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The Sustainability MythEnvironmental Gentrification and the Politics of Justice$
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Melissa Checker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479835089

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479835089.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

“Democracy Has Left the Building”

“Democracy Has Left the Building”

Activist Overload and the Tyranny of Civic Engagement

(p.151) 5 “Democracy Has Left the Building”
The Sustainability Myth

Melissa Checker

NYU Press

Just as sustainability has come to serve as a euphemism for profit-minded redevelopment, public participation and community engagement have become a ritualized but ultimately empty performance of democracy and shared decision making. This chapter examines how environmental justice activists have navigated the nonprofit funding system and the constant pressure to participate in various forms of citizen engagement. These have included requests from academics wishing to further institutional missions that emphasize public engagement. They also included invitations to sit on steering committees, to attend countless public hearings, to submit public testimonies about new development projects, to participate in urban planning initiatives, and more. Activists have found that such activities drain their time and energy, siphoning it away from their long-term goals. Ultimately, rather than supporting democratic action, institutionalized forms of civic engagement have undermined democracy itself.

Keywords:   activist overload, citizen engagement, community-based activism, environmental justice activism, nonprofit funding, participatory politics, public participation, public scholarship

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