Michael Mendez

Project Info

Role Global Environments Summer Academy 2013 participant
Current Location U.S.A.

Project Description

I have over 10 years of legislative and governmental relations experience in the public and private sectors, including working for the California State Legislature as a Senior Consultant to the Assembly Select Committee on Environmental Justice. Most recently, I served as the Legislative Director for the University of California, Office of the President, focusing on environmental policy, academic and biomedical research, clinical health affairs, and university-industry relations. I hold two degrees in environmental planning and community economic development, including a graduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I have served on several local boards and commissions, including as Vice Chair of the Sacramento City Planning Commission and on the board of the LGBT civil rights and political association, Stonewall Sacramento. I am currently a Ford Foundation and UC Chancellor’s Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley in the Department of City and Regional Planning focusing on science and technology studies (STS), environmental policy and community economic development.

I plan to pursue a tenured position in academia, with interest in socio-economic issues impacting marginalized communities, primarily pertaining to inequality, race, poverty, and environmental justice. I hope to become a strong role model for students of color at the university-level and engage actively with environmental justice advocacy groups.

Research Abstract

Scientists, engineers, and city planners hold a special authority on questions of global climate change and environmental health quality. The value of their techno-scientific expertise is increasing as cities and subnational organizations are appropriating leadership roles in climate change action. My research investigates how this authority and scientific expertise is challenged amid the growing engagement of environmental justice (EJ) advocates to produce contextually relevant strategies that integrates climate change interventions with environmental health equity. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography and comparative study in California and translocally, I seek to examine the considerations local governments are giving to the needs of the most socially vulnerable populations, and the influence community-based groups have in ‘localizing’ environmental health equity in climate change decisions and actions. The principal goal of the research is to understand how civil society actors (in particular, communities of color) are influencing the conceptualization of climate change at various scales and geographies and how more scientifically legitimate and socially just decision-making related to climate change is implemented.


In September 2014, Michael was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB). The Board represents the State’s interest in the development, utilization and conservation of mineral resources; reclamation of mined lands; development of geologic and seismic hazard information; and to provide a forum for public redress. On his role as the Environmental Protection / Ecosystems board member, Michael looks forward to serving the public interest in his appointment and working on new and exciting policy issues. California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird administered the Oath of Office to Michael for the State Mining and Geology Board. [Updated October 2014]


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