Michael A. Méndez Delivers 2021 David Lecture on Climate Justice

On October 14, Dr. Michael A. Méndez delivered the 2021 Henry and Bryna David Lecturer. The annual lecture is a program of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education (DBASSE). A professor of Environmental Planning and Policy from the University of California-Irvine, Dr. Méndez spoke on the prevalence of climate-related disasters, specifically the wildfires affecting California. In his lecture, Méndez describes his research that finds the negative impacts of climate disasters to public health, housing, and employment disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized populations, citing some of the conditions endured by undocumented immigrants and Indigenous migrants in California in the wake of historic wildfires.

“Our research shows that differences in human vulnerability to wildfires stem from a range of social, economic, historical, and political factors,” stated Mendez, later noting, “existing inequalities are exacerbated during a disaster. This is primarily because there is no social safety net for undocumented migrants before disasters happen. If we really want to tackle disaster risk reduction, it starts with the social integration of migrants before disaster happens. To move forward, we need more inclusive disaster planning.” The Henry and Bryna David Lecture honors a leading innovator in the behavioral and social sciences who is invited to deliver the eponymous lecture and publish an article in Issues in Science and Technology magazine based on that lecture. A video recording of the Henry and Bryna David Lecture is available on the National Academies website.


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