In college I studied environmental policy, and after completing a geography master’s degree in which I researched the social justice implications of bus rapid transit improvements, I joined WSP USA.
I’m now a lead consultant for WSP’s Climate, Resilience & Sustainability team. I help translate technical analyses into public-facing documents that can lay the groundwork for policies that guide decision-making for agencies. I also spend a lot of my time thinking about the intersection of climate change and equity and what it means for our work as climate resilience planners.
The most exciting parts of my role are the open-ended, innovative aspects of the work we do and the collaborative mentality of our team. Our team works with public agencies nationwide to help them understand current and future risks to their infrastructure due to climate change, and then explore ways to integrate these considerations into decision-making and investments.
We are always iterating and improving upon our work to support our clients, and I feel like I have the intellectual freedom to think through and advance our approaches to cutting edge issues, all with the goal to support public agencies to better serve their communities.
Some of the projects our team is working on include the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Resilience Policy and Program, a research project on how to integrate public health and equity into transportation planning through Western Federal Lands, and a climate gentrification analysis in Escambia County, Florida.
Our work helps establish long-term plans for agencies and to improve infrastructure resilience to climate change – both now and in the future. We also constantly improve and build upon our work to both provide valuable insight for these agencies and to consider equity more robustly.
On many of our recent projects, I’ve been focusing on how to approach our work through an equity lens. This has ranged from understanding the impacts and consequences of climate change hazards on underserved transportation users, to completing a climate gentrification analysis that will help us begin to understand the long-term regional impacts of climate change on communities.
Climate change is happening on an uneven backdrop and the impacts and consequences are felt inequitably. When conducting climate vulnerability studies and creating plans for agencies to address the risks of climate change, we need to be focusing on who is impacted and who will benefit and address historic inequities.
The biggest challenge that I’ve been working to overcome is integrating equity into our climate resilience work. This looks different depending on the project, but I think this work starts with listening and understanding the context.
Inequities manifest themselves in different ways in different locations and we need to understand this context. Furthermore, the communities that we serve and the agencies that we support know their context best, so our job is to amplify and iterate on their ongoing work.
We need to start from this point even when considering leading edge topics, like community-led relocation (often referred to as “managed retreat”). Through a WSP Research and Innovation Fellowship and with the support of my team, I developed a planning framework to guide relocation of transportation assets that has public participation at its core.
I think we need to display a lot of humility in our work and adopt a collaborative and open-minded approach when it comes to equitably planning for climate change. Climate change is rooted in injustices, and as practitioners we need to acknowledge and work to unpack this to achieve equity and justice.
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