Unveiling the Texas Environmental Justice Explorer

Originally published March 2021 at climatecabineteducation.org

This March, we debuted our Texas Environmental Justice Explorer Map with our partners at Texas Rising, a social justice organization building youth power in Texas. The map is a direct-to-advocacy tool for Texans to learn about the impacts of environmental injustice in their communities, share stories, get involved, and advocate for action against the unequal impacts of pollution and climate disasters.

Texas State Rep. Erin Zwiener joined us to release the new map. Rep. Zwiener is one of Texas’s fiercest environmental champions in the state legislature, and is Chair of the bipartisan Texas Caucus on Climate, Environment, and the Energy Industry.

Check out the map yourself, and watch highlights from the release here.

How does it work? The map calculates a “Cumulative Environmental Justice Risk Score” for every county and census tract in Texas, combining social and environmental risk factors. It also shows the location of toxic facilities, and allows Texans to add personal stories. When you zoom in to the census tract view, the map illustrates a clear and well-documented story: communities of color are bearing the brunt of pollution and the resulting health impacts. Read some of our local insights on Twitter.

Environmental injustice is a form of systemic racism in which toxic industries, heavy traffic, waste, and more are disproportionately sited in marginalized communities. Across the US, Black Americans are 75% more likely to live near a polluting facility than are their white counterparts. Our tool builds on the recognition of a need for equity mapping programs to help expose injustice and organize for action.

This past month we’ve been focused on the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri in Texas and across the South. The release of our map lined up with this tragedy — which only made the consequences of redlining, racist zoning policies, existing inequality, and other risk factors more clear.

The data is clear: Black and Brown communities face greater environmental hazards day to day — and when natural disasters strike. We hope this tool will be a powerful tool for advocates in Texas. Environmental justice must be central to tackling climate change.

We hope you’ll check out the map, share your story or share it with a friend in Texas, and consider donating to ongoing relief efforts in Texas if you’re able.

We make local climate change data and policy solutions actionable — at scale. https://www.climatecabineteducation.org/