Spatial Inequalities of Urban Greening: Environmental Injustice in the Seattle Metropolitan Region, 1990 to 2011-15

Authors: Jonah White*, Michigan State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Environment
Keywords: Spatial inequality, Urban sustainability, Environmental justice, Seattle
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Seattle, Washington metropolitan region is widely regarded as a beacon of urban greening efforts and this paper examines the interaction between spatial inequalities in socioecological characteristics and the shifting location of air pollution exposure risk between 1990 and 2011-15. Deindustrialization across the region is punctuated by growth in a high-technology economy with a highly-educated workforce and, in combination with cultural and political progressiveness, the Seattle region is one of the top performing areas in the United States on a number of measures related to urban sustainability. These qualities have established an urban aesthetic that is particularly attractive to creative workers in the new economy of the postindustrial city but questions persist about the equitable distribution of the benefits of urban greening. I illustrate this evolution in two ways: first, I apply principal components analysis (PCA) to secondary census data to reveal unique dimensions of change occurring across the region and use these dimensions to build a composite index that measures the magnitude of inequality; second, I rely on data from the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) that characterizes facility-level air pollution volume and associated risk. My results show that inequalities in socioecological characteristics are increasing across the region and air pollution risk exposure is growing where proportions of service and working class occupations are higher. These findings suggest that the creative class is disproportionately benefiting from urban greening while exposure to air pollution risk is intensifying among marginalized groups.

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