The primary goal of this project is to address the question, What does environmental justice look like in Vermont? It will be necessary to examine the unique injustices that occur in our state to craft an all-encompassing environmental justice law that is specific to Vermont’s needs. This goal will be addressed through a series of community panels, door-to-door surveys, and in-depth interviews conducted throughout Vermont, which will cover a range of issues including the inequalities that lead some Vermonters to bear a disproportionate share of environmental and health burdens.
The data that we collect from surveys, panels, and interviews will help identify under served communities and what kind of environmental injustices are taking place. Our short-term goal, a change in knowledge, will focus on decision-makers and affected residents throughout Vermont. It is crucial that agency staff and local policymakers have a better understanding of environmental justice related community needs, concerns, and questions. It is equally important that communication and increased knowledge be a two-way street, and that frontline communities also become aware of the definitions, considerations, and general intentions of crafting a statewide environmental justice policy.
At the State House: Kesha Ram, Jennifer Byrne, and Bindu Panikkar discuss environmental justice and equity in Act 250 on April 30, 2019
The intermediate outcome, a change in behavior, will result from building lasting relationships to advance the meaningful implementation of environmental justice policy. Increased participation of residents sharing vital feedback about their environmental experience with the state and partners will not be just a one-time outcome. It will build a more equitable relationship between the state and the public to enhance environmental decision-making in the future.
The long term outcome, a change in conditions, will occur when a collaborative community-based environmental justice policy is created. We hope that the culmination of the work in this project will make equity and justice a priority in Vermont’s future policy making. This will involve inter-agency meetings and other gatherings that uplift frontline community leaders as the experts in their area. The ultimate tangible product will be to give state agencies the means to respond to environmentally burdened communities in a more equitable manner.