Democratizing the Green City

Everyone agrees that our future lies in cities and that these cities need to be greener and more sustainable. But zoom in on any given project and over and over the same problem presents itself: too often green progress reinforces social inequality.Greening an area—either by reducing pollution or increasing livability—raises a place’s economic value; those who cannot afford to stay find themselves forced out.

Is it possible to break this link between environmental improvement and social displacement? What are robust strategies for greening cities in a democratic fashion—with equitable outcomes, broad participation in shaping urban futures, and vigorous contestation between competing projects?

Life in cities cannot continue without sophisticated and intensive greening, but democracy in cities cannot survive the increasing polarization of inequality—sometimes called eco-apartheid—that current greening strategies so often encourage. This collective research and network-building project aims to bring academic and community resources to bear on this issue, joining other groups in New York and around the world.

This project is currently stewarded by:
Gianpaolo Baiocchi, New York University
Daniel Aldana Cohen, New York University
Hillary Angelo, University of California, Santa Cruz
Miriam Greenberg, University of California, Santa Cruz


Hillary Angelo and Lindsey Dillon, December 2016. Interview on UC Santa Cruz radio with Sylvanna Falcón regarding urban sustainability, social justice, protecting climate change data, and social conflicts produced by nature.

David Wachsmuth, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Hillary Angelo, August 2016. Expand the frontiers of urban sustainability. In Nature.

Daniel Aldana Cohen. 2016. The Rationed City: The politics of water, housing, and land use in drought-parched São Paulo. In Public Culture 22:2, 261-289.

February 2016
Hillary Angelo, From the city lens toward urbanisation as a way of seeing: Country/city binaries on an urbanising planet. In Urban Studies.

January 2016
Daniel Aldana Cohen and Kate Aronoff, Dissenting Climate: After Paris, What’s Next? [Podcast episode.] In Dissent.

December 2015
Daniel Aldana Cohen, The Urban Green Wars. In Jacobin.

March 2015
Video: Raquel Rolnik – “Urban Warfare: The Colonization of Urban Land and Housing”

May 2014
Video: Democratizing the Green City | The democratic green city: From above and below

April 2014
Video: Democratizing the Green City


February 17-18, 2017
Democratizing the Green City: Sustainability and the Affordable Housing Crisis
UC Santa Cruz


This conference examines a paradox: urban sustainability initiatives that are so vital in countering climate change can, through their improvements, contribute to driving up rents and driving out residents, and in the process, exacerbate sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change itself. Our speakers examine this growing link between environmental improvement and social displacement and ask: How is it possible to break this link? What would it mean to include affordable housing and equity within sustainability efforts? And what are the consequences—socially and ecologically—if we don’t?

Visit the official event website for full details


January 10, 2017
Isabelle Anguelovski, “Are the benefits of urban greening equitably distributed and perceived? An inquiry into new dimensions of environmental gentrification in the Global North and South”

March 31, 2016
Hillary Angelo, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Sergio Montero will participate in the Association of American Geographers 2016 Annual Meeting paper session: “Why Does Everyone Think Cities Can Save the Planet? The Environmental Politics of Collective Consumption”

January 23, 2016
Democratizing the Green City – Symposium

March 31, 2015
Distinguished Faculty Lecture with Raquel Rolnik – “Urban Warfare: The Colonization of Urban Land and Housing”
(video available)

May 8, 2014
The Democratic Green City: From Above and Below
(video available)

April 22, 2014
Green Urbanism Beyond Greenwashing: Four Strategies

March 13, 2014
Greening Global Cities: Luxury Ecology and Its Discontents