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? Life in cities cannot continue without it, but democracy in cities cannot survive the increasing polarization of inequality—sometimes called eco-apartheid—that this tendency is likely to produce.
Our spring discussion series seeks to deepen our understanding of the causes of—and potential solutions to—this problem. What are the social politics surrounding discourses of sustainability and how can they be made more democratic? The complex nature of the issue and its impact necessitates a broad, interdisciplinary conversation; by bringing together scholars and practitioners across the social sciences, humanities, and design disciplines, we aim to inject social justice into the discussion on green cities through critical, engaged debate, asking how cities can be made more green while critically interrogating the discussion itself.
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.