Across the Street: An Institutional Analysis of Environmental Racism

Authors: Gabriella Velasco*,
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Cultural and Political Ecology, Human Rights
Keywords: environmental racism, urbanism, environmental health, environmental justice, political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Johnson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


At the intersection of 4th and Robert Martinez Jr. Street on the east side of Austin, TX, there stands two brick structures. The northernmost, a ferrous production facility named Pure Castings Co., plumes of chromium-ridden smoke filtering out of stacks. A few paces south, multi-colored plastic swings dotting the landscape, is Zavala Elementary School. Austin’s history of racial and economic segregation, cemented by the City Plan of 1928, has created a range of urban health issues for residents of the east side that cannot be whitewashed by the rhetoric of acceptable sustainability. After a period of rapid industrialization, the city of Austin has adopted a “sustainability fix”, washing the sins of the city away with a “green” aesthetic. Activist collective PODER has been urging the City to acknowledge this environmental racism for decades, and their interactions with the institution of the city are integral to this project. This paper utilizes critical mapping, institutional ethnography, and urban planning discourse analysis to bring into conversation the intimacies of slow violence in this case study with the larger, structural inequities of the city.

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