Democratizing the Green City

Green urbanism beyond greenwashing: Four strategies

Text saying "democratizing the green city" over an image of a crowd of people stand in the street

Cities will be greened. The question is how. Business as usual too often means greenwashing, exacerbating inequality and increasing the prospects for eco-apartheid. How can we, instead, democratize the green city by breaking the link between ecological enhancement and social displacement? On Earth Day, we explore four overlapping but distinct efforts to bring environmental sustainability and social justice goals together: through community planning, environmental justice, labor organizing, and urban design. What policy levels and bases for mobilization does each strategy employ? How does each tackle socioeconomic inequality? In what types of communities are they effective? And what prospects for banding together or learning from each other do they offer? In the previous session, we explored the nature and extent of the greening-displacement link in cities across the global North and South. In this second session, we focus on practical projects in New York and the Northeast.

Invited Speakers:

Dilip Da Cunha,  Adjunct Professor at the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, is co-author ofMississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape, Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore’s Terrain, and Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary. An architect and planner, he and Anuradha Mathur are co-editors of the forthcoming book Design in a Terrain of Water that follows the 2010/11 international symposiums at PennDesign that they conceived and directed. He is currently working on a project provisionally titled The Invention of Rivers. Da Cunha is also leading a team from PennDesign that is exploring design strategies for coastal resilience in the Lower Chesapeake / Norfolk area.

Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development (CCPD), is most recently the author of The New Century of the Metropolis: Urban Enclaves and Orientalism (2012) and New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate (2008). He has collaborated on many community-based plans and written about community land trusts. He is founder and co-editor of Progressive Planning Magazine, and Participating Editor for the journals Latin American Perspectives and Local Environment.

Sean Sweeney, Director and founder of the Global Labor Institute, a program of the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) based in New York City, worked with the ILR, Steelworkers, and other unions to organize the North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis, the first major conference on unions and climate change. He is a regular contributor to New Labor Forum and is the co-author of the UN Environment Program’s 2008 report, Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World. He is currently working on a global initiative to democratize national energy systems.

Peggy M. Shepard, is Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE-ACT For Environmental Justice. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health. She has advanced the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all. She serves on numerous academic and governmental advisory boards, and has co-authored research articles in Environmental Health Perspectives and theAmerican Journal of Public Health.

Following the speakers’ opening remarks and a brief round of responses, the audience will join in a discussion moderated by Daniel Aldana Cohen, a PhD candidate in Sociology at NYU who has written on urban climate politics and socio-environmental conflicts in North and South America, and whose dissertation research connects climate politics and social movement struggles in global cities.

The Democratizing the Green City event series is collaboration between IPK’s Cities, Cultures, and Climate Change working group and the Urban Democracy Lab at Gallatin.