Many view urban greening as a universal good, meaning it benefits all urban residents. Why then should we care about equity issues in Green Infrastructure planning?
In the United States, histories and current practices of urban greening intersect with deep-seated social and environmental injustices inseparable from structural inequality and oppression. While overarching, these forces manifest differently in each city we examined.
As our project progressed, long-standing calls for justice around the United States became louder and louder. Intersecting crises of police violence, climate change, and Covid-19 have brought attention to the deep injustices shaping U.S. cities. With this crisis comes the opportunity to advance the social discourse around the relationship between urban greening and long standing injustices, to bolster social movements, and to build new institutions capable of addressing these long standing harms.
This page provides an overview of major forces shaping urban inequality, how they relate to our research process, and select materials and thinkers influential in shaping our project. We hope these prompts and resources invite more critical language and reflection on processes that have led to the current distribution and functions of green space within cities.
Urban greening is always being practiced on Indigenous lands. How have settler logics and practices of nature as a resource to be consumed or disciplined justified the destruction of important ecological resources over time, creating the context for bringing nature back into cities?
US cities are often intensely segregated, at both the neighborhood and metropolitan levels. These patterns have been directly influenced by municipal policies and expenditures on various ‘public goods.’ How have historical and ongoing practices of racist segregation that stratify wealth and property ownership in urban environments created uneven distribution and management of vegetation, air and water quality, microclimate, soils, and the built environment?
Cities have overseen highly unjust and disproportionate impacts of many notable green infrastructure projects that are seen as models. How has urban renewal and other forms of land clearance through eminent domain and uneven housing markets affected urban landscape and produced greenspaces with complicated histories and presents? How have formal programs of nature conservation and ecological restoration dispossessed diverse communities of their means of livelihood and access to customary resources?
The proactive creation of greenways and blueways to mitigate the impacts of hazards and climate change have a complicated history in the United States. How have ongoing land clearance and greenway production programs been critiqued for creating further inequities, even when equity is explicitly stated as a goal? How does the uneven protection of environmental hazards provided by green infrastructure intersect with ongoing inequalities in exposure to toxic chemical hazards in US cities? What strategies exist to address climate and environmental justice simultaneously?
The creation of urban greenways and blueways has produced landscapes of differential access, even when the infrastructure sites are not explicitly segregated. How have planners intervened in green spaces in ways that cause disparate access for people of color, poor people, disabled people, and LGBTQ people? How do power differentials between state agencies, institutions, and ‘common’ people shape urban futures and possibilities?
How have urban green spaces and infrastructures functioned as sites of recreation, resistance, and reclamation for people of color, poor people, women, and LGBTQ people? How have histories of oppression and exclusion contributed to ideas that marginalized groups do not desire these spaces?