By Erin Schrode
I never wanted to be a politician. I am an activist, an educator, a social entrepreneur—a citizen who is committed to environmental action, public health and equal justice.
Grassroots community organizing is hardwired into my DNA, nurtured by a cadre of doers in Marin County, California. When it was revealed that Marin — despite its unparalleled natural beauty, high concentration of organic farms and protected lands — had the highest breast, prostate and melanoma cancer rates in the world, my mother sprung into action. As a young girl, I watched her deftly orchestrate her first campaign to unite boots-on-the-ground vigor, compelling storytelling and sound scientific research. The question was clear: Why had cancer rates skyrocketed?
Why? “Why" gets to the root causes of an issue, rather than address supposed symptoms, which can be more costly, dangerous and short-lived. Why, then, am I running today?
Broken policy is failing us all, as fear and vitriol permeate politics. I can no longer watch as partisan gridlock threatens our future and that of communities around the country. We need commonsense reform—and we need it en masse, yesterday. Clean water is a human right. Women add value to society. Mental health is a veritable illness. Black lives matter. Affordable healthcare helps families. Education can be an economic engine.
It's time to deliver on the promise of my generation.
Amid a massive demographic shift and immersed in culture of innovation, my digital native peers are rising to positions of leadership, shaping social norms and revolutionizing every vertical. From media to agriculture to infrastructure, no industry will remain untouched by technological advancements. Most create new business models or lead cutting edge non-profit work to affect positive change, deliberately working around the political arena.
In addition to passion and energy, we ask different questions and prioritize collaborative solutions. Not daunted by failure, beholden to special interests or settled in the status quo, we seize the moment to take informed risks —bringing to the table a wild range of experience, diverse skill set and nuanced fresh perspective.
I seek to redefine civic engagement, reinvigorate a culture of public service, expand the definition of who can be a politician and infuse meaning into the very act of running.
Call me crazy, but I still believe in the institution of government. We have the knowhow and tools to shape a future we are proud of, in terms of global and environmental health, learning and work, and human rights domestically and abroad—and cannot afford to wait.
It is not enough to mitigate further environmental degradation. We must employ new and existing technologies to reverse damage, plan for increasingly common climate-related disasters or hazards and ensure sustainable resource management, responsible consumption and businesses that deliver profit on financial, ecological and social levels. Without an environment, there can be no justice. We are all entitled to take a deep breath and sip clean water — and should be able to trust our leaders to defend those rights. Our health and safety is tied to that of our planet. We both benefit and pay the price of mismanagement and destruction of the commons.
It is not enough to denounce the current education system.We need a new, dynamic approach to learning and working. The antiquated frameworks of schools and jobs fail amid today's changing landscape. Students of all ages need access to relevant, fluid curriculum that fosters creativity, imparts transferable skills and sparks entrepreneurship. Crippling debt thwarts growth, hinders independence and burdens families. Loan forgiveness for hardworking citizens is essential, as is remedial training for professional pivots when current jobs disappear. You once got an education in order to earn a livelihood. Now we struggle to earn a livelihood to pay off loans from graduation. Education is not only the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world, but also the basis for personal and global growth, prosperity and progress. We must prepare our people for the future of work and solidify the pipeline to fair wage employment.
It is not enough to lament the lack of inclusion or imbalance in access. We need all segments of the population granted equal opportunity and encouraged to develop competitive skills, which provides an actual chance to contribute and succeed. Discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion and ethnicity must stop. Progressive female voices equate to progressive policies—on equal pay, childcare, paid leave and reproductive health, as well as immigration, criminal justice, guns and foreign policy. Empowering women and girls, respecting underrepresented populations and fighting for reduced inequality is not a choice, but a moral imperative with lasting positive impacts.
Eco awareness illuminates interdependence to inform decision-making. Knowledge allows for improved systems, institutions and quality of life. Unique perspectives offer wider frames of reference to improve policy and our cultural fabric.
I believe that democracy should be representative, but 51 percent of our population is women and 35 percent of our population is under 30, yet there has NEVER been a woman under 30 elected to United States Congress. We need diversity and representation in a democracy, people who have the courage to challenge convention and establishment with new ideas, energy and integrity. Millennial and female participation will shape the nation. Progressive thinkers are disrupting with intention. Historically marginalized voices are uniting in chorus. The largest voting demographic of present and future will not stop short of change.
The best qualified person is not necessarily an older, white male. We must stop making that the default, for young does not mean less capable of critical thought. Our Constitution was written by people without grand accomplishments, individuals like you and me who shared a vision. My generation is better connected, well-informed, and more open to debate than ever before — all of which leads to stronger, practical solutions. By harnessing the power of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and collaboration across silos, our world can be more just, connected and equitable; our business more competitive, prosperous and open; our infrastructure more environmentally-sound, capable and durable; and our government more effective, efficient and transparent.
A country where a young woman is dissuaded from running for office because she is young or because she is a woman is not one in which I desire to live. May we truly be of the people (representative of the electorate), by the people (with ongoing accountability, not only at election time) and for the people (not for lobbyists or donors) where all are encouraged to add value to society by running and serving. If I were to listen to political pragmatists, I would never take this step, particularly at 24-years-old. I do not have tens of thousands of dollars in the bank or family wealth, have not spent decades in law or business, don't self-edit to put forth an image of some squeaky clean conservative life and was never president of any young political organization. But doom is not an element of this campaign, nor is any notion of entitlement.
Change will not roll in on the heels of inevitability, as Martin Luther King Jr. so wisely told us. If we want to build a new paradigm, we need people to be brave and actively choose a lesser worn path, but one with rich possibility. Think: how can we create a country of togetherness, inclusion and love, rather than send a message of division, hatred and fear? How can we elevate discourse? How can we drive real policy reform that is felt in the day-to-day?
Once upon a time, a young girl was born in Northern California. Her parents, of different faiths, divorced when she was but a year old, yet remained fiercely committed to their only child, each working multiple jobs to provide her with healthy food and a safe home, the priorities of so many mothers and fathers across America. With the help of scholarships, she attended schools that challenged her to think critically and to dream. She went on to co-found a non-profit, focus on youth and environmental issues, fight for equity and access, raise up the importance of humanity and dignity, work in disaster and conflict zones, urge corporations toward better practices and gain invaluable experience in dozens of nations around the world. An informed global citizen who has forged an unconventional path, she has now returned home to take responsibility for her corner of the world.
Four weeks ago, I gave a speech in my hometown in Northern California, the through line of which was “if not Marin, where?" My surroundings have fundamentally shaped my personal identity, career path and values. The region where I live is world renown as an incubator, catalyst and pioneer. Last week, I announced my run for United States Congress to represent California's District 2.
This is about purpose, not position — and I have dedicated my life to civic dialogue and action, a fervor which will not cease. I believe that moral authority can carry more weight than formal authority, for one should earn respect and trust for expertise, integrity and judgment—based upon behavior and track-record—rather than assume or be allotted a title. But when too many of us are being ignored, excluded and discriminated against, it is our time to not only mobilize on the streets of our hometowns, but also in Washington.
This is about people—for there is nothing that we, as committed citizens, cannot accomplish together. How exciting is that? I am honored to embark on this next chapter of service, to learn from, share with and co-create around messages with relevance and accessibility that are actionable. The issues matter—and I look forward to earning your vote, as we unite to deliver for all who have come before us, all who walk beside us, and all who are yet to come in Northern California and beyond.
I have faith in humanity. I trust in the power of community. And I maintain hope in the promise of our generation and nation.
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.