A conversation with William Shutkin, editor of the new Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice

Shutkin—editor of MIT Press’s latest journal, Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice—discusses the inspiration behind the new publication and what readers can expect from the first issue

The cover for the Journal of Climate Resilience and Climate Justice, depicting a blue infinity logo at the bottom of the image, with CRCJ written in white font over a bright green background

This week marks the start of Open Access Week—the theme of which for 2022 is “Open for Climate Justice.” The timing of this celebration feels somewhat like fate as we prepare to launch the brand-new Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice, an online, open access publication providing research reports, case studies, essays, and opinions from the working edge of the climate resilience and climate justice fields.

Launching with an inaugural issue in spring 2023, the journal will feature scholarship written in a non-technical, digestible, and educational style for a broad audience. This is an open access journal with no author publishing fees edited by William Shutkin, a social entrepreneur, attorney and educator, and an expert in the sustainability and climate space.

We spoke with Shutkin to learn more about the inspiration behind and plans for the journal. Read our conversation with Shutkin below, and learn more about the Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice.

The MIT Press: What prompted you to start the Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice

William Shutkin: MIT Press director Amy Brand and I had been talking about starting a climate resilience and sustainability journal for several years, but the catalyst was the summer of 2021. This is when, for the first time, both major US political parties formally acknowledged that we are ill-prepared for the worsening impacts of climate change, proposing a bipartisan infrastructure bill, passed a few months later, with unprecedented funding for climate resilience. Flood protection, reducing wildfire risk, drought mitigation, community relocation—these priorities reflect a major shift in how we approach and mitigate climate risks, from responding to disasters after they occur to protecting people, neighborhoods, and facilities before the fact. 

A black-and-white headshot photo of William Shutkin wearing black glasses, a zip-up hooded sweatshirt and a t-shirt, standing in front of a background of pine trees.
William Shutkin, editor of the Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice

Importantly, the bill also addressed climate justice and racial equity, allocating substantial resources to communities of color who, owing to socio-economic and other  factors, are more vulnerable to flooding and other climate risks. 

The 2021 infrastructure bill and, more recently, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which includes additional billions in climate resilience and climate justice funding, are perhaps the most compelling signal to date that the issue of climate resilience and climate justice is finally landing in the hearts and minds of not only the American public but people all over the planet. Climate change as a scientific fact is no longer in debate. The question now is, what are we going to do about it? As Shalini Vajjhala, a former Obama administration official and urban resilience expert, has said, noting that climate threats have become more frequent and widespread, “It’s difficult to oppose solutions to crises that your constituents are suffering through… The constituency for climate resilience is now everybody.” 

The Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice was launched in parallel with these and other policy initiatives, in the US and abroad, to support the evolving field of climate resilience/climate justice, whose stature has risen substantially in recent years. It is intended to be a timely new resource to support the field’s evolution in this critical growth phase while providing a novel educational experience for tomorrow’s climate and sustainability leaders, graduate students who help edit and contribute content to the journal. 

The MIT Press: Did you see a gap in the literature that needed to be filled?

William Shutkin: We did. There are currently over a dozen journals on climate science and policy, several of them online and open access. These include the Journal of Climate, Climate Change and Climate Policy, among several others. All are focused mainly, if not exclusively, on technical, scientific subject matter. They are peer-reviewed by and for experts and often associated with specialized organizations like the American Meteorological Society, for example. 

Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice is a university-based publication (housed at the Masters of the Environment program at CU Boulder) but for a general audience, with an emphasis on resilience and sustainability professionals working on the ground in state and local government and the private sector, in the US and globally. The primacy of systems-thinking, collaboration and peer-learning is the animating idea behind CRCJ, which aims to share best practices and lessons learned in a lean, online, open access format. There are no fees for readers or contributors, no barriers to entry, thanks to financial support from MENV, the Nell Newman Foundation and the Dean Witter Foundation. 

CRCJ also has a novel editorial structure. Using an American law school law review model, we select up to five MENV graduate student editors per academic year, engaging a small group of highly motivated and accomplished students to help solicit, edit and publish journal articles, under the supervision of CRCJ’s managing editor. 

The Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice also has an advisory board comprised of leading practitioners and researchers who help guide editorial direction and content and expand CRCJ’s reach among readers and contributors. Here are our advisors:

  • Ana Baptista, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Associate Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center, Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment, The New School, New York, NY
  • Dana Bourland, Senior Vice President, Environment and Strategic Initiatives, JPB Foundation, New York, NY
  • Anthony Flint, Senior Fellow, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; former Loeb Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
  • Sheila Foster, The Scott K. Ginsburg Professor of Urban Law and Policy; Professor of Public Policy; Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  • Bruce Evan Goldstein, Associate Professor, Program in Environmental Design, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Janelle Knox Hayes, Associate Professor of Economic Geography and Planning; Director, Resilient Communities Lab, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, Cambridge, MA
  • T. Jonathan Lee, Deputy Director of Resilience Services, Climate Resilience Consulting, Chicago, IL
  • Nils Moe, former Executive Director, Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Berkeley, CA
  • Rushad Nanavatty, Managing Director, Urban Transformation Program, Rocky Mountain Institute, Washington, DC 
  • Natalie Ooi, Teaching Associate Professor, Masters of the Environment Program, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Michael Painter, Managing Director, Nia Tero, Seattle, WA
  • Susie Strife, Director of Office of Sustainability, Climate Action and Resilience, Boulder County, CO 
  • Baye Wilson, former Loeb Fellow, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Montclair, NJ

Ultimately, the Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice aims to connect urban resilience and sustainability professionals, graduate students and the general public in a robust online community of practice to accelerate the pace of knowledge exchange at a critical time of growth for the field.  

The MIT Press: What kinds of papers can we expect to see in the first issue? What topics will be covered?

William Shutkin: The Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice’s main contributors are urban resilience and sustainability professionals, along with graduate students, researchers and policymakers. They are tasked with producing digestible, actionable articles (between 3,000-4,500 words) focused on climate resilience and climate justice strategies and solutions, based on actual case studies, whether successes or failures. CRCJ is meant to be a “hands-on” publication to help practitioners and organizations on the front lines expand their capacity for knowledge-sharing and innovation.

Sample articles from the inaugural issue include:

  • Public space and flood infrastructure for hurricane protection
  • Climate change and water security impacts in semi-arid Africa
  • An interview with a leading Congolese artist on colonialism and climate resilience
  • Pandemic response, mutual aid and climate resilience in the Boston area
  • Climate justice and resilience planning in 11 US coastal cities
  • Barriers to equity in US climate justice grant programs 

Learn more about the Journal of Climate Resilience & Climate Justice