Ecologies of (in)Justice: Equity of Green Infrastructure Planning systems in US Cities

Authors: Zbigniew Grabowski*, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Steward T.A. Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Environment, United States
Keywords: Environmental Justice, Planning, Ecology, Cities, Urban Systems, Green Infrastructure, Democracy, Decolonization
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Cities across the United States have increasingly turned to Green Infrastructure (GI) as a nature-based solution to solve intersecting concerns around public health, climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and  cost effective infrastructure investments.  At the same time, cities are increasingly recognizing the need to address social justice, racism, and entrenched socio-economic, political, and environmental inequalities. Drawing upon an analysis of the planning systems of 20 US cities, we find that current plans addressing GI (n = 122) do not robustly conceptualize or address equity across its procedural, conceptual, and distributional dimensions. The ongoing implementation of these plans is thus likely to reinforce historical inequalities and without delivering environmental justice. Based on these results, we identify critical gaps in procedural, conceptual, and distributional equity of current planning practices for GI and discuss the implications for urban transformation in US cities in the coming decades. This paper seeks to present these results and foment a critical discussion on the relationship between ecological expertise, planning, and historical and current urban injustice. Of particular interest is the role of the analyst in mobilizing (or demobilizing) particular frames and movements seeking justice, and in the ethics of examining historical trauma and injustice to build meaningfully transformative forms of urban governance.

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