February 2, 2021

Are We living in Habitable Cities? Making explicit the connection between social and climate justice

The fourth CIRGE webinar of the series “Committing ourselves to Social Justice…”, carried out on Jan 26th,  discussed how doctoral research in urban planning addresses the connection between social and climate justice.

The speakers Professor Vivek Shandas and Lorena Nascimento (soon, Dr. Nascimento) from Portland State University provided a historical analysis of how urban planning decision in big cities in the United States reproduced racial disparities. Dr. Shandas highlighted that the environmental movement has just started to make explicit the connection with environmental justice. Lorena argued for the need to open a new dimension to Urban Ecosystem Services, one that explores how the diversity of cultures in the cities creates opportunities for the reimagination of landscape values.

Vivek and Lorena’s presentation showed how urbanization and land change leads to disconnection between humans and nature. Particularly, Lorena’s dissertation research shows that Black, Indigenous, and people of color have an extra challenge to build a connection with nature due to historically segregation from highly valued ecosystems, such as forest fragments and clean water bodies. Frameworks of reimagination for urban ecosystem services build new relationships and include diverse values to restore the missing link between historically marginalized groups and nature.

Vivek and Lorena challenged the audience with the question of how disciplinary fields, more associated with the natural science, could make explicit the connection of their research with issues of social justice.

We took that question with us and invited the audience to let us know about ideas and initiatives that allow us to explore the conceptual meaning and practice of social justice.  At CIRGE we welcome your thoughts and ideas, so drop us a note.

Watch the Webinar 

See the presentation 

More about the speakers

Lorena Nascimento is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Studies at Portland State University and a GIS instructor at Portland Community College. She has been working with local nonprofits and public administration agencies in environmental education, community-based learning, urban mobility, policy review, and urban forestry projects in Portland, Oregon, USA. She participates in the City of Portland Parks Board, the Urban Forestry Commission, and Urban Greenspaces Institute as a board member. Lorena enjoys swimming, writing for blogs, gardening, and practicing plant identification in her free time.



Vivek Shandas is a Professor of Climate Adaptation and Director of the Sustaining Urban Places Research (SUPR) Lab at Portland State University. By examining the assumptions about our built environment, Dr.Shandas supports historically disinvested and marginalized communities in improving their adaptation from climate stressors, including extreme events such as urban heat, air quality, and storms. He has published over 100 articles, three books, and his research has been featured in the NYTimes, National Geographic, Scientific American, and dozens of other national and local media. Dr.Shandas serves as Chair of the City of Portland’s Urban Forestry Commission, and serves on several local and national advisory boards.


Learn more about the series  “Committing ourselves to Social Justice: Doctoral Education for Complex Times”.