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At UC Irvine, we understand that transformations in physical infrastructure alone will not suffice to achieve the University of California’s climate and sustainability goals. How we build the human infrastructure to get us there is also key. We are working on several community resilience projects that are intended to foster people-centered and inclusive solutions to our climate challenges. These projects are driven by students, faculty, staff, and community collaborators who come together for meaningful exchange, education, research, and action for social transformation. We are developing a shared understanding that the problems of climate change, racism and all social injustice, economic inequality, and our challenged democracy are connected, and so are the solutions. “Community resilience” describes our efforts to create the human infrastructure through which climate and sustainability solutions foster and reflect social cohesion and inclusion of underrepresented voices in our university community and beyond.
Through a limited set of special projects, we seek to understand, engage, and lift up the interests, contributions, and leadership of underrepresented communities on our campus and in communities in our region that are more vulnerable to the impacts of the changing climate. These areas typically include low-income communities, people of color, indigenous communities, immigrants, and elderly populations.
Building on foundations established by the Sustainability Initiative, this work creates leadership opportunities for UC faculty, staff, and students who historically have been excluded from the sustainability transformation. It equips our campus’s underrepresented students, many of whom are also from communities facing environmental justice challenges, to analyze and address root causes of sustainability and climate crises both on campus and back home. At its best, this work also builds trust between UC Irvine and regional partners, a key to lasting and reciprocal relationships for sustainability scholarship over time.