TreePeople: Bringing Sociology, Climate Research, and Community Voices into the Same Room


  • April D. Laird


This is an exploration into being the first and only Cal State LA sociology student intern at TreePeople, a seasoned non-profit environmental justice organization. TreePeople’s Policy and Research department teams host multi-component environmental initiatives which use participatory community engagement and outreach to dynamically record new urban climate change research and maximize resilience outcomes in underserved neighborhoods. Los Angeles is one of the most historically notorious urban landscapes for resource and land discrimination, racial and class segregationist policies, and extractive/polluting enterprises. My internship sought to bridge the gap between researchers and community members while encouraging a new approach to climate studies that brings all stakeholders into conversation equally. My team and I are employing micro to macro motivations, technological details, and sociological theoretical frameworks during the pre-outreach and beginning sampling stages of our initiative launch. LA provides a potent location for implementing more sociologically rooted environmental research, especially in the face of imminent climate crises, that disproportionally affect marginalized communities. LA’s Urban Soil Future combines quantitative measurements of soil health and biodiversity in LA and documented qualitative feedback and collaborative ideation about nature-based solutions, giving community voices an empirical and social platform. It is my fervent wish that organizations like TreePeople become progressively interested in compassionately and respectively widening the breadth of stakeholder collaboration and collectivism in all their current and future scientific research. I believe there is no better arena than climate justice to foster in a plurality in connection and wisdom, because we all share the threat of an inhospitable future, if we cannot work together.