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On Community Science

Tomorrow Foundation for a Sustainable Future will substitute the term “citizen science” with “community science” in future messaging about the Queen Alexandra Community Air Quality/Traffic Monitoring Pilot and any subsequent community science programs. There are a few reasons for the change, all having to do with maintaining equity and inclusivity in Tomorrow Foundation’s environmentalism work.

Why community science? “Citizen” as a legal term refers to a person who is recognized by law as a subject of a state. In the context of the Queen Alexandra project, it is constraining. Because an Edmontonian is not necessarily a citizen of Canada, citizenship is irrelevant to the project’s aims. Any interested community member is invited to become a participant.

Further, this decision is made with awareness of the history of Canadian citizenship, and with respect to those who may resist being defined as subjects of modern federal Canada (formerly the Dominion of Canada) or of the Commonwealth. The Tomorrow Foundation is based in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory, and we are cognizant of the complicated relationship between Indigenous people and the federal state and Crown.

Environmentalism goes beyond political and cultural bounds. Promoting inclusion in environmental sustainability requires us to think critically about who informs our understanding of environmentalism and who can access that information. To that end, environmentalists should open the space to people with diverse backgrounds in sustainability and embrace knowledge about sustainable practices originating from other locales or cultures.

Considering the Tomorrow Foundation’s past history as a local information hub with far-reaching community connections, it is in our best interests to make environmentalism in Edmonton welcoming to a wide variety of contributors. We are following the lead of other organizations like the Audubon Society in announcing this change in terminology. While the term “citizen science” was originally chosen to empower amateur researchers in their roles, we are confident that “community science” is a more accurate descriptor for this project moving forward.