The Land That Could Be

The land that could be: environmentalism and democracy in the twenty-first century by William A. Shutkin (MIT Press, 2000).

This is an academic book by a lecturer in Urban  Planning at MIT, but it contains some excellent ideas which are worthy of wider dispersal. Shutkin introduces the concept of “civic environmentalism,” which integrates environmental issues into the broader concerns of citizens of a particular place, such as economic development, democracy and social justice issues. It’s similar to the “systems engineering” or “ecosystem” approach to problem solving, which views problems as interconnected, not separate from each other. People don’t just want a cleaner environment, they want equitable access to jobs and housing too. Rather than set these goals in opposition, civic environmentalism tries to achieve them all. This brings in the support of many more people than a single-minded focus on conserving the environment would. It is also about “grass-roots” organizing for projects that make the community you live in better and more sustainable. Four projects (in Boston, Oakland, Denver and northern New Jersey) are highlighted. It would be very interesting to learn whether these projects are still going strong since the economic crash of the late 2000’s.

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Filed under Environment, Social Science

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