Environmental Justice Session

The struggle for environmental justice: Successes, challenges, and implications for the weather-water-climate enterprise

(Co-hosted by “10th Symposium on the Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise” and the “Third Symposium on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”)

Session 6, Tuesday, 25 January at 10:30 AM

It has been long recognized that the radicalized, minoritized, and marginalized communities face disproportionate environmental burdens. The environmental justice movement aims to foster a clean and healthy environment and meaningful involvement in the development, implementation, and enforcement of equitable environmental policies. 

While not a traditional focus of the AMS, we are increasingly recognizing the ways in which weather-water-climate enterprise is inherently related to environmental justice. As examples: communities with lower socioeconomic status face disproportionately higher exposure to urban heat, and concentrations of health-harming air pollution are higher in communities of color.  

This presidential session will feature distinguished panelists active in the science-policy-activism nexus as it pertains to environmental justice who will share their stories and real-world experiences. Moderator Dr. Raj Pandya (American Geophysical Union Thriving Earth Exchange) will tie together themes and incorporate community comments and feedback. 



Dr. Matthew S. Tejada (he/him)

Matthew S. Tejada joined EPA in March of 2013 as a career senior executive and director of the Office of Environmental Justice.  As director, Matthew leads Environmental Justice Program’s cross-cutting work throughout the EPA and federal government.  This includes directly supporting communities and working with other EPA divisions, federal agencies, academic partners, business and industry, and state, local and tribal partners to further the mission of the EPA and its efforts to integrate environmental justice considerations in all policies, practices, and programs.  Before his career at EPA, Matthew spent over five years in the non-profit world as executive director of the advocacy Air Alliance Houston, which focuses on environmental justice issues affecting the many overburdened communities in the Houston and Texas Gulf Coast area, particularly related to air pollution issues such as toxic hot spots and diesel particulate matter.  Matthew was centrally involved in advocating for these justice issues in local, state and federal level legislative and policy arenas.  Matthew received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Oxford where he was a member of St. Antony’s College.  His research and dissertations largely focused on environmental and energy policy, international relations, politics and the development and role of civil society in a democracy.  Matthew received a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, then served two years in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria as a high school teacher of English as a foreign language.  Matthew is a native of Ft. Worth, Texas and the proud father of Nia Tejada.



Dr. Rajul Pandya (he/him)

Rajul (Raj) Pandya works to invite everyone to be part of guiding and doing science, especially people from historically marginalized communities, so that science can contribute to a world where all people and nature can thrive, now and in the future. Pandya is a scientist and science educator working to advance community science. Community Science is a way of doing science that connects science to action, emphasizes cooperation between scientists and community leaders, anchors science in community priorities, strives for justice, and positions science alongside other ways of knowing, doing, and deciding. 

Pandya is the founding director of AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange, a program that partners with AMS’s own Community Volunteers Program to connect scientists and communities, including communities that have been excluded from science, and help them work together to do science that addresses community priorities. 

As a volunteer for AMS, Pandya helped organize several Education Symposiums, helped plan the 2010 Annual Meeting, and served on the Boards for Higher Education, Women and Minorities, and the Commission for Education. Pandya got his PhD studying how large Thunderstorms organize and persist at the University of Washington.

Pandya chaired the National Academies committee on “Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning,” serves on the boards for Public Lab, the Anthropocene Alliance, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and ISET International. He is an advisor to the Institute for Science and Policy at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature and serves on the Science and Research Subcommittee of the City of Denver’s Sustainability Advisory Council. Pandya was a member of the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment and helped launch the Resilience Dialogues – a public-private partnership that uses facilitated online dialogues to advance community resilience.