1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Emery Graham <"egraham"@ci.wilmington.de.us>
Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 09:25:37 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: "The Economic Benefits of Open Space"
The question of income distribution meets us in many different guises and
forums. There is no problem if we accept the Judaeo/Christian notion of
"justice" in the sense of making sure our neighbors are able to live the
type of
life that we'd like to have for ourselves; of making sure that every family in
our community is capable of leading a lifestyle that our commonly held values
support as honorable and worthy. This norm is very hard to realize when we
refuse to confront the contradictions of democracy and capitalism.

Practically speaking we find ourselves making arguments that turn out to be
pleas not to raise certain issues beyond the level of polite dialog. I think
this issue of preserving open space vs knowingly and willingly maintaining the
oppressed, marginal, whites and blacks,  in a condition of dependence is an
instance of the contradiction and a challenge that emerges as integral to the
brownfields enigma.

Let me be very clear, where Peter B. Meyer writes "when public
efforts to stimulate open space preservation result in windfall profits
for some...," I'm a bit more direct. Public subsidy of open space preservation
is literally the act of using the tax funds of the poor, marginal, oppressed
people to maintain the conditions of their oppression; to make sure that they,
and their children, continue to be the inheritance of the "white skinned
privileged," and their dark skinned supporters.

I guess it's the disguised, euphemistic, mellifluous, rhetorical
construction of
bureaucratic discretion at work in the brownfields context that allows me the
ground on which I can construct a deconstruction and restatement of the
situation. Again, as a practical matter, an instrumental matter, I'm able to
construct action agendas and service delivery programs more efficiently when I
can remove the dialogic coding of a profession from the analysis and work with
the legal and administrative tools available to a technical practitioner.

I don't think the problem has ever been "more public green space" as much
as its
been more public green space in urban, industrialized areas where the not so
rich, the aspiring "white skinned privileged," who have to work, would like to
be able to add "living next to a park," albeit publically provided, to the
and symbols of their power.

It's pretty difficult to do that when the victims of their ascension live
the same space. It's also tough to claim a superiority based on private sector
initiative, individual merit, and superior ability while at the same time
clamoring for more subsidies for child care, health benefits, open space,
reversal of affirmative action, etc. It's getting even tougher when the
of the children of the socially and culturally privileged begin to commit acts
that are so repulsive to the values of the society at large. It seems that
spacial proximity has become less of a threat to privileged status than
adoptions of youth that promote behavior that has irreversible social

I have sympathy for those families caught in the industrial era social status
paradigm. In a world where the cause of our environmental dilemmas seem to
center on our inability to face the contradictions of "meeting unlimited wants
with scarce resources," it's clear to me that the way out is to begin
real, biblically oriented, "justice,"i.e., doing without, gifting instead of
loaning, accepting reductions in wealth as just, admitting advantage,
relinquishing advantage, etc.


Peter B. Meyer wrote:

> Emery Graham raises the question of "environmental justice" when public
> efforts to stimulate open space preservation result in windfall profits
> for some... His point is well taken. I agree this is an issue, but Emery
> leaves out the other side of the coin, which is the impact on the poor
> and landless of inbcreasing intensification of land use. This compounds
> the problem of inequality.
> More intense land use - more housing per unit land - is rarely
> experienced by the more afflent, with more dollars available to spend on
> housing. It is those less capable of competing for housing who will
> suffer. Consider this:
> 1. open space has value
> 2. people want to be near open space
> 3. people compete for housing with their dollars
> 4. those with more dollars will get closer to the open space than those
> with fewer dollars
> 5. thus the number of housing units per acre near open space will be
> lower than further away - because those with more money can also buy
> more land, not just housing closer to amenities
> 6. Therefore, when we provide more open space, we add to the "open
> space" the relatively rich would provide for themselves anyway - and to
> make room for that open space, we need to pack the relatively poor into
> denser housing -- and move them further away from the open space since
> they can only afford to live on low cost land...
> That's the puzzle for those of us who would like to see more public
> green space available...
>  .... just an idea - but who's got others?  We need them if the efforts
> to contain sprawl and preserve/provide open space are not to be pursued
> on the back s of those already suffering on the negative side of the
> environmental justice scales...
> Peter
> --
> Peter B. Meyer
> Professor of Economics and Urban Policy
> Director, Center for Environmental Management
>  and EPA Region IV Environmental Finance Center
> University of Louisville
> 426 W. Bloom Street / Louisville, KY 40208
> (502) 852-8032    Fax: (502) 852-4558

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