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Greenlink News

Maps That Mobilize Communities

Updated: Mar 18

Mapping to mobilize
The Greenlink Equity Map illustrates over 40 indicators on health, housing, and environmental inequities.

We often use maps to tell us what experiences communities may be facing and where the disparities within those experiences are happening. But what if maps can also guide the approach to a particular issue? The Greenlink Equity Map (GEM) is doing just that.


GEM is an interactive and easy-to-use tool with over 40 indicators that illustrate the intersections of health, housing, and environmental inequities across the United States. Cities, states, and organizations across the country use the tool to help guide plans for reducing carbon emissions, upgrading the grid through energy efficiency and clean power sources, channeling funding towards disinvested communities, and advancing community-driven processes.


Community-driven processes overturn the archaic, entrenched, and unjust power system whereby decisions that directly impact communities are made without their consideration or feedback. The process reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of historically silenced communities bearing the worst impacts (read: toxic pollution and underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services) of decisions and having the least ability to change them. The climate crisis won’t be solved if it continues. Instead, the solution requires a sea change in how we think about building policies that impact nature and strengthen communities.


The inspiring canvassers for WeatheRISE ATL surround Greenlink's Chief Data Scientist Kavin Manickaraj/
The inspiring canvassers for WeatheRISE ATL surround Greenlink's Chief Data Scientist Kavin Manickaraj/

The process begins with identifying the communities in need of the most support. Greenlink is a partner to City of Atlanta’s program called WeatheRISE ATL, focusing on reducing electricity and gas bills for households in the city's most energy burdened communities. This program helps maintain affordable housing, decrease carbon emissions by improving energy efficiency directly in the homes of those in need, improve people’s health, and create jobs. Before the work could begin, Atlanta needed to understand where these households are located, why the bills are so high, and what other environmental or social burdens are coupled with energy burden.


That’s where GEM comes in handy. 

Greenlink used GEM’s mapping capabilities to pinpoint the most energy burdened neighborhoods in the city. We found that these neighborhoods are predominantly Black, exist in south Atlanta, and that there’s a strong relationship between energy burden, high asthma rates, and mental health challenges.


Facts alone aren’t enough. The data needs to be understood by the people it describes and then used to encourage change. Sustainable Georgia Future, a local community based organization and also a WeatheRISE ATL partner, is leading the community outreach, education, and enrollment components of the program. They are canvassing in the most energy burdened neighborhoods identified by Greenlink to recruit households for the weatherization and efficiency upgrades. It’s the process of taking data to the people that helps the community understand where things stand and mobilize and forge a better future.


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