Fighting for Green Spaces
The gaps between the haves and the have-nots in cities across the world are visible from space, illuminated by tree canopy” (Grinspan et al., 2020)
When you walk outside, what are you surrounded by? Is your view filled with concrete and buildings or parks and recreation? Our surroundings play a huge role in our quality of life, and having access to safe green spaces is an aspect of that. Green spaces, like parks, gardens, and other forms of vegetation, play an important role in mitigating harmful environmental impacts like poor air quality and increased temperatures. They contribute to many positive aspects of life, such as improved mental health, cleaner air, access to outdoor recreation, etc.
As such, in our fight for environmental justice, we must also recognize that it also includes access to green spaces. Urban green spaces can be utilized to “level the playing field” for disadvantaged communities across a wide range of issues, including health and economic benefits, improved safety, and disaster resilience.
Green Spaces: Impact on Low-Income Neighborhoods
Green spaces can also help to make low-income neighborhoods less vulnerable to climate and health risks by lowering temperature, improving air quality, and mitigating flooding. Green space can also deliver additional benefits that may be particularly important in underserved neighborhoods, like providing areas for leisure and community life, creating safer, more livable streets, and reducing building energy costs associated with cooling.
Given the state of the climate crisis, it is important that we take the necessary steps to help low-income, vulnerable communities mitigate the negative impacts of the pre-existing inequalities. However, when appropriate action is taken, ensure that the communities impacted reap the benefits.
It is not uncommon for low-income, underserved communities to experience green gentrification. Green gentrification occurs when investments in sustainable infrastructure increase an area’s property value but, as a result, cause the existing residents to be unable to afford the cost of living. These barriers further perpetuate environmental inequities and allow for financially insecure communities to be at risk of illness and climate-related disasters.
In the fight for eco-revitalization in low-income neighborhoods, appropriate foresight and regulation are required when implementing sustainable green infrastructure so residents are not displaced and can experience the benefits of urban green spaces and infrastructure.
Environmental Justice Fellow