Citizen mapping and environmental justice: Internet applications for research and advocacy

Lisa Jordan, Anthony Stallins, Shereitte Stokes IV, Elijah Johnson, Richard Gragg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This article provides a review of the terms and practices associated with the democratization of cartography, and illustrates their potential to contribute to the environmental justice movement. The Internet has revolutionized how maps are made and communicated. Citizen mapping involves multiple individuals collaborating on the collection and synthesis of spatial data via Web-based software. Google Earth allows users to combine and communicate cartographic information without extensive geospatial training. These developments have freed geography from its stereotype of being a study of place names to a discipline that can engage the public in the collection, analysis, and most important, the comprehension of the power of maps to promote environmental and social justice. We illustrate this potential through a case study in Tallahassee, Florida, where a biomass facility was proposed for a low to moderate income, and minority neighborhood. A permit was granted for the facility without consideration of the input of residents and without critical examination of the disconnect between the regional and local scales on which pollutants are monitored and without considering the actual exposure and impacts to community residents mediated by sociodemographics, environmental, and health status, the hallmarks of environmental injustice. To communicate the fundamental issues in this debate, as well as to illustrate the democratizing turn in geospatial sciences, Google Earth was deployed to integrate global positioning systems (GPS) data, photographs, video, and sociodemographic data. Screenshots from this mapping activity are presented as a means to inform scholars of the potential for Web-based geospatial tools in environmental justice activism. We close with a discussion of how the use of maps requires critical thought and analysis to avoid their misuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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