Although the science of climate change is clear, policy decisions about how to respond to its effects remain contentious. Even when such decisions claim to be guided by objective knowledge, they are made and implemented through political institutions and relationships – and all the competing interests and power struggles that this implies.
Michael Mendez’s new book Climate Change from the Streets: How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement (Yale University Press, 2020) tells a timely story of people, place, and power in the context of climate change and inequality. He explores the perspectives and influence low-income people of color bring to their advocacy work on climate change. In California, activist groups have galvanized behind issues such as air pollution, poverty alleviation, and green jobs to advance equitable climate solutions at the local, state, and global levels. Arguing that environmental protection and improving public health are inextricably linked, Mendez contends that we must incorporate local knowledge, culture, and history into policymaking to fully address the global complexities of climate change and the real threats facing our local communities.
By connecting environmental theory, critical policy studies, and practice, Mendez offers an important case study for scholars, policymakers, advocates, and environmental analysts seeking new directions in climate policy and justice worldwide.
Michael Mendez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at UC Irvine. He previously was the inaugural James and Mary Pinchot Faculty Fellow in Sustainability Studies at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Michael has more than a decade of senior-level experience in the public and private sectors, where he consulted and actively engaged in the policymaking process. As a scholar, he has contributed to state and national research policy initiatives, including as a participant of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s workgroup on “Climate Vulnerability and Social Science Perspectives.” Most recently, Michael was appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to the Board on Environmental Change and Society (BECS).