About the Virtual Environmental Justice DEVELOP Office: The Virtual Environmental Justice (VEJ) Office is not hosted at a NASA center or academic institution. This virtual design was intended to allow for greater flexibility for project focus, as well as engage with participants across the country who are passionate about Environmental Justice (EJ) but unable to relocate. VEJ projects are co-created with partners and intentionally center on marginalized EJ communities and their concerns, which have included issues such as disparities in urban heat island, flood risk, air quality, and smoke exposure. In addition to technical and scientific advising available through the NASA DEVELOP network, VEJ participants also have the unique opportunity to work with and learn from experts doing critical EJ work at grassroots, city, state, and federal levels. Moreover, the VEJ Fellow and participants engage in discussions about the history and praxis of EJ to contextualize DEVELOP projects in the broader EJ movement.
VEJ History: The VEJ Office began in January 2022 through DEVELOP and NASA Applied Sciences’ initiative to strengthen their involvement in Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ). VEJ's first teams conducted needs assessments which engaged with organizations working at the intersection of EJ and disasters or health and air quality to better understand their capacities for and interests in using NASA Earth observations. Their findings that EJ organizations prioritized collaboration, community engagement, holistic approaches to justice, and networking opportunities have been woven into the planning and structure of VEJ’s feasibility projects. Moreover, the needs assessment teams created a resource guide to connect EJ organizations with the potential applications of NASA Earth observations and other geospatial tools.
DEVELOP partnered with EJ and EJ-oriented organizations prior to the creation of the VEJ Office, and EJ projects also occur at other DEVELOP Offices. Collaborations with Groundwork USA and its network of trusts have been pivotal in the growth of EJ at DEVELOP, as well as projects with influential local government offices such as the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, City of Tempe's Healthy Urban Environments Initiative, and City of Philadelphia's Office of Sustainability. Building on this foundation and its recent projects, the VEJ Office will continue to offer projects which expand the accessibility and reach of geospatial tools; produce community-forward and –informed maps, models and tutorials; and, most importantly, support EJ organizations.