Abstract

Mounting awareness of the discriminatory distribution of environmental factors has increasingly placed environmental justice at the forefront of discussions on sustainable development, but responses to these disparities are often too little, too late. Remote sensing has emerged as a potential solution to this problem, capitalizing on the ability to capture high-resolution, spatially explicit data in near-real time. However, a conventional reliance on physical measurements and surface-level analyses risks overlooking the experiences and perceptions of affected communities. It is against this backdrop that the potential integration of remote sensing imagery and socially sensed big data such as social media data assumes a novel and promising role. This study aims to discern the feasibility, opportunities, and implications of integrating the spatial insights provided by remote sensing with the experiential narratives shared on social media platforms, bridging the gap between objective environmental data and community-driven perspectives. We explore this subject in two ways, analyzing the geographic relationship between environmental justice Tweets and environmental justice factors, and reviewing Tweets produced during an extensive wildfire. Remote sensing indexes for green and blue space were reviewed and tested, selecting the measures of best fit to act as independent variables alongside traditional environmental justice factors in the broader analysis. Results from regression models indicate a negative relationship between the number of Tweets utilizing environmental justice relevant terms and the presence of ecosystem services as captured by an NDMI, suggesting a broad awareness of injustice and a relationship between remote sensing and social media. However, there is simultaneously a negative relationship between socially vulnerable populations and Tweets with environmental justice words. This suggests that generally, there is discussion on Twitter about injustice when resources are not present, but the voices of vulnerable populations are often less visible, either as a result of urban bias or a lack of concern for injustices due to habitual ignorance. Our study demonstrates the potential for integrating remote sensing imagery and social sensing data to play a substantial role in detecting injustices and corroborating data collected through community science initiatives.

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