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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

Environmental Disasters

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


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