Sunday, September 16, 2007
I noticed that many of these organizations were located in either on the East coast (mainy New York city) or the West cost. It is interesting to think about what influences people in different locations who face the same worldwide environmental crisis react differently. I would assume that organizations formed in NYC or California were formed out of disparate need for their services. States in the Midwest are so sprawling that people who live there do not face the same realities of overcrowding, pollution and climate change in the same ways as city-dwellers. In the same vein, the Greening the City chapter highlights organizations and practices for city dwellers to become more sustainable. Coincidence? Sadly, we as a society seem only to find environmentally nurturing alternatives to our daily practices only when put in disparate situations and atrocious conditions. The critique for both the Greening the City chapter and chapter 4 would be that the issues raised and practices prescribed seem too practical to spend time reading. People are driven by challenge, and once they fulfill their task, they will generally lose interest. Planting prairie wildflowers in your yard, or simply allowing primary succession to occur, is too easy and simplistic for people to accept. We all want to figure something important out, or buy that new technology--but all we really have to do is get a sense of what the ecosystem we inhabit is like and conform to it.
The connect between low income and poor living conditions is no surprise. Those who have less money often also have less rights, time, or money to put into fixing the problems of their community .Therefore it is much easier for outside people to take advantage of the poor neighborhoods by doing things such as dumping in the community. Although there is a definite connection in the problem, the issue (which was the same one I had last week and still feel is relevant) is how are the solutions connected? Agyeman suggests that environmental organizations reshaping their focus on justice will work, but if the issues are coming largely from outside the community some of the proposed solutions may be being focused in the wrong place. On the other hand comparing hte two different articles sustainable communities brings up many solutions to creating healtyer environments that do help the poor (bridging the gap between environmentalism and equity) such as creating gardens which help by providing cheaper food. The other idea that sustainable communities brings up is the idea of environmental incentives. Both on the large scale of the government making laws which promote different forms of green building, and that on the smaller personal level of decreasing cost is a much more effective way of creating change than trying to change for moral reasons.
Although both articles bring up very valid points both have issues. Agyeman discusses the connection between equity and sustainability but many of his points actually show the opposite. His examples are mostly problems and not solutions, although he claims connection between both. Greening the city skims over some arguments, like in the case of where it states the benefits outdo the costs but doesn't really give data to back this up. Also with some of the methods there is dispute on the effectiveness (such as in the case of the green roof where the actual amount that it creates insulation is debated). Despite these facts both authors give a good showing of the connections between poor environmental conditions and the poor, and also show the amount this is forced onto them.
Being entirely frustrated with the EJPs and the NEPs I decided to read a section of the book that does not focus on these annoying abbreviations that I cannot process well while reading. This was Chapter 6- final thoughts. What particularly caught my interest was a section called Just Sustainability: Reality or Rhetoric? It initially discussed Warner’s research on
For this reason Agyeman discusses why he likes doing case studies on smaller local projects. This was interesting as if you look at the case studies discussed in chapter 4 you can see they aren’t large scale projects. The ones that may be of larger scope are not discussed as much in detail.
This discussion however was entirely different from the National vs Local one had previously in the chapter. This focused on 3 steps:
- Discovering the support of an issue
- Coming together to discuss the issue
- Seeing if people were still supportive after the issue became a political issue
With these three steps all Agyeman was able to do was see that Environmental Sustainable Justice cannot be all things to all people. On the national and local levels, it has entirely different meanings. It is all contingent on the factors of the particular movement.
Application wise, this perspective is really valuable that things can be better deciphered on the local perspective. Further dissemination is possible by beginning on this level as well. I am curious as to how it is possible to begin spreading out after beginning small without having tremendous boundaries to overcome. If there are huge boundaries how do you go about achieving your goals? One of the most difficult things in any project is expanding- what is the best technique when it involves something as sensitive as the topic of sustainable justice? These are all just some questions I had while reading this concluding chapter. I usually have a different perspective than other people so it’d be interesting to hear what you think. Chapter 6 was a good one also because there were summarizations of everything. This really keeps your mind on track.
Having read Chapter 2: The Sustainability Discourse & Sustainable Communities last week, I really wanted to delve deeper into some of Agyeman’s recommended practices for building just sustainability. I was pleased to find that Chapter 4 was chock full of existing programs from around the United States that the author found to be promoting sustainable justice. Not only were there three examples of actual beneficial programs in each of the categories of solid waste, land-use planning, toxic chemicals use, transportation and residential energy use, but Agyeman also went so far as to rate some of the leading US sustainability initiatives to determine which were most just.
For the category of land-use planning, Agyeman is critical of traditional zoning regulations and cites New Urbanism and Smart Growth movements as more favorable to just sustainability because they support collaboration and a variety of uses and income levels. Urban Ecology in Oakland, California was commended for its focus on helping low-income communities to restructure themselves using to Smart Growth theories. Bethel New Life in Chicago, Illinois hires minority contractors to help build sustainable centers and programs. The Bronx Center Project in New York City encourages residents of one of the most troubled areas of the city to restore usable spaces and to create new places for community education and health.
In addressing solid waste management, recognized programs helped their communities to move beyond “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” to environmental, economic and legal empowerment. The author was particularly approving of Minneapolis’ The Green Institute because it combines neighborhood economic development with environmentally sustainable ventures. The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance helps communities to reduce their solid waste and to fight back against waste transfer-station infractions. ReDo of Baltimore, Maryland organizes donations of unwanted materials and teaches people how to reuse old items.
I could go on listing all the organizations that were recognized by Agyeman as visionaries in the just sustainability movement, but for the sake of brevity, I will mention just a few more that stood out as leaders in this area. The Toxic Use Reduction Institute of Lowell, Massachusetts “helped industry to reduce toxic chemicals used in manufacturing by 41 percent over the past decade, while improving the competitiveness of Massachusetts companies.”(p.123) Communities for a Better Environment in Oakland, California raises awareness on local energy and pollution issues and helps to guide the community to make informed decisions on future power plants. In the name of transit equity, the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union actually succeeded in getting the MTA to stop unjust fare hikes, promote student travel and overhaul the aging bus fleet.
I was very interested in the way that Agyeman had used the Just Sustainability Index to rank sustainable organizations throughout the U.S., Of course, I immediately wondered if the sustainability project that I was working on would be listed in the Index, but I think the fact that the Downsview Park project exists outside U.S. borders kept it off the list. The more I read on, I was forced to think about how Downsview would stack up according to the author’s JSI categories -and I was also a little worried that it would be lacking. In order to know more, I went onto the Downsview Park website (www.pdp.ca) to see if some of Agyeman’s just sustainability search terms were there. I was pleased to find phrases such as “social equity” and “social diversity” built into the corporate mandate. Although the words “just” or “justice” were not explicitly mentioned in Downsview Park’s website, it seems like social equity is being very seriously addressed in the park planning process.
When I critically examined the list of park programs and events, I was also pleased to note that there is a wide mix of free events for children (Family Day, Eco-School programming, sports), adults (Movies Under the Stars, Driftmania), retirees (Wings & Wheels, Doors Open Toronto), and even a nice mix of celebrations honoring the cultures of East Asia, Latin America, Portugal, as well as Jewish and Christian events. From my background with the park, I also know that it supports various cultural groups, community organizations and sustainable businesses by offering partnership opportunities, and rental space. Based on my brief examination of Downsview Park according to Agyeman’s JSI, the park would obtain a 3, which is the highest score. Downsview Park is a sustainable development project that is in the very early stages of development, but it appears they are making good progress in the effort to incorporate social justice into this huge project.
Once I had read the chapter and used it to examine the sustainability project that I am involved in, I used the hand-out on Justice & Sustainability Resources to look more deeply at some of projects mentioned in the chapter. I visited the website for Urban Habitat in California. I was struck by the website’s boisterous spirit of civil disobedience. It positions itself as an organization ready to take on some serious issues with some serious action. It looked downright rowdy and definitely confrontational. I then realized that I was in the wrong website: I was actually trying to find the website for Urban Ecology, which was mentioned in Chapter 4 as a beacon of hope for land-use planning and just sustainability. This website, was much more calm, and more what I had expected from a group of community planners. In fact, it reminded me of the Downsview Park website, which, being run by the Canadian government, also tries to infuse an aura of calm, peaceful determination into their project. Graphic design in a website sure can make a difference in how a project is perceived!
The author points out that the newer sustainability movements include economic vitality, civic democracy, ecological integrity, and social well-being, all of which contribute to a high quality of life for all, essentially, to just sustainability.
Agyeman criticizes the Bush administration’s policies and points out that the US has the potential to be a world leader in sustainable development, especially in terms of funding; however, the US supports sustainable development in other countries, yet lacks implementation domestically, and the “US lifestyle of limitless consumption” continues.
Agyeman goes on to discuss policy tools (sustainability indicators, the concepts of environmental space and ecological footprint), economic indicators (“natural capital” theory, GNP vs GDP, Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare), and sustainability policies (eco taxes, elimination of agricultural and energy subsidies, local exchange trading schemes, affordable housing, recycling & renewable energy, efficient transportation, community supported agriculture). Eco taxes seem to be an idea that would be highly effective if implemented; local exchange trading schemes (such as Ithaca Hours) seem to have a limited range of usefulness, and remind me of the US prior to a universal currency…. The author’s other policies, aside from the subsidy issue which I lack enough knowledge about, seem to be fairly obvious in their benefits.
Agyeman asks a poignant question: Can we achieve sustainable development and sustainable communities by tweaking existing policies, which we are doing at present, or do we need a rethink, a paradigm shift?
The author describes the characteristics of a sustainable community (outlined on p. 63, Table 2.1), “continually adjusting to meet the social and economic needs of its residents while preserving the environment’s ability to support it.” (Roseland) One criticism I have of the author’s discussion of equality and social justice is his tendency to focus solely on the African American population in his discussions. Why the exclusivity? Do environmental and social justice issues not affect Hispanics, Asians, and other minority groups? He outlines representativeness (sic) as an important aspect of participation of the JSP, which he seems to firmly support, yet he lacks representativeness in his discussions.
Agyeman compares narrow-focus and broad-focus civic environmentalism (Table 2.3, p 71). The narrow-focus concept seems more environment focused (Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration), while the broad-focus concept seems more civic focused (Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, resident-driven urban community revitalization). Much of the discussion in “Greening the City” seems to me to be along the lines of narrow-focus environmentalism, aside from the Urban Agriculture section. Broad-focus environmentalism speaks much more to the Just Sustainability Paradigm, with a vision of political transformation and a paradigm shift toward a more holistic, citizen-empowered way of thinking.
Agyeman asks how to translate the various approaches of civic environmentalism into durable programs that actually protect ecosystems. It seems to me that a broad-focus approach may be the most effective, or at least the most lasting, in creating programs or policies for just sustainability. It provides for a more interconnected, participatory process (JSP/EJP) than narrow-focus civic environmentalism (NEP).
Agyeman goes on to discuss whether or not the focus on racism is helpful. Some argue that such a strong focus combined with the significant focus on environmentalism takes away from other anti-racism movements.
The author describes in detail the institutional history of the Environmental Justice movement, which really began to take shape in October 1991 when an environmental summit authored the Principles of Environmental Justice, a list of the seventeen pillars of the EJ movement. Another conference is held to ratify the principle in 2002.
He also details some of the laws that have been established at the federal level. Despite the fact that the movement has had significant policy implications, its true strength lies in the fact that it remains a broad-based grass-roots citizens movement. At the local and activist level it is "political opportunity, mobilization, and action" while it is also a "policy principle." (19)
Agyeman outlines some of the policy tools, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Good Neighbor Agreement, and The Precautionary Principle.
Another interesting discussion is about risk-assessment. Who can best determine what the environmental risk is of (whatever)? Is is the people, who either do or will have direct experience of the risky activity, is it the corporation or whoever who is instigating the activity, or is it the policy makers who can best say what the risk is? It seems to make sense that the people would best be able to determine how it affects them, and then policy makers should listen to them.
For Agyeman there are five important aspects of the way he defines the Environmental Justice movement for this book. These are: "procedural, substantive, distributive, reactive and proactive." (26)
At this point the author goes in-depth about the situation in Massachusetts, but I won't go into that here, especially since I read the chapter that goes into detail on the fifteen different organizations.
This chapter gave me a better understanding about where the movements roots are. I think this really complimented both my own reading of Chapter 4, the "practical" chapter, and Ken Reardon's talk last Tuesday. All together, it's really quite inspiring to read and hear all of this, and it informs a lot of my own initiatives, including the project I'm involved in for this class.
One thing I find especially intriguing and important is how helpful it is to know the history of the movement- to know that it has roots in the Civil Rights Movement, and that throughout the past few decades, there have been not a few ground-breaking achievements. Hearing about these, and especially about East St. Louis (even though I've heard it at least 6 times now) is really inspiring.
Despite all of this grand inspiration though, there is still so much disagreement and it seems that he spends half of the rest of the book outlining (why?) all of the nit-picky issues. While it's important to understand that there are hardships and important distinctions that can and should be made, is it really that valuable? I mean, surely it's OK to have different people working in different ways to achieve environmental sustainability for everyone. No?
Anyway, I guess my critique is just that: that is seems Agyeman dug himself a nice hole of a book to write, that on the one hand is informative and at some points inspiring, but it was difficult to understand what he is really trying to convey. Maybe that is due to my reading less than the whole thing. At any rate, I would wish for less details on the disagreements, and more details on what actions are working and why and how, and which haven't, and why and how-- asking too much? Should I read a different book? What book is that?
1) ACE is more proactive than reactive.
2) ACE uses very deliberative tools and techniques.
3) ACE focuses on a greater region (Boston) instead of a local community (Roxbury).
4) ACE builds coalitions with other groups in order to optimize its impact on the community.
Personally, I am most interested in the story that Agyeman tells about a group of young students who organized themselves around the asthma epidemic that plagued their neighborhood (Roxbury). After discovering that many Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) buses would remain idle in the streets of Roxbury for hours at a time, the students organized an Anti-Idling March and ultimately demanded that the MBTA pay for its reckless behavior (a sum of $1.3 million).
This case study demonstrates several important themes that we can apply to our work as socially and environmentally conscious members of society. First, we must understand that in order to initiate positive change within an area that we must humbly work alongside the members of the community in an accessible and genuine manner. Second, we must find an affective way to organize ourselves and then mobilize the community. For example, each key leader of ACE spearheads his/her own campaign and then relies on the support of local volunteers and community memhers to achieve goals. This model delegates authority and responsibilty so that ACE can adopt more issues and work with more people. Lastly, we must educate and empower residents in order to build a network of concerned people within the community. If we do not gain support from community members, then our plans will certainly fail.
In the end, I think that successful community planning truly depends upon active community involvement and that active community involvement depends upon the commitment level of the people spearheading a movement. We do not necessarily have a specific model of success to follow, but we do know that successful plans are usually carried out by people who are truly invested in their work—invested in the idea of social and environmental equity. In my mind, ACE experiences a great amount of success because the leaders of the organization are passionate about what they do and because they know how to transmit their excitement to the world around them.
Some of my favorite case studies included those reharding land-use planning. I really enjoyed those stories where socio-economic barriers were broken and the community worked as one force to succeed. For inctance, the urban-ecology in Oakland, CA where its community design program provides planning and design services to low-income urban neighborhoods to assist them with community development. The Urban Ecology's Sustainable Cities Program approaches municipal governments and works with community groups to promote more sustainable development patterns. There are many other fantastic and innovative case studies throughout this chapter, others dealing with such issues as solid waste management, toxic chemical use, residential energy use, and transprotation planning.
Once again the only critique one can make regarding the material in this chapter is that there is not enough examples of such sustainable actions, it would be amaxing if there were examples of all communities in all states that show sustainable practices. Although we know that the ideas of community sustainability are difficult for many to accept and implement. The best way to adapt sustainable practices is by seeeing companies who are actually taking the actions and succeeding. This success can help to motivate others to become sustainable as well, in a progressive and positive manner.
saveourenvironment.org (from Agyeman)
fingerlakesbuygreen.org (from the Trumansburg State Fair)
Summary of Agyeman:
In this chapter Agyeman uses a methodological approach he calls the Just Sustainability Index to measure organization's commitment to justice. Agyeman then looks at Land Use Planning, Solid Waste Management, Toxic Chemical Use, Residential Energy Use, and Transportation Planning and identifies organizations throughout the US that have a high rating on the JSI that are addressing these urban hazards. For example, Residential Energy Use is "often seen as incompatible with affordable." (p. 124). What can organizations do to help low-income residents of cities improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The National Center for Appropriate Technology In Butte, MO, The Massachusetts Energy Consumer's Alliance in Boston, MA, and Communities for a Better Environment in Oakland, CA all run programs, work to institute policy, and create funding for efficient residential energy use for all.
To build on the example I have just offered of residential energy use... as a preservationist our field is criticized for lauding a building stock that no longer allows for ease of heating and cooling and other environmental factors. Efficient residential energy use is "often seen as incompatible with affordable" and I would say affordable is often seen as incompatible with preservation. While the reality is more complex, I was particularly interested in this example because we should be able to give people efficient, low-cost housing, and I believe that using our existing building stock can help us achieve this goal. Agyeman points out, correctly, that a "filtering principle" often gets applied to the generation of affordable housing stock in cities. This filtering principle is that older, less-efficient homes become occupied by lower income residents. As preservationists, proponents of green architecture and sustainability it is imperative we keep this at the forefront as we move forward.
Websites and other Resources:
Elan's list of resources includes links to all of the organizations evaluated in Agyeman's Chapter 4. I took a look at some of these during my reading. When looking into further resources included in the handout I concentrated on those that provided tools and data for policy implementation. I found policylink.org to contain information, and toolkits which could be used in a myriad of ways as advocacy tools. I encourage everyone to visit.
As Agyeman explains in chapter one, environmental justice as a movement has several foundations including the civil rights movement, the antitoxics movement, Native Americans struggles, the labor movement, and the traditional environmental movement. The modern day environmental movement, based upon several other social movements, began as the result of grassroots community organizing that was then supported by these established movements. “Grassroots environmentalism” was communities of colors’ way of expressing their demands for equality and justice in environmental issues facing their communities. More specifically, these communities expressed the need for municipal governments and environmental organizations to help alleviate the unjust and unequal burden of environmental problems imposed upon communities of color. Agyeman outlined the national political efforts to address environmental injustice and how the environmental justice movement has used these policy initiatives to further their missions and goals. As Agyeman explains Clinton’s Executive Order 12898, for example, forced federal agencies to adopt policies that address and reduce environmental injustice and inequity, which elevated the movement from grassroots organizations to national commissions. Beyond Clinton’s Executive Order, environmental justice advocates have a number of policy tools which allow them to implement change in communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental problems. These policies include but are not limited to the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. In this chapter, Agyeman also addressed the importance of involving community members in the process of analyzing environmental risk and setting research agendas. By engaging communities in a community-based participatory research initiative scientists and environmental experts can further equalize the process of addressing environmental issues. Finally, Agyeman attempted to define Environmental Justice Policy, which he admitted was a rather difficult thing to do. Using the definition of Environmental Justice, he explains the growth of the Environmental Justice Movement. He argues that the growth of the movement is directly linked to the way that environmental justice ideas have been framed, because groups have been mobilized around this framing. More specifically, Agyeman defines Environmental Justice Policy as policy that incorporates procedural justices (involving all people affected), substantive justice (giving people the opportunity to enjoy a clean and healthful environment, and distributive justice (distributing environmental benefits equally to all people). By framing Environmental Justice in a way that seeks to determine the causes and remedies of injustice in a way that resonates with the identity of the people affected, the leaders of the Environmental Justice movement have fostered the immense growth of the Environmental Justice movement.
The most useful part of this chapter was Agyeman’s critique of the environmental justice efforts in the metro Boston area. The low income communities in the Mystic River Watershed only have access to polluted air and water due to the industries that poison their communities. The state government has implemented Environmental Justice Policy on both the law and policy levels. Though these efforts are progressive, Agyeman argues that have fallen short by failing to integrate policy and actually improve conditions rather than just sustaining them. Agyeman’s final point is extremely applicable to our studies. It seems that Agyeman in this chapter is suggesting that Environmental Justice has deep historical roots and it is growing movement that has potential to implement positive change. His critiques of Boston’s efforts help me as a student recognize the shortcomings of this type of work. As a planner one should be seeking to improve rather than simply maintain. Furthermore, the discussion about community-based participatory research, though slightly glazed over, was very applicable. As a student, I have always been interested in processes that engage and involve community members in community work. Environmental Justice is certainly no exception. By addressing the environmental issues that residents feel are the most pressing, researchers and scientists can do their part in creating environmental justice.
“Sustainability is at least as much about politics, injustice and inequity as it is about science or the environment.” This quote explains that sustainability encompasses way more than just the environmental factors.
The US policy on SD has changed direction during the Bush Administration. The Clinton approach focused primarily on a domestic quest for SD while the current SD policy has placed an emphasis on international changes through US aid. The new approach has left out the US domestic commitment and responsibility to SD. The new approach states that “countries that live by these broad standards, ruling justly, investing in their people, and encouraging economic freedom, will receive more aid from America” Instead of the US taking the lead to enact more sustainable practices domestically and becoming the example for other countries we have a “we have done enough” mentality and allowing us to continue our “limitless consumption” while directing our checkbooks towards changing other counties.
Policy Tools. By using policy tools like sustainability indicators, sustainability inventory, and environmental space we can set goals, create action steps and measure progress. Sustainability Indicators gauge the communities current conditions, target concerns, and measure progress. The indicators reflect the entire community’s sustainability concerns, both social and environmental factors. Sustainability Inventories give the community a holistic system approach. The inventories serve as a platform that requires collaboration from many local government sectors to set goals and develop action plans.
New Economics. The economic tool for measuring a nation’s wealth is GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which measures all goods and services produced within the countries borders. This indicator only measures the wealth of a country through paid activities or standards of life and not the quality of life. The GDP doesn’t account for wealth distribution, unpaid activities, or environmental factors such as pollution, decreasing natural resources, or loss of diverse ecosystems. The US may have the highest GDP but because it doesn’t adjust for environmental factors and quality of life GDP isn’t a good indicator of sustainability.
Chapter 4 “Greening the City” by Mark Roseland
For this section of my blog, I am going to refer to something from the Roseland Ch. 4 (optional) reading. Roseland explains that the “enlightenment” to “go green” for many developers and landscape architects came out of a recognition of a growing market in environmental responsibility. I have been both excited and frustrated in the past couple of years with this movement. It is exciting in that it is initiating positive environmental change, however; it seems that if the main inspiration for “going green” is profit, then calling it environmental responsibility is a paradox. Developers who have chosen to follow this trend are not taking the responsibility to do so, but taking advantage of a lucrative opportunity.
At an architecture firm that I worked at, about 6 years ago, I remember talking to a fellow project-manager about some design ideas she had for a client who had said they were open to using to hay-bale construction in their home. This was a high-end residential architecture firm, and this sort of idea was highly unconventional, however; she thought since the client seemed interested, that the architect at our firm might be willing to look into it. My coworker brought the idea up at a staff meeting, and everyone else at the firm laughed (literally) at her suggestion. She realized that they thought she must be joking, and so she reverted back to convention. I would love to see how this scenario would play out today, given the prospect to do something “cutting edge” in high end design, promising of exposure to potential clients looking for this type of “environmentally-responsible” firm.
Agyeman mentions “the short term marriage of convenience” between groups with different agendas coming together when an issue becomes painful enough for both of them. I was left wondering if Agyeman believes that the scenario of equally-sensed urgency from opposing groups is the only time they would be willing to put down their differences to work together? Unfortunately, I think it is. And this could be extremely disastrous, because it seems that there is an urgency that is somehow lurking under the radar of extreme urgency, and we need the collaboration to start now. So my question becomes, what would inspire collaboration between the various types of groups, before it gets to the point where it is a forced partnership, or more importantly, before it is too late? I think Agyeman makes several great arguments in the two chapters I’ve read (3 & 6) for why the JSP is a good solution for both the NEP and the EJP reaching their goals, but I didn’t see him talking anywhere about the nuts and bolts of what leads them to finally making that JSP commitment.
In the final chapter of Agyeman presents ideas that he hopes will lead to implementation of sustainability practices through synergistic efforts from the EJP and the NEP movements.
First he discusses the debate about sustainable efforts from organizations with different ideological differences being more likely to mesh at a local or national level. He shows that when an issue creates a sense of urgency for both types of groups, that it has an overriding effect on any differences within the coalition.
Second he argues that ironically, the bridge between the EJP and NEP will not come from a collaboration between the two, but from EJ groups working with JS groups. He brings up an interesting point; that the JSP group “may not have experienced injustice in the personal and visceral way that many neighborhood-based EJ groups have” (179).
Third he examines the problem of unfulfilled policy rhetoric. He confirms that there is more action, implementation, and general follow through at the local level. He also alludes to the tendency of the NEP’s policies to be far less explicit and quantifiable than those of the JSP and the EJP policy promises. He calls for a general need, on local, national, and international levels, to have wider policy discussions on clarifying how progress, success, need, sufficiency, and efficiency are measured.
Fourth he shows the promise of utilization of tools such as environmental space. However; he mentions the point of view that given the current U.S. political climate, it may be too late to institutionalize environmental space. He brings up a hopeful point to counter though, that no other country in the world has such an advanced EJ infrastructure to base this environmental space implementation on.
And lastly, he looks at his definition of the JSP vs. the EJP and examines where certain groups fit in. He makes sure to clarify that the “JSP is not rigid, single, and universal…. It is flexible and contingent, with overlapping discourses that come from recognition of the validity of a variety of issues…”
In this chapter Agyeman presents instances of international, national, and local coalitions between JSP, EJP, and NEP organizations that have had varied levels of success. Agyeman hypothesizes that the most successful coalitions, the ones which achieve “movement fusion” are between just sustainability and environmental justice groups (178). He concludes the chapter with thoughts on emerging organizations and other frameworks that have the potential to advance the just sustainability paradigm.
At the beginning of this chapter, Agyeman sets a lofty agenda for himself, but is unable to succeed in moving through the discourse. Agyeman begins by presenting examples of local and national coalitions between organizations with varying degrees of just sustainability focus, but is limited in his analysis. He seems to struggle with the need to have environmental justice and sustainability completely accounted for by a single organization. The notion that organizations with divergent, but in some ways complementary, goals could successfully work together seems unattainable. While it may be true that having an aligned agenda creates an easier marriage of organizations, ignoring those with different views of the world may not be the best way to encourage any kind of justice, let alone environmental justice.
Agyeman then describes the new tool of environmental space, which “quantifies and helps operationalize sustainability while simultaneously highlighting the role of equity and justice” (181). Environmental space is at first positioned to be the juncture between EJP and NEP organizations, but Agyeman then dissects its agenda, and writes that it focuses a little too heavily on the environmental aspects of sustainability and too lightly on issues beyond “green.” While this may be true, that does not meet the movement can’t be an ally to just sustainability or that environmental space falls short of any benchmark other than the one created by Agyeman himself.
Through Agyeman’s dissection of goals and roles and interconnections between organizations, it seems he may be missing an important factor, the key focus of a social or environmental movement: change. Instead of breaking down other movements and highlighting how they are dissimilar, bridging the known chasms through respect and understanding may provide a more solidified front to move multiple agendas forward simultaneously. Agyeman seems more focused on why EJPs or NEPs are doing what they are doing – the values behind the actions – than on how outcomes can intersect to create synergies that go beyond what each organization could do by itself.
In this chapter, Agyeman employs a case-study approach of an organization to determine whether it is aligned primarily with EJP or JSP, how the two paradigms overlap in actual practice, and why an organization may evolve over time to become more oriented towards JS. The subject is ACE, a non-profit founded in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood in 1993 with a mission of mobilizing the community (and identified Environmental Justice Population) to take charge of their own urban environment. ACE received a rating of 3 on Agyeman’s Just Sustainability Index.
Agyeman argues that in the 10 years between ACE’s founding and the time of the case study, ACE evolved from an EJP-identified organization to a JSP-identified one. The four criteria that signaled the shift are:
1) Widening the geographic area of focus from a local habitat (Roxbury) to a regional one (New England). ACE was originally formed to respond to issues affecting the residents of Roxbury, such as air-quality and bus-fare increases, but has expanded its scope and plans to become even more involved in regional action.
2) Growing from a reactive, “one crisis at a time” organization to a proactive, community-visioning and empowerment support system that uses participatory processes to identify problems that the community currently faces or is likely to face in the future.
3) Building coalitions that persist across unique campaigns and that create greater capacity in the entire system. ACE’s institutional and informal partnerships aren’t dissolved as issues are put to rest; instead, they nurture long-term relationships that are grounded in a sense of common purpose.
4) Employing increasingly sophisticated operational tactics (lobbying, legal, etc.) that help to distinguish ACE from more parochial organizations by emphasizing its ability to marshal resources and ensure its longevity.
ACE’s modus operandi is rooted in a platform of popular education and empowerment-practice. Popular education seeks to increase a community’s capacity for self-determination through education and outreach; empowerment-practice attempts to harness individuals’ competencies and skills to envision and implement a stronger community.
Without going into a full recap ACE’s history and campaigns, I will say that I was duly impressed by ACE’s ability to grow and stay true to its mission, as well as the clearly deliberate ways they have chosen to express their mission in everything that they do, from staff hiring to program selection. I was also interested in ACE’s timeline, which charted its “critical moments” since its inception and did a nice job of really showing how such an organization gains strength and momentum over time. Much like Ken Reardon’s explanation of the East St. Louis project, ACE’s timeline illustrates that even the most complex, best-organized grassroots movements are really a series of smaller moves that build-up and help to define and grow the organization.
Agyeman concludes that ACE began as an EJ organization and has since become a JS organization. I agree, and I agree with his reasons for making that assessment; I just kind of feel like, “so what?” I mean, ACE is what it is, and I don’t know how much value is added by definitively stating that it’s part of one paradigm or another: Whether it is identified with EJP or JSP doesn’t change its mission. I suppose it’s useful to make the distinction for outsiders who want to be able to point to a JS organization because they’re learning about JS (like we are), or to create a rubric for determining whether other orgs are JS, et cetera, but overall I feel like it’s a lot mental acrobatics, splitting of hairs, labored articulation—call it what you will—to arrive at the foregone conclusion that they are a great organization doing important work. Like so much of what we have read about thus far, I don’t question that the intentions are good or that the logic behind it isn’t solid, but I do feel that there is an incredibly prolific body of work out there that merely seeks to define, to categorize, and to theorize, without much overture toward real action. Does anybody else feel this way, as well? I’m actually quite torn about it, like maybe I’m only seeing half of the picture, and if I could see the other half then I would somehow feel more satisfied, or be able to at least connect the inputs with some outputs.
I really enjoyed reading this chapter, because it reminded me that the theories about which we are learning really do have practical and successful applications. I especially appreciated the mention of groups that were able to organize to prevent municipalities from constructing detrimental structures in already disadvantaged communities (examples being the transit village in Oakland, California and the Green Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota). This is similar to what Professor Reardon discussed in class, however, the community group in East St. Louis was able to alter city plans so that a transportation center would be running through the neighborhood. They were able to spot an opportunity (increased transportation to higher paying jobs) and press the city to change their original plans so that their community would not be left behind.
What I really like about Chapter 4 is that throughout the section there were several mentions of the education processes that go into creating more just sustainable practices. There really is a lot of government and non-profit programs that help citizens live more environmentally conscious, but not enough people are aware of them. For instance, the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union has “begun a Student Pass campaign to simplify the process for students applying for student transit passes and to lower their costs.” Another example is Communities for a Better Environment in Oakland, which helps Californians to become more informed abut energy issues and potential threats to the community. Not only does education help people to become more aware of their environment, but it also provides an opportunity for people to bridge gaps and communicate with each other in socially healthy ways.
Agyeman explains how weak the United States has been, in terms of policy and understanding, in doing sustainable development. While the Clinton Administration had a desire to pursue it somewhat aggressively, it has strong political and social barriers. The current administration, on the other hand, has assumed that sustainable development is not a U.S. issue but one for other countries, and so has decided to fund developing nations to claim its promotion of sustainable development. Meanwhile, the United States continues to be responsible for the consumption of 25% of society’s resources and roughly 25% of the world’s impact on the environment, though it has less than 5% of the world’s population. Clearly, sustainable development in this case must heavily involve politics if it is going to be done.
Despite this large political barrier, many cities in the United States have taken sustainable development seriously. San Francisco, among the best examples of just sustainability, has focused its efforts on equity, equitable pollution distribution, community participation, and resource use and waste reduction. Many cities are seeing the tremendous benefit of smart growth and community equity and vibrancy. Where sustainable development has at least been approached, there are more involved citizens, a less politically apathetic government, and a move towards environmental impact reduction. While there are is still a long way to go, these cities are setting the examples of what has to be done socially and politically in order to achieve just sustainability.
On a different note, Greening of the City showed the importance of making the city green to achieve sustainability. It makes clear that green itself can be unsustainable if the design is done incorrectly. Rather, greening of the city is an essential component for social improvement, economic savings, and natural connections between humans and other forms of life. Greening of the city aims to improve aesthetics, create social opportunities for community engagement, reduce pollution and enhance the city climate, and reduce energy costs.