets, users will be able to get different views on how a particular issue affects specific communities.
Both environmental and demographic data should be included in an environmental justice map to see how different injustices fall along class and race lines. To highlight a finding from Mohai et al. (2009): many studies have examined the distribution of environmental hazards and linked them to health outcomes. However, these results were defined in either racial or socioeconomic terms. To date, the authors claim, the environmental justice literature (particularly the branches focused on environmental hazards and/or health outcomes) has not effectively brought these to lenses together to study environmental injustices. By including both race and class information from the census data, users will be able to view information along race and class lines, or along both race and class lines.
In Wolch et al. (2014), the authors found that many minority communities lack greenspace in their neighborhoods, whereas greenspace is concentrated in mostly White, more affluent neighborhoods. The authors note that this type of environmental gentrification is particularly damaging to minority and less well-off communities because of the physical and psychological benefits that greenspaces provide. Mullenbach & Baker (2020) find that as cities try to include more green space in disadvantaged areas, gentrification can occur. So whether because of historical reasons or current ties to land use conversion, lacking access to greenspaces is an environmental justice issue.
But lacking greenspaces has other serious effects, as well. Urban heat risk is strongly associated with temperature, vegetation abundance, and the density of the built environment. Ziter et al. (2019) find that this effect is especially pronounced in areas with < 40% tree canopy cover. The authors argue that by increasing tree canopy cover, urban centers can help protect residents against high day-time temperatures. In Mitchell & Chakraborty (2015), this heat risk inequity was demonstrated to burden primarily minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. That is why Drescher (2019) argues that we should increase urban tree canopy cover like Ziter et al. (2019) recommends, but we should be conscious that there are areas (primarily in impoverished and minority communities) where tree cover is severely lacking.
Arguably, a growing awareness of environmental pollution led to a more mainstream formation of the environmental justice discipline. A 2007 report by Bullard et al showed that “...people of color make up the majority (56%) of those living within 3.0 km of where hazardous waste facilities are located, in spite of being only 30% of the national population. And where two or more facilities are clustered, people of color make up 69%.” In Mohai et al. (2009), they call this the “chicken and egg” debate: which came first, environmental pollution or poor/minority populations? Their review concludes that, since the 1970s, hazardous waste siting has been biased towards being placed in minority and low-income communities. Longitudinal studies, the authors conclude, show some conflicting results, but that more longitudinal studies need to be done to determine the root causes of environmental pollution within a given area of study. Longitudinal studies are definitely important and should not be ignored, but we also need to address current injustices as they stand today. For example, a study by Johnston & Cushing (2020) backs up the findings in Bullard et al. (2007) and notes that both legacy and new polluting industries are located in low-income communities and communities of color. While the waste and pollution information included in this web app may not offer proof of the root cause of environmental injustice, it can nevertheless point to current injustices, should they exist.
As Bullard (2003) notes, transportation is a civil rights issue. Transit allows access to jobs, government services, and recreation, though transportation access is not adequately distributed in urban spaces. Deka (2004) points out that a lack of transportation options in low-income neighborhoods forces people residing in those areas to pay more (as a percentage of their income) for transportation even though they are already economically disadvantaged. Forkenbrock & Schweitzer (1999) note that introducing transportation options/networks into disadvantaged communities actually has the opportunity to introduce unwanted noise and pollution. This concern should be taken seriously, given that environmental justice communities as those that are already economically or environmentally burdened by pollution. Further, transportation access has implications for health outcomes. Being able to bike and walk allows community members a healthy, emissions-free transportation option. A lack of transportation can also contribute to the creation of food deserts in urban areas. The fact that transportation access is distributed unequally and contributes to pollution, health outcomes, and disparate economic opportunities makes transportation a foundational environmental justice issue.
A review of food disparities by Hilmers et. al. (2012) found that food access is a major problem in many urban and rural settings in the United States. Their findings show that poorer neighborhoods and neighborhoods where minority populations reside had less access to healthy foods. We can call this phenomenon a “food desert”, whereby disadvantaged neighborhoods have less access to grocery stores and rely on gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food chains for buying food. As the authors point out, transportation is a key barrier for accessing healthy food, adding to health disparities in areas that may already be affected by higher rates of pollution or a lack of other necessary social services.
Environmental justice communities in urban areas are often much hotter than more well-off neighborhoods. Additionally, low-income and minority communities spend a high percentage of their income on transportation. The same can be said of their energy bills, which is why Behles (2013) argues that installing renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades should be a central strategy for addressing environmental justice inequities. Outka (2012) goes further by saying that environmental justice communities can benefit from the renewable energy transition by being able to participate in “green economic development”. However, polluting industries are often clustered in economically-disadvantaged and minority communities. The green energy transition produces deleterious social and environmental effects through extractive mining processes, chemically intensive processing techniques for metals or plastics needed for solar panels and wind turbines, and through the direct seizure of land to establish energy generation plants. Ottinger (2013) calls for a just transition to renewable energy that distributes the environmental harms of materials production while distributing the placement of energy generation centers so that no one community is responsible for housing large infrastructure projects.
By including connectivity data in this environmental justice map, I am hoping to spatially represent access to environmental information. As more and more information moves online, from education to government services to methods of communication that run on internet connections (think Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.), it is more important than ever to ensure that everyone has access they need to participate in environmental justice issues. As Kellogg & Mather (2003) show, the inclusivity of environmental policies are directly influenced by citizen participation and how well government agencies can disseminate important planning and policy information to low-income and minority residents.
Kojola & Pellow (2021) examine the role state violence plays in environmental justice studies. The authors claim that state violence has helped create and now maintains environmental injustices brought about by colonialism and enslavement. Importantly, they link the role that policing and mass incarceration have in limiting who gets to participate in environmental justice movements, either through citizen forums or through protesting. Wilson (2021) agrees, adding that environmental racism is a form of state violence. Along these lines, Thompson (2018) encourages us to rethink the definition of environmental justice to the much broader category of removing toxicity from our spaces. The author includes mass incarceration and over-policing in this definition and likens it to the burden that low-income and minority communities face from pollution. Further, Thompson argues that money spent on the carceral apparatus is funding that could be redirected towards environmental justice goals and providing social services. This matches my own definition of environmental justice: social and environmental justice are linked and are often one and the same.
Behles, D. (2013). From dirty to green: Increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy in environmental justice communities. Vill. L. Rev., 58, 25.
Bullard, R. D. (2003). Addressing urban transportation equity in the United States. Fordham Urb. LJ, 31, 1183.
Bullard RD, Mohai P, Saha R, Wright B. 2007. Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987–2007: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States. Cleveland, OH: United Church Christ Justice Witness Minist.
Deka, D. (2004). Social and environmental justice issues in urban transportation.
Drescher, M. (2019). Urban heating and canopy cover need to be considered as matters of environmental justice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(52), 26153-26154.
Forkenbrock, D. J., & Schweitzer, L. A. (1999). Environmental justice in transportation planning. Journal of the American Planning Association, 65(1), 96-112.
Grigsby III, E., Bullard, R. D., Lee, C., & Feagin, J. (1994). Residential Apartheid: The American Legacy.
Hilmers, A., Hilmers, D. C., & Dave, J. (2012). Neighborhood disparities in access to healthy foods and their effects on environmental justice. American journal of public health, 102(9), 1644-1654.
Johnston, J., & Cushing, L. (2020). Chemical exposures, health, and environmental justice in communities living on the fenceline of industry. Current environmental health reports, 7(1), 48-57.
Kellogg, W. A., & Mathur, A. (2003). Environmental justice and information technologies: overcoming the information‐access paradox in urban communities. Public administration review, 63(5), 573-585.
Kojola, E., & Pellow, D. N. (2021). New directions in environmental justice studies: examining the state and violence. Politics, 30(1-2), 100-118.
Mitchell, B. C., & Chakraborty, J. (2015). Landscapes of thermal inequity: disproportionate exposure to urban heat in the three largest US cities. Environmental Research Letters, 10(11), 115005.
Mohai, P., Pellow, D., & Roberts, J. T. (2009). Environmental justice. Annual review of environment and resources, 34, 405-430.
Mullenbach, L. E., & Baker, B. L. (2020). Environmental justice, gentrification, and leisure: A systematic review and opportunities for the future. Leisure Sciences, 42(5-6), 430-447.
Ottinger, G. (2013). The winds of change: environmental justice in energy transitions. Science as Culture, 22(2), 222-229.
Outka, U. (2012). Environmental justice issues in sustainable development: Environmental justice in the renewable energy transition. J. Envtl. & Sustainability L., 19, 60.
Thompson, K. A. (2018). Prisons, policing, and pollution: Toward an abolitionist framework within environmental justice.
Wilson, A. (2021). Defunding the Police as Environmental Justice.
Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’. Landscape and urban planning, 125, 234-244.
Ziter, C. D., Pedersen, E. J., Kucharik, C. J., & Turner, M. G. (2019). Scale-dependent interactions between tree canopy cover and impervious surfaces reduce daytime urban heat during summer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(15), 7575-7580.
Do low-income communities or communities of color live closer to sources/centers of environmental pollution?
Do we see the pattern illustrated in Ziter et al. (2015), where tree cover and land use are related to urban heat in Albuquerque? If so, does heat risk inequity exist for impoverished and minority communities as shown in Mitchell & Chakraborty (2015)?
Do we see urban food deserts in Albuquerque? Given the definition presented in Hilmers et al. (2012), where is public transit concentrated and how does that compare to grocery store locations, food banks, and gas stations? How is food access distributed across socioeconomic and racial lines?
- Click and drag in the map to pan your view. Use the +/- buttons to zoom the view in or out.
- To add data layers or change the basemap, click the layers icon in the upper right of the map to open the popup menu. On the popup menu you can select the layers you want to add to the map or use the radio buttons to change the basemap.
- Click the ruler icon to measure distances between places. This feature measures total distance, so adding more than two points to the map will show you their combined distance. Please note: once you being a calculation, the ruler icon will change from transparent to a colored background . To end a current distance calculation, you will need to double-click on the last point that you want measured. This will make the ruler icon transparent again, at which point you can then start another distance caluclation on the same map or clear the map of all calculations by again clicking the ruler icon.
- Click the fullscreen icon to browse the map in fullscreen mode. To switch back to the minimized view, click on the compress icon .
- Click the download icon to download a .png file of the map you have created. Please note: if you are using the Police Incidents point data, the download feature is currently slow to the point of now working.
- In the lower left-hand corner, you can see the scale of the map in both the metric and United States customary systems. In the lower right-hand side, you can see the latitude and longitude that you are at when you move your mouse over parts of the map.