Climate Change from the Streets


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How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement

Michael Mendez

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An urgent and timely story of the contentious politics of incorporating environmental justice into global climate change policy

Winner of the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award, sponsored by the International Studies Association (ISA)

"Should be required reading for the most committed Green New Dealers and their opponents alike.”—Liam Denning, Bloomberg

Although the science of climate change is clear, policy decisions about how to respond to its effects remain contentious. Even when such decisions claim to be guided by objective knowledge, they are made and implemented through political institutions and relationships—and all the competing interests and power struggles that this implies. Michael Méndez tells a timely story of people, place, and power in the context of climate change and inequality. He explores the perspectives and influence low-income people of color bring to their advocacy work on climate change. In California, activist groups have galvanized behind issues such as air pollution, poverty alleviation, and green jobs to advance equitable climate solutions at the local, state, and global levels. Arguing that environmental protection and improving public health are inextricably linked, Mendez contends that we must incorporate local knowledge, culture, and history into policymaking to fully address the global complexities of climate change and the real threats facing our local communities.

Michael Méndez is assistant professor of environmental planning and policy at the University of California, Irvine. He previously served in California as a senior consultant, lobbyist, and gubernatorial appointee during the passage of the state’s internationally acclaimed climate change legislation. In 2022 he was the recipient of an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship.

“Méndez[‘s] Climate Change from the Streets [is] about the struggle of low-income and minority communities to have a voice in shaping environmental policy. It should be required reading for the most committed Green New Dealers and their opponents alike.”—Liam Denning, Bloomberg

Climate Change from the Streets is a powerful introduction to the environmental justice movement, which is increasingly a driving force behind climate action both in America and internationally. From the grassroots to the global, this book shows the deep human costs of climate inaction.”—Robin Happel, United Nations Association of the United States of America (from ‘Climate Books for Changemakers’)

“This book is likely to be an excellent primer for discussion and provide a starting point for the exploration of policy informed by the community. The methods used in this book provide an excellent framework for policy work in not only climate change, but in many other areas of health inequities.”—Jason Daniel-Ulloa, World Medical and Health Policy

"Mendez's argument is both urgent and fascinating: at the scale of the places where most people live, global warming can only be addressed as part of a broader public-health crisis."—Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster

"A crucial addition to the climate change literature. Avoiding the normal view-from-on-high, Mendez gets down into the nitty-gritty of environmental justice campaigning, with all its tradeoffs, frustrations, and hard-won successes."—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

“This timely book tracks the narratives and actions of multiple stakeholders in their responses to climate change in California. Amplifying the voices of environmental justice activists, Mendez skillfully interrogates their strategies to ensure climate solutions tackle both the global problem and local needs."—Julian Agyeman, author of Introducing Just Sustainabilities

"Mendez chronicles the conflicts that have shaped California’s climate policies. Those who seek to form a durable – or any – consensus on national climate policy would be advised to read this book."—Debra Kahn, POLITICO

“Mendez moves fluently between local communities, state-level policy debates, and international dimensions. His smart take on health, risk, and social movements is the account of climate justice that we so urgently need now.”—Julie Sze, author of Environmental Justice in a Moment of Danger

“Michael Mendez’s Climate Change from the Streets makes a strong case that the climate crisis is more than parts per million and greenhouse gases and offers an excellent analysis for incorporating environmental justice and health equity principles into climate change policy.”—Robert D. Bullard, author of  The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities

"This excellent richly-researched book connects evidence, public health, and politics to argue lucidly for equity-oriented approaches linking embodiment, environmental justice, and climate change."—Nancy Krieger, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

"A first-rate – and first-hand – account of how environmental justice activists shifted climate policy in California, this is a must-read for understanding how grassroots activism can shift science, policy, and politics."—Manuel Pastor, author of State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America’s Future

"Mendez’s refreshing approach engages the diverse embodied perspectives of a broad range of activists, the multiscale reality of environmental injustice, and the real work of making policy across difference. Climate Change from the Streets is an authentic, important, and necessary addition to the field."—David Schlosberg, University of Sydney

"Michael Mendez carefully and thoughtfully demonstrates the multiscalar role of civic advocates in challenging established climate policy practice by embedding justice and public health impacts and goals in climate change science and solutions."—Isabelle Anguelovski, author of Neighborhood as Refuge: Community Reconstruction, Place Remaking, and Environmental Justice in the City

"Climate change is often described in distant, global, abstract terms. This book remedies those shortcomings with powerful case studies of how climate change impacts people’s everyday lives and how everyday people have worked to shape policies to address these challenges. This book is a major contribution to the scholarship on climate justice and environmental justice studies."—David Naguib Pellow, UC Santa Barbara, author of Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice

Finalist for the John Friedmann Book Award, sponsored by The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning 

Winner of the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award, sponsored by the International Studies Association (ISA)

Winner of the 2021 Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award, sponsored by the Association for Humanist Sociology 
ISBN: 9780300232158
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 b/w illus.