|From:||Emery Graham <"egraham"@ci.wilmington.de.us>|
|Date:||Fri, 21 May 1999 09:25:37 -0700 (PDT)|
|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 signs and symbols of their power. It's pretty difficult to do that when the victims of their ascension live within 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 behavior 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 cultural adoptions of youth that promote behavior that has irreversible social repercussions. 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 practicing real, biblically oriented, "justice,"i.e., doing without, gifting instead of loaning, accepting reductions in wealth as just, admitting advantage, relinquishing advantage, etc. Emery 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... > HOW TO WE CHANGE THIS PATTERN? > That's the puzzle for those of us who would like to see more public > green space available... > HOW ABOUT WORKING FOR INTENSE LAND USE REQUIREMENTS ALONG PARKLANDS? > > .... 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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