Create Social Responses
to a Changing Environment
The Grand Challenge to Create Social Responses to a Changing Environment is grounded in the
recognition that environmental changes are inextricably linked to human health and well-being.
Environmental issues such as urbanization, population growth, and extreme weather events are also
social justice issues with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable members of society.
Over the past five years, members of this Grand Challenge network have made tremendous progress
towards "catalyzing social responses that strengthen individual and community capacities for anticipating
and adapting to environmental changes." They have launched a website, formed an Advisory Council,
and generated numerous peer-reviewed articles, briefs, books, and presentations. They have encouraged
their institutions to update curricula in line with the conceptual basis of the Grand Challenge. And they
have forged interdisciplinary alliances, leveraging their expertise to advocate for policy changes at all
levels of government.
Illegal vehicle dumping is a dangerous problem in Sun Valley, a working class
neighborhood in Reno, NV. Beyond being an eyesore, dumping creates fire hazards
and pollutes the environment.
Photo courtesy of Youth Scientists on the Research for Change NV Team
Working with Teens to Document
Jennifer Willett, PhD, an assistant professor at
the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Social
Work, is exploring environmental justice issues
through community-based participatory research
methods. In one project, funded by the Corporation
for National and Community Service, Office of
Research and Evaluation, she is working with 15
high school students from Title 1 schools who serve
as co-researchers to document "slow violence"
scenarios - hidden environmental disasters
that occur over time and space - in Nevada. The
project uses photovoice - documentation via
photography and storytelling - and is focused
on climate disasters like wildfires and floods,
infrastructure needs in low-income neighborhoods
that intersect with environmental degradation, and
the continued impact of historic mining processes.
The team has presented its findings to various
stakeholders across the region and in Washington,
DC, and is currently developing actions to address
these scenarios with AmeriCorps programs.
22 | Progress and Plans for the Grand Challenges