Bryan Botello Blog Week #9 – Growth, Environment, and Justice

Campbell’s piece on sustainability and the triangular model sets up the succeeding articles to expand on the competing forces that make up each corner of the triangle, the conflicts between them, and the concept of sustainability at its center. Both Campbell and Gleeson say that the idea of sustainability has not fulfilled its promise. Experts have not settled on a clear definition, and many of those that most strongly advocate for sustainability have far too idealistic aspirations for a sustainable world.

I am often inclined to agree that advocates of sustainability –shorthand here for advocates for justice and the environment, as I believe the prevailing societal objective is economic growth – do not pursue their goals pragmatically enough. However, as someone who prioritizes environmental and social justice, that the social discourse on these issues can be thought of as an example of the dialectical method at work. While the pragmatic voices at the center may sit at the negotiating table, the positions they take there, the latitude they may take with their positions, and the magnitude of the demands they make of the other side all depend on those more “idealistic” forces. In other words, pragmatic proponents of sustainability must portray their position has constrained by the fringe in order to negotiate more effectively for their own interests.

I realize as portrayed above, I am collapsing the triangular model into line with economic growth on one end and environment/justice on the other end. Campbell decried precisely this “simplification,” although I think there is more merit to it than he lends. While it is true that frictions can exist between those that advocate for environmental stewardship, and those that seek more equitable access to and distribution of resources, I believe it is reasonable to collapse the triangle for three reasons.

  1. Environmental protection concerns itself with equity more than anything else. I am not speaking just of the environmental justice movement, which seeks equitable environmental and health outcomes for demographic groups that do not dominate the upper echelons of the socioeconomic hierarchy and are traditionally subject to the negative externalities of economic activities carried out for the benefit of those at the top. At its core, environmentalism concerns itself with intergenerational equity.
  2. Taking into account the preceding point, I think there exists significant overlap between advocates of urban justice and environmentalists. The same ethos motivates both points of the triangular model, and many advocates that fall within the bounds of one corner, often incorporate the goals of the other.
  3. Campbell would likely point to the conflict between social justice and environmental protection – the development conflict – as reason enough to expand the line out to a triangle. Yet, philosophical divides exist within other points of the triangle as well. As Fainstein noted in Spatial Justice and Planning, a very real divide exists between those that place importance on a just process and those that prize a just outcome. Similarly, the efforts to pursue material equality, diversity, and democracy are not necessarily mutually supportive.

In fairness, Campbell does say that the triangular model need not be a triangle. Other parties with goals separate from the three in the triangular model also compete to implement their agenda. This model is not simply a heuristic for understanding the points of conflict and agreement between different parties, but is centered around the three primary agents of “sustainability”. And the triangular model is useful, as he points out, for implementing a process to produce sustainable solutions. I do think, however, that he plays up the divide between social justice and environmental protection more than is necessary so that they fit more neatly into this framework, when in many ways environmental protection exists as a sub-category of social justice.




Climate Change = Polity Change (Eunju Namkung, Week 5)

In untangling the themes about the themes of human survivalism in Gleeson’s piece, Disasters, Vulnerability and Resilience of Cities, I kept thinking about the drought that Syria faced to which some trace back as one of the percolating factors that contributed to its current state of political and civil unrest.

In the summer of 2008, Syria’s minister of agriculture told the UN that the consequences of the drought, both economic and social, were “beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.” Soon after, millions of people pored into the cities of Homs, Damascas, and Aleppo as they abandoned the countryside of Syria. Among these “environmental refugees” were Iraqi refugees who were faced with similar drought situations. A New Yorker article, that uses the Syria scenario as a case study of the significant social and political implications that climate change “will send millions—perhaps tens or hundreds of millions—of people in search of new homes” ( This mass exodus of people highlights the tensions of immediate environmental inequity between urban and rural areas, which I feel that Gleeson did not address. Perhaps it is assumed as part of the aspect of the constellation of climate change consequences that cities will face, but I would like more assistance thinking through this particular relationship, including what happens to the rural lands in the wake of natural disasters/distressors and what happens when faced with the tensions of cities, that themselves may not have been directly impacted, but need to deal with the survivalist spirit of those who have fled.

In searching information on Syria and it’s environmental distress, I learned that the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes global warming as a significant strategic threat, saying that it could it could cause “instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability.” ( Gleeson criticizes the World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat for “speaking exclusively of the danger to eco-system resilience represented by climate change. Resilience is not offered as an overarching policy goal, or as the defining quality of a new urban imaginary.” Thus, I am relieved to know that the discourse among the US executive power has an awareness for dealing with the issue of resiliency in a complex way – not as a means to establish immunity or simply conquer the adversity. Hopefully, further plans are develop in line with Gleeson’s call for “salience of equity and solidarity as guiding values for institutional and political action in times of threat and perturbation,” though will not “resort to authoritarianism to reduce or suppress its ‘inconveniences.’”

This led me to look into how American cities reacted with respect to migrants/refugees in the wake of the Dust Bowl. One resource explains that farmers affected by the drought migrated to other states, thus changing poverty-related policymaking. Poor migrants were granted a clear set of rights in the aftermath of the Dust Bowl migration, allowing for more interstate ability. It also had implications of what happened in terms of the distributive wealth/opportunities for families of different races. “Drought refugees” could win more attention and sympathy is they were white and had more Anglo-Saxon names. Meanwhile, there were farm workers of darker skin, including Mexican and Asian farm workers prominent in the West Coast. This makes me want to insert the discussion about planners of color who add yet another dimension of equity to Fainstein’s Just City. In the aftermath of a environmental disaster, I believe that not only planners – and not only planners of color – need to understand that there is an issue of inequity (even if it may be the symptom of other systematic inequities) that need to be considered – in direct disagreement with the former official at the end of Fainstein’s chapter.


Contradictions of Sustainable Development

“Nothing inherent in the discipline steers planners either toward environmental protection or toward economic development — or toward a third goal of planning: social equity. Instead, planners work within the tension generated among these three fundamental aims, which, collectively, I call the “planner’s triangle,” with sustainable development located at its center. This center cannot be reached directly, but only approximately and indirectly, through a sustained period of confronting and resolving the triangle’s conflicts. To do so, planners have to redefine sustainability, since its current formulation romanticizes our sustainable past and is too vaguely holistic. Planners would benefit both from integrating social theory with environmental thinking and from combining their substantive skills with techniques for community conflict resolution, to confront economic and environmental injustice.”

Scott Campbell wrote this piece in 1996, while I think some aspects may still hold true today, he is for the most part misunderstanding the change in planning in the 21st Century. He claims sustainable development cannot be reached directly, only in certain forms and only in some aspects. I fail to understand how a planner could be so pessimistic about planning. Of course planners should romanticize sustainability and the benefits derived from such. Without believing in a future where a totality of sustainable life occurs why even attempt to plan cities in the current state they are in? Why even bother to try and develop innovative planning techniques or attempt to change the social landscape of a city?

Yes I agree that planners could benefit drastically from integrating social theory with environmental thinking and to utilize techniques of community conflict resolution to confront economic and environmental justice issues. But in doing so through Scotts fundamental priority triangle planners will eventually achieve urban sustainable development. It is true that in time we will get there as our world progresses and our lives become ever changed by planning.

An example that comes to mind is Zurich, Switzerland.

Rated as the most sustainable city on the planet, the city is the epitome of environmental protection, economic development, and social equity. The city is a global center of international banking and research and development companies to say the least. Zurich is define by high life expectancies, high levels of education, extremely low levels of income inequality, low energy consumption, low greenhouse gas emissions, and large amounts of public green space. Not to mention its run mostly on renewable energies, has an award winning public transport system, and high levels of environmental awareness.

So please Mr. Campbell tell me how cities will never reach what is considered by you to be a full level of sustainable development.

The environment and Economic Development

When looking at the conflicts that exist between environmental protection and economic development (resource conflict) and environmental protection and social equity (development conflict) it occurred to me that instead of denying the negative effects of men on the planet we need to accept the fact that human inhabitation equals destruction of the environment.  Once we acknowledge it, we can star to search for ways to minimize it. None of the alternatives we can come up with will be “the one alternative” and we need to keep our minds open to as many alternatives as possible. Science and technology will be our allies to measure environmental impact and develop the alternatives.

For example, many people think that electric vehicles are better for the environment that gasoline engine vehicles. Though it is possible that an electric vehicle is better for the environment than an 8-cylinder pickup truck with an estimated 15 mpg (Source Toyota Tundra 2018) in terms of emissions and fossil fuel consumption, is it really better than a 4 cylinder, subcompact vehicle that runs on unleaded gasoline?  Marketing campaigns for electric vehicles always seem to leave out of the equation the energy that takes to charge the vehicle and that it has to be produced somehow.  What about the materials that are required to manufacture the batteries? Aren’t they extremely damaging to the environment?

This kind of analysis can shed light on how planners go about proposing policies to make people that for example, cannot live without an 8-cylinder pick-up truck pay taxes that will be invested specifically in minimizing the effect that having these kinds of vehicles will have on the environment.

When explaining the resource conflict, Campbell mentions “Business resist the regulation of its exploitation of nature but at the same time needs regulation to conserve those resources for present and future demands”.  Two very recent cases related to the current administration come to my mind.

  • Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline project to build a line to carry thick crude from tar sands region in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. I wonder if anybody weighted the catastrophic impact to the environment as well as the construction costs associated with this project against the possibility of building a refinery much closer to where the crude is being produced.
  • Offshore drilling plans that will affect U.S eastern and western coasts.

Campbell also makes the argument that the best way to distribute wealth more fairly is to increase the size of the economy, so that society has more to redistribute. Data shows that in 2007 the top 20% wealthiest possessed more than 80% of all financial wealth. The richest 1% of the American population owned 35% of the country’s total wealth and the next 19% owned 51%. Based on this data can we justify affecting the environment to increase the size of the economy? who is really benefiting the most?

I believe the regulations that we currently have in place only benefit the wealthy. In the meantime, the state increases the spending in “social programs” and goes deeper into debt.

In chapter 12 on Disasters, Vulnerability and resilience of cities, Gleeson writes “the chaotic, destructive aftermath of Katrina illustrated the social depredations of a weak state response to urban disaster” I think we tend to be myopic when looking at problems of that nature.  A lot has been said about the destruction after Katrina and how slow the process of recovery has been.  But we fail to identify what the real problem was, or is, or what is even worse, that we are still making.  The portion of New Orleans affected by the rupture of the levy should have never been there in the first place.

New Orleans settled where it did centuries ago, and there is very little that modern urban planners could have done before Katrina.  However, we should have understood what nature is telling us and move the affected areas to a place that is not as such high risk.  Instead, people is coming back to the same place.  If another disaster like Katrina were to happen again, then urban planners would have some responsibility in the consequences.


This reading came together in a rather odd way for me. The words were “exalted” off the page.

Cambell discussed how economic development (production, consumption, distribution, and innovation), environment (consumer of resources and producer of waste), Equity (distribution of resources, of services, and of opportunities) have to balanced to address the following conflicts in the planning world:

·         Property – claims and uses of properties and resources- subsistence existence for working people

·         Resource Conflict – Production vs. Conservation- providing sustainable conditions for natural environment

·         Development – Social equity and environmental conservation – How do you do both at once? Industrial Structures vs. drinking water. Man vs. Nature/ Capitalist vs. Labor/ Combination

Cambell also highlights the true meaning of sustainability, “the long term ability of a system to reproduce.”

Gleeson focused on impact of social justice, ecological integrity, and intergeneration equity on urban sustainability as a reflection of hazard management. Gleeson speaks of society evolving into reaction, rather than anticipation: A society of perceived invincibility, while not addressing or mastering the concept of resilience. (“Script for resilience remains largely unwritten”) Gleeson ties in the concept of structural transformation as a tool to address global endangerment, not because it is believed that global warming may be stopped or reduced, but the inequitable targeted impact may indeed be.

Fainstein and Young tackle the “talked at issue” of just representation and decision making. Whereas people are not differentiated and excluded according to ascriptive characteristics, planning should be deliberative (and representative), equitable, and just. Also, identity politics creates division, and of course the concept of unity with explicit and differentiated forms of inclusion (leveling the playing field) lead to true democratic decision making (eye roll for sure).

Thomas brings the planning culture to the table. Planners ultimately fight to provide equitable outcomes; however, they face political and economic restraints when it comes to diversity. Thomas questions how equity and justice can truly be the fight if the planning field is not a reflection of the equitable environment being planned?

These readings bring me to one question. Who is your God? All of these theorists seem to have the answer to the unjust, inequitable outcome of the planning world. However, at what point are these theories actually acted upon? This notion that planners have historically gone into this career to seek balance and equity, without being in touch or reflective of the communities being changed creates a humorous idea that planners are the Gods of Equity. The Gods of Anticipation. The Gods of Democracy. It is the rest of the world that just cannot get it right. Thomas and Gleeson nail it by highlighting core concepts that may truly be the key to these questions we toy with like Gods looking upon the world. We will not be able to truly address the unjust while there is a lack of respect for the need for diversity, ignorance of resilience, the absence of reverence of vulnerability and mortality. To maintain the “…infantile delusion that we are the cause and maker of everything,” makes you delusional about who the “GOD of” truly is.

Blog #5

By Jenizza Badua 

The readings this week imposed the critical ecological, economic, and social equity conditions that planners need to consider. These conditions evidently show the that planner’s roles are critical to urban development. The resource conflict that exist between economic growth and environmental protection presented in The Planner’s Triangle in the Scott Campbell chapter greatly contributes to the growing issues in urban development. This conflict defined how economic development in commercial and industrial sector is indeed needed to provide growth. However, conservation regulations restricts such practices up to a certain level in order to provide the current and future demands of the a city. The practice of sustainable yield seems to be a sufficient compromised to progress towards economic growth whilst sustaining some natural resources for reproduction.

The sustainable yield certainly pertains more to the economic growth of a city rather than the condition of the natural resources. Though exploitation of natural resources is limited, it does not necessarily mean that these natural resources are safe. With the increasing industrial and commercial industry, many developments can cause contamination on the land and air, affecting the surrounding resources. Therefore, the practice of infrastructure development must also be sustainable. Another question impose is how the planners and architects can reconsider the relationship of the physical and natural system.

The practice of integrating physical and natural system may be referred to as passive design. Passive design is the practice of creating architecture or infrastructure to be adaptable with nature. The purpose is for when natural events, such as flooding, the ability for the infrastructure to recover is not too calamitous. The ability of a city recover in a much quicker and less traumatic way is referred to as resiliency.

Many cities are beginning to adapt the practice of resiliency. The approach to implement resilience in cities varies in many ways. As discussed in chapter 12, urban settlements are more and more susceptible to natural hazards, which not only affect the natural system, but as well as the social aspect of a society. Upon natural disasters, people become vulnerable and some would experience poverty. Therefore, a transition to a much more robust and resilient system is imperative to integrate in resolving environmental issues imposed by global warming.

Blog 5: Resource Conflict in the Steel City (Matt Rhodes)

I have not always had a clear understanding of sustainability. My conception of the term was almost purely environmental and centered on conserving natural resources for future generations. My view was similar to the optimistic view outlined by Scott Campbell. I took the goal of sustainability as a given in our current society and would not even consider the feasibility of an idea if it did not have some component of this incomplete idea I held. I feel as if I now have a better understanding of sustainability, the sustainability triangle, and the contradictions defined between economic, environmental, and equity concerns. As a student of planning, I seem to gravitate towards understanding the property conflict between competing interests of economic development on the one hand and justice and equality on the other. I see this conflict to be inherent in most new urban development, especially in the Washington, DC metro area. I would like to turn away from the property conflict and Washington, DC in order to focus on the resource conflict and an example of the conflict in Pittsburgh, PA. I believe that Pittsburgh is an excellent example of the resource conflict, and the city also acts as an example of overcoming this conflict through complementary uses.

The city of Pittsburgh is located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. The three rivers historically acted as major transportation routes, which originally allowed the city to grow. With the advent of rail transportation, the city became even more important. Transportation was still just as crucial, but with the expansion of the rail industry, steel production became a key industry in the city. Today, much of the city’s identity, from the football team to its place in popular culture, is built around the imagery of a steel town. Steel production was key to the economic success of the city in the Pre-World War II period. Steel mills grew on the banks of the three rivers and used their water as a resource in production. The waterways were also the perfect place to dump waste from the steel making process. The river was ostensibly an industrial resource, which only had value in so much as it could aid in making steel. I see this as an excellent example of the resource conflict where economic interests push environmental concerns, specifically those of polluted waterways, to the side. It can also be instructive as an example of the development conflict where the pollution had a detrimental effect on many of the citizens who used the rivers as their main source of drinking water.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, they have moved beyond this industrial past. The city has worked to correct the resource conflict and in so doing, may act as a model for cities struggling in similar ways. Pittsburgh was able to remove its steel mills from their locations adjacent to the rivers and worked to clean the three waterways. The city transitioned its riverside land from polluting industrial uses to commercial, residential, and recreational uses. The city realized that the waterways were economically viable not simply as resources for production, but as places around which people wanted to work and live. They identified complementary uses that could help protect the environment while also increasing investment in their new economy. A good example is the $129 million investment in the Three Rivers Park, which the advocacy group Riverlife claims catalyzed over $4 billion in riverfront and adjacent development in the downtown alone (n.d.). The most notable development being the two stadiums along the Allegheny River, overlooking Pittsburgh’s downtown. This idea, that a clean environment is attractive to people and investment, can be used by other cities to protect natural resources while maintaining economic prosperity.

Even though Pittsburgh successfully mediated the conflict between its environment and economy, there are still two words of caution. First, I do not know how likely this transition would have been if the steel mills had still been financially viable. After World War II, steel production decreased and the mills shut down. The city was more reactive in its approach to environmental protection than reactive. If the mills had still been productive, I doubt if the complementary uses would have been as attractive. Second, Pittsburgh is still struggling with the resource and the property conflicts. The benefits of the improved waterways and new development are not equally felt by all. Most new development is high end or expensive recreation. It is also concentrated geographically. Some locations with concentrations of lower-income families have seen new investment based around the improved rivers, but these are the locations most threatened by displacement from gentrification. Pittsburgh will need to address these issues if it plans to be truly sustainable.


Riverlife. (n.d.). About Riverlife. Retrieved from