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Frontiers of Science 2021

Sustainability: How Science Can Help Achieve
the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

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Mapping a Just and Sustainable Future for Pennsylvania

February 27, 2021
Presented by Peter Buck, Nebraska Hernandez, and Nyla Holland
Environmental Justice Project, Sustainability Institute
Penn State

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Peter Buck for the 2021 Frontiers of Science.
Peter Buck

Penn State’s Environmental Justice Project puts science in the service of fundamental rights to achieve just and sustainable development. Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees that every citizen of the commonwealth has “a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” This requires that we focus on environmental justice: “equal environmental protection regardless of race, color or national origin.” Currently, cumulative health impacts on Pennsylvanians by environmental hazards vary widely, with Black and poor communities placed at the greatest risk of environmental injustice. In this presentation, the Penn State Environmental Justice Project team’s work on a cumulative health impact map in Pennsylvania. We will explore environmental justice, how we can measure and track its impacts, how those impacts can be visualized using geographic information system (GIS) mapping, how historical legacies from policy and culture have created disparities in environmental justice in different communities, and what that means for just and sustainable governance.

Peter Buck, Nebraska Hernandez, and Nyla Holland comprise the Penn State Sustainability Institute's Environmental Justice Project team. Buck serves as the academic programs manager at the Sustainability Institute and as an affiliate faculty member in educational theory and policy. His work resides at the nexus of education, democracy, risk, ethics, and sustainability, and has appeared most recently in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences and the International Journal of Ethics Education. Hernandez is a senior majoring in geography and an officer in the Minorities in Earth and Mineral Sciences student organization. He also serves on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Justice Advisory Board. Holland is a senior majoring in political science and African American studies as well as a first-year graduate student in public policy. She is also the 2020–21 president of Penn State's Black Caucus.