Q: How do you define geography in the field of social and climate justice? 

A: Geography is central to social and climate justice as it contextualizes the spatial distribution of resources and power. By learning geography, we grasp how socio-economic factors, such as poverty and race, interact with physical environments, leading to systemic vulnerabilities to climate change. It highlights environmental inequities, such as unequal exposure to hazardous waste or air pollution, often situated in marginalized communities. Understanding geography also empowers effective planning and response to climate crises while ensuring equitable resource allocation and sustainability. As such, geography plays a pivotal role in advancing social and climate justice.


Q: Geography doesn't often come up in news surrounding social movements, what is the importance of including geographical context when describing issues involving race and diversity? 

A: Yi-Fu Tuan, a renowned geographer, differentiates "space", a bare geographic location, from "place", a location imbued with human experiences, history, and socio-economic realities. These experiences morph "spaces" into unique "places", exposing patterns of racial segregation, resource distribution, and exposure to environmental risks. By acknowledging this nuanced, human-centric model we provide crucial context to the multifaceted realities of diverse communities, enhancing our comprehension of persistent inequalities and guiding the development of solutions.

Q: What are some ways in which geography creates barriers to equity and resilience?

A: Geography plays a considerable role in creating barriers to equity and resilience. One crucial way is through environmental injustices which often disproportionately impact marginalized communities, such as the siting of hazardous waste facilities or landfills in underprivileged areas, leading to significant health disparities. Geography is also utilized to enforce social inequities through practices like redlining and housing segregation, affecting access to quality education, healthcare, and social services. Additionally, the impact of climate change is geographically unequal, leaving certain regions more vulnerable to extreme weather events and compromising their resilience. In our paper, “The evolution of race and place in geographies of risk and resilience”, we examine the historical rationale, and restrictions, behind specific groups' geographical settlements, interrogate their contemporary encounters with climate challenges, and predict their impending future circumstances. Through this view, we can identify barriers, not only when they are created, but also identify how they impact future generations.


Q: How does geography influence patterns of migration and displacement in the context of climate disasters? 

A: Geography significantly influences patterns of migration and displacement in the context of climate disasters. But migration isn't always possible, creating "trapped" populations in geographically isolated or impoverished areas. The ability to migrate often depends on economic and social resources, which can be geographically uneven. Understanding these patterns can inform decision-making, guiding policies to reduce displacement through improving infrastructure, resources, and resilience in areas or by planning for possible migration scenarios.


Q: Can you give examples of communities that have been historically marginalized due to their geographic location and environmental hazards associated with that location?

A: One such example is the Native American community living on the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, USA. This community has been severely affected by sea-level rise and coastal erosion, losing approximately 98% of its land since the 1950s. This has led to their marginalization and planned relocation by the US government.

"Cancer Alley”, an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is another example heavily affected due to its geographic location. Home to several toxic industries, this region is home to 25% of the petrochemical production in the Untied and it has a large African American population who suffer from the high levels of pollution.

These are just a few examples; sadly, there are numerous other instances throughout the world where marginalized communities have been disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards linked to their geographic location.

Q: Can you give me examples of marginalized communities adapting to live in difficult geographies?

A: Resilience in the face of adversity is a powerful trait found in several marginalized communities living in challenging geographies. 

The Gullah Geechee people along the southeastern U.S. coast have preserved their unique culture and sustainable farming and fishing practices despite coastal development, climate change, and other pressures.

In Bangladesh, one of the world's most flood-prone countries, local communities have adopted various ingenious adaptive strategies, including building homes on raised earthen platforms and cultivating flood-resistant crop varieties. 

The Sherpa people in the mountainous region of Nepal have adapted to high altitudes and tough terrains, building a community that not only survives but thrives in what many would perceive as an incredibly harsh geographical location. 

In the arctic regions, indigenous communities such as the Inuit have long perfected techniques for surviving in extremely cold temperatures, relying on traditional knowledge passed through generations. 

While these communities may face significant challenges due to their geographic locations, they've also demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability in the face of such hardships.