The Sustainability MythEnvironmental Gentrification and the Politics of Justice

The Sustainability MythEnvironmental Gentrification and the Politics of Justice

Melissa Checker

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781479835089

Publisher: NYU Press


Are today’s sustainable cities built on their own undoing? This book uncovers the hidden costs of sustainable policies and practices in an era of hyper-gentrification. From state-of-the-art parks to rooftop gardens, LEED-certified buildings, bike lanes, and organic shops and restaurants, industrial waterfronts are transforming into eco-friendly urban oases. But how sustainable is this green wave? Will it lift all boats? In New York City, Melissa Checker finds that sustainable initiatives have fostered resource-intensive, high-end development in some areas and left others overburdened with polluting facilities and under-protected from climate change. Checker weaves together ethnographic and historic detail to tell the story of local activists who struggle to improve the environmental health of their neighborhoods while maintaining their affordability. For over a decade, Checker’s research on “environmental gentrification”—the use of environmental improvements to drive high-end redevelopment—has exposed the paradoxes of urban sustainability. This book develops an intricate and comprehensive account of environmental gentrification, from its historic roots to the different forms it takes. Extending this analysis, Checker also challenges popular myths about civic engagement: her work alongside environmental justice activists reveals how institutional mechanisms meant to foster public participation and community empowerment have actually undermined both. And yet Checker finds hope in surprising places. Across the country, sustainability’s broken promises have given rise to new, nonpartisan political formations. Borne of crisis, these grassroots coalitions are crossing racial, economic, and political divides to create new possibilities for our collective future.