Northeast professor to boost Biden’s Justice40 initiative

Sara Wylie has worked for years to increase equity in the response to climate change through her work as an associate professor of sociology and health sciences at Northeastern University. Now, with a year-long fellowship at the US Department of Energy’s new Office of Energy Justice Policy and Analysis, she has the opportunity to help shape the future of US climate policy. in a significative way.

Working under the broader banner of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, led by Northeast Law Professor Shalanda Baker, Wylie is excited to put years of research into environmental justice and equity to work of the Biden administration’s Justice40 initiative. The effort aims to direct 40% of federal clean energy investments to marginalized communities that are overburdened by the impacts of pollution and climate change.

“If we rush to fight climate change without worrying about justice, we will end up creating many of the same inequalities that we see today,” says Wylie. “There is a huge legacy of the misdeeds of our current carbon economy that needs to be fixed.”

“We are delighted to welcome Sara Wylie as an Energy Justice Science, Technology, and Policy Fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. Our mission to address the climate crisis through equity-focused solutions requires a holistic approach,” says Baker, Office Director. “Sara’s background in community-centered science and environmental data justice will benefit our team and help advance our mission. We look forward to the progress we will make together.

Wylie’s academic work lies at the intersection of environmental justice – how climate change and environmental policies impact different groups of people – and data justice, which examines the reasons for and impacts of data collection. data on some groups compared to others. At Justice40, she will help develop measures to identify marginalized communities that are most at risk of being impacted by climate change. With better data metrics and tools, the initiative could benefit communities that need these federal resources the most.

“As with all data tools, it’s only as good as the data available, and much of the data the state collects has a lot of gaps and holes,” Wylie says.

“We’re a huge nation and we’re a federation of states that all have different systems,” adds Wylie. “So the questions of ‘Who’s counted? Where does this data come from? How do we know how good this data is? are some of the things we need to be careful of and pay attention to in the development of these processes. »

Wylie has plenty of experience with the all-too-common federal data gaps. In her previous work, she dove into data from the Environmental Protection Agency and found that about 19,000 EPA-regulated facilities don’t have publicly available latitudes and longitudes. Without location data, it is difficult to measure their impact, in the short or long term, on the surrounding communities.

“We don’t have a good idea of ​​how to measure the cumulative impact of environmental exposures, and that data just isn’t available in a way that you can easily rely on,” Wylie says. “I think that’s one of the key areas I’m interested in working on.”

Entering the ground floor of Justice40, Wylie says she has an opportunity to fill in some of those gaps and “make sure the rubber meets the road” when it comes to her research. She started her year-long fellowship in September, but she’s already set to help shape a more equitable climate future for America.

“We know and can demonstrate that our current systems produce inequality, and therefore it should be possible to produce systems that produce equity,” Wylie says. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity and really see it as a chance to move from a space of criticism to a space of trying to create fairer and fairer systems.”

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