OpenAQ’s Commitment to Environmental Justice

3 min readJul 7, 2020

The recent police killings of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have sparked deep concern for the future of our country. Police brutality and the criminal justice system are symptoms of the larger systemic racial injustice that permeates all facets of our society including air inequality. This has pushed us to take a more critical look and deeply evaluate our own practices as an organization so that we can do our part to fight racial injustice.

OpenAQ believes that race should never be a barrier to breathing clean air.

Air pollution has long disproportionately affected communities of color in the United States and across the globe. With the mission to fight air inequality through open data and community, we feel that OpenAQ has the responsibility to play a more active role in environmental justice to pave the way forward toward a more inclusive, equitable, and just society. As we continue to equip leaders in the sciences, technology, and civil society with air quality data, we see room for improvement in a few areas, both internally as an organization as well as with our community engagement. Our discussions as a team have sparked a commitment to fulfill the following actions (these actions are a starting point with the recognition that our efforts and contributions may evolve as our organization grows):

Action 1: Organize a working group series focused on decolonizing science, including a discussion on the current funding landscape: The goal of this action is to critique the systemic hierarchy and westernization of the scientific field and the funding structures that support it. We hope to ultimately co-create tangible opportunities to shift capital flow in support of a more equitable system.

Action 2: Diversify the OpenAQ organization: We believe that our organizational structure and culture should be reflective of and representative of the communities that we collaborate with across the globe. The organization values diversity — including but not limited to racial and regional diversity, diverse perspectives on air pollution issues, diversity in knowledge and expertise and lived experiences in communities that are highly polluted and/or areas that lack air quality data — as critical to shaping the future direction of the organization in fulfilling its mission. OpenAQ is committed to bringing people with such backgrounds onto the team, advisory board, and governing board.

Action 3: Build upon existing partnerships and proactively seek new partnerships to strengthen data accessibility and galvanize communities of support: This would entail activities like building tools and collaborative workshops to enhance low-cost sensor networks and air pollution studies, including with communities of color in the U.S. We aim to equip environmental justice organizations with the data infrastructure and tools necessary to achieve their goals on the ground.

Action 4: Prioritize filling in data gaps, particularly in communities that lack air quality data across the globe: We recognize the data-sharing infrastructure we provide is a direct reflection of the systemic disparities in investment in environmental data infrastructures between the Global South and North. We also recognize our own biases in prioritizing what data are ingested into the platform. This has shaped our platform to be Euro-centric. We will commit to adding in government air quality sources for areas currently underrepresented on the platform. For areas lacking in government-grade data, we will prioritize collaborating with organizations that have low-cost sensor networks for the low-cost sensor pilot and directly engaging with government agencies.

Action 5: Recognize and honor Juneteenth as a company-wide holiday.




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