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Yale students advise state officials on engaging marginalized communities in climate change resilience tactics

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Students from the Yale School of the Environment and UVM Law School presented a report on climate change resilience and marginalized communities to a state board.


Staff reporter


Yale Daily News

Public participation in Connecticut’s response to the climate crisis is not accessible to members of marginalized communities across the state, according to a new report from a team of researchers that includes two Yale students.

In the report, titled “Community-Centered Climate Resilience in Connecticut,” Trinidad Kechkian ENV ’22 and Nicolas Esguerra LAW ’22 detailed possible methods to increase communication between the Connecticut government and marginalized communities.

The report provided two main lessons related to public participation in developing climate solutions: most people saw the process as either inaccessible or lacking in meaningful involvement. Additionally, the report illustrated the impacts as well as concerns related to climate change that many members of marginalized communities have.

The report was submitted to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as well as the Governor’s Council on Climate Change. The information collected is added to a larger report on climate resilience.

“I got involved because I wanted the opportunity to apply what I learned in college to a real-life project before graduation,” Kechkian said. “Our team felt a great responsibility to do good for Connecticut’s underrepresented communities because we understood that if they were not included in resilience plans, extreme weather events due to climate change could be situations of life or death. So we thought it was a unique opportunity to bring decision makers and the decision-making process closer to the communities. »

During the semester, the team of students from Yale Law School and UVM first conducted a literature review to better understand the effects of climate change on the state, putting the focus on how it affects marginalized communities. The group then turned to developing focus groups, in which students would hear directly from these communities across the state.

In response to the challenge of fostering trust between researchers and members of marginalized communities, the team made sure to be “very aware” of their position and tried to form “real extractive relationships,” Kechkian said. . With the help of Lee Cruz, director of community outreach at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the students spoke with 30 residents of Hartford, Bridgeport, Willimantic and New Haven – with 43.3% attending from Elm City . The 30 people came from organizations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services and the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.

“I was recruited specifically because of my background in community organizing and community engagement,” Cruz said. “We talked extensively with the students about different approaches to different communities, and then provided a list of religious and civic 501c3 nonprofit organizations, with the names of specific people they should contact. [and] followed by them reaching out to these organizations and giving them just a heads up.

The researchers divided the people who took part in the study into groups of no more than six and held Zoom discussion groups, where the students asked questions related to climate change as well as public participation in the research process. developing solutions to climate change.

Based on information the students gathered from the focus group, which Kechkian said he posted largely unchanged to maintain participants’ voices, the report recommends increasing public awareness through social media, advertisements in newspapers like the New Haven Independent, on radio stations and at places where large community groups meet. While the report included a summary of the various responses, the authors also included an appendix that included the verbatim responses of the 30 participants.

On specific issues related to climate change, Kechkian said study participants raised concerns related to energy security, food security, flooding in areas around Hartford and New Haven, the quality of the air and the response to natural calamities such as major storms.

“Furthermore, this research confirms that climate impacts disproportionately affect BIPOC and low-income communities in Connecticut,” the researchers wrote in the report. “Repeatedly, participants who self-identified as part of these communities reported more frequent instances of power outages, food insecurity, and lack of access to the basic resources needed to stay safe during extreme weather events.”

The larger report – which is being compiled by CG3 and the Equity and Environmental Justice Working Group – will also be consolidated into a planning guide, which community members can refer to.

“As a result of the report, we have definitely internalized aspects of public participation,” said Allanis Allan, research analyst in DEEP’s Office of Climate Planning. “We’re hoping to incorporate those in particular as we move forward…I think that’s one way for us to adjust based on the report is that some people are affected in overstretched and underresourced communities that are affected by climate change, and the impacts of climate change, as well as other environmental issues.

The Governor’s Council on Climate Change was formed in September 2019 following Executive Order no. 3 which restored and expanded the composition and responsibilities of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change.

YASH ROY




Yash Roy covers education and youth services in New Haven and is a staff member at P&D. He is a freshman at Timothy Dwight College and is originally from Princeton, NJ.