Examining ecological justice within the social-ecological-technological system of New York City, USA
Examining justice in cities requires using analytical approaches that can unpack their complex nature and reveal the many interacting dimensions that affect justice patterns and processes. Although justice in cities has been examined extensively, it has primarily focused on social and environmental dimensions.
However, justice is multi-dimensional, influenced and affected by multiple actors, dynamics, and processes. In this paper we propose the use of ecological justice, as justice of, to, and for nature as a critical lens for portraying a more integral understanding of urban injustices. This lens extends the notion of justice to nature through four dimensions: distribution of harmful impacts, recognition of nature, participation of nature, and the capabilities of social-ecological systems. Through a relational lens we develop a methodology that uses the social-ecological-technological system (SETS) conceptual framework to unpack how the dimensions and interactions affect ecological justice across urban landscapes.
This methodology is operationalized into measurable variables and applied through a case study in New York City. A spatial analysis of indicators that act as SETS-Justice proxies at a Community District level, reveal high spatial variability of ecological justice hotspots when looking at each dimension independently. Identifying ecological justice hotspots can provide critical information for improving ecological justice through multiple means. For example, hotspots lacking in social-ecological recognition and participation of nature can inform context-specific solutions such as policies and projects that target community engagement, capacity building, and improve ecological knowledge. Additionally, a composite analysis of SETS-Justice through the aggregation of all indicators, reveals justice hotspots different to those commonly mapped in other justice-focused studies. This approach highlights the need to jointly address issues of environmental and ecological justice.
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