Urban youth and the environmental commons: rejuvenating civic engagement through civic science


Civic-science integrates science knowledge with civic practice but differs from the citizen-science prototype by reframing science as a public good and citizens as both recipients of and actors in policy. We draw from our studies of a civic-science model in which adolescents (majority African-American) collaborate with teachers and community partners to mitigate an environmental problem in their urban community. Based on students’ reflections on what they learn from these projects we have developed Environmental Commons theory, referring both to the natural resources on which life depends and the public spaces where people negotiate how they will care for those resources and for the communities they inhabit. We contend that, to solve twenty-first century environmental and climate challenges, it is myopic to rely on elite groups of scientific experts and policymakers. Instead, a civic science skill set should be part of the preparation of younger generations to be informed citizens and youth from urban ethnic minority communities should be a high priority. From an eco-justice standpoint, these groups bear a disproportionate share of the burdens of environmental pollution and climate change yet historically have been marginalized by the institution of science and, until recently, relatively neglected by environmental movements.


Author and publisher information is provided below. Note that many publishers charge a fee or membership for full access. Permission/access must be requested through the publisher or author directly.


C. Flanagan
E. Gallay
A. Pykett
Taylor & Francis Online
File Attachment(s)
Publication Year
Computer and informational technology science
Environmental sciences