Democratizing the Green City

The democratic green city: From above and below

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

The twin disasters of environmental catastrophe and increasing socioeconomic inequality have dominated the first years of the twenty-first century. Around the world, people confront the relationship between the two by seeking to democratize the green city—some from above, some from below. Everywhere, they face massive obstacles. In this third and final session, we ask how top-down, government projects can be paired with grassroots organizing to democratize the green city. What transnational financial and governance circuits restrict democratic policy formation and implementation and grassroots influence? How can progressive politicians create their own networks to provide a democratic counterweight to these more coercive circuits? How can grassroots activists trust and work with politicians in this context? And how well do successful projects’ models transfer to new cities? We examine tensions common across cities of the global North and South—in particular, those between coercive transnational institutions and local democratic structures, and between progressive governmental projects and grassroots action. Greening cities means more than environmental remediation and ecological enhancements. To be socially sustainable they will also require a renewal of urban democracy.

Sapana Doshi is Assistant Professor at the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. Her research is on the politics of global city redevelopment, eviction and resettlement in Mumbai, India with a focus on social mobilization among displaced residents of informal slum settlements. She has published widely on socio-ecological tensions in Indian cities.

Michael Goldman is associate professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author ofImperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization. His current research provincializes global urbanism, explores the making of Bangalore as a “world city,” and traces the disciplining power of finance in the global economy.

Joel Rogers is Professor of Law, Political Science, Public Affairs, and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Director of COWS, a think-and-do tank on high-road development. Rogers has written widely on American politics, comparative public policy, and political theory, including the books On Democracy, Right Turn, Works Councils, Associations and Democracy, Metro Futures, and American Society: How it Really Works. Uniting this diverse work is Rogers’ commitment to increasing the competence and power of democratic institutions.

Ron Shiffman is a city planner with over 50 years of experience providing architectural, planning, community economic development and sustainable development assistance to community-based groups in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.  In 1964, he co-founded the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development [PICCED], which is today the oldest continuously operated university-based community design and development center in the United States. He served on the New York City Planning Commission from 1990 to 1996 and as chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning in New York from 1991 to 1999. He now teaches full time at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute. He is also organizing the School of Architecture’s coordinated effort to assist in the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Sandy entitled “Rebuild, Adapt, Mitigate and Plan” and has forged cooperative relationships between RAMP and the affected communities.

Following the speakers’ opening remarks and a brief round of responses, the audience will join in a discussion moderated by Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Associate Professor of Sociology at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study and Director of its Urban Democracy Lab. The author of Militant Citizens and co-author of Bootstrapping Democracy and The Civic Imagination, his work dissects the social processes of radical (and conventional) democratic politics in Brazil and the United States.

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

View the video recording of this event.