Timmons Roberts: The ques­tions that come to my mind that I think we could sort of frame up this dis­cus­sion is like, what would a win­ning coali­tion be to actu­al­ly make a Green New Deal move for­ward in this coun­try and more broad­ly? Who are the like­ly and the unlike­ly allies? What hap­pens to the Green New Deal as the coali­tion expands? That is, Damian has brought togeth­er peo­ple who have real­ly blown our minds about what a Green New Deal might look like, both aes­thet­i­cal­ly and then the peo­ple who’re actu­al­ly mak­ing it hap­pen. So, what hap­pens to the idea of the Green New Deal? It’s clear­ly chang­ing before our eyes.

Now, one of the big ten­sions relat­ed to that, to me that comes up again and again and again as I work local­ly in the state and the region, and more broad­ly even, is the issue of expe­di­ence, that is the urgent need for action, and the need for equi­ty and inclu­sion. This ten­sion is real­ly quite bru­tal, I think, for orga­niz­ing on this issue. We need to address a cri­sis that shoul­da been solved thir­ty years ago, and which cer­tain­ly has to be solved in the next ten years. So, how do we do this in a way that’s inclu­sive and more just, and I think Shalanda brought this up this morn­ing.

Something that does­n’t get talked about enough is the oppo­si­tion, and the bar­ri­ers to a Green New Deal. Already right now, indus­tries are orga­niz­ing, as some stu­dents in my oth­er group the Climate and Development Lab are study­ing, to kill the Green New Deal in the cra­dle.

There is a group called the Empowerment Alliance—I mean who could be against empow­er­ment? But this is a group of the nat­ur­al gas indus­try, fund­ed entire­ly by the nat­ur­al gas indus­try, to con­vince us that nat­ur­al gas is the key to a bet­ter life and that we can’t real­ly make the switch to renew­ables in a quick, ambi­tious way. And so they are mount­ing a pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign right now with the best firms in the world, and they’re gonna roll it out state by state, And they’re gonna go after it. And it’s gonna look like it’s com­ing from local actors, local groups like labor unions or even com­mu­ni­ties. And they’re going to try to kill the Green New Deal. They’re going to be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. We have to be ready and we have to be orga­nized, and we have to have the argu­ments and coali­tions that are effec­tive.

Already we’re see­ing ads from groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and oth­ers attack­ing the Green New Deal and mak­ing fun of the idea and real­ly say­ing that it’s going to be hor­ri­ble for our futures.

Finally we’ve had many issues come up, includ­ing from Myles Lennon this morn­ing about the state, will it be an ally? Is it the way to jus­tice and redemp­tion or is it a trap that will bog down our move­ments and our effort at address­ing the cli­mate cri­sis and inequal­i­ty cri­sis?

And then as Camilo, who we’re going to be hear­ing from as part of our pan­el in a moment men­tioned you know. what is the role of aca­d­e­mics? What’s our job here, and how do we do it? How are we part of this coali­tion?

So any­way I’m gonna stop. But we’re gonna have these four amaz­ing speak­ers. We have Kian Goh, from Urban Planning at UCLA. We real­ly appre­ci­ate her trav­el­ing all this way. Dan Traficonte from the DUSP, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, and Ian Wells who’s an eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­al in New York City. They’re both are JDs from the Harvard Law School. We have Alyssa Battistoni who’s at Harvard and a post-doc, who’s gonna talk about cyborg ecoso­cial­ism and gen­dered labor. We have Thea Riofrancos from Political Science here at Providence College.

Then we’re going to bring up after­wards Camilo Viveiros from the George Wiley Center. So you’ve seen that table out there? That’s his cen­ter that he’s direc­tor of. Really excit­ing pover­ty and inequal­i­ty group here in Rhode Island that’s real­ly on the fore­front. Even the work that was men­tioned by Jackie Patterson this morn­ing about avoid­ing shut­offs and sort of ener­gy jus­tice is their cam­paign here.

Emma Bouton and Estrella Rodriguez are here from Sunrise. They’re real­ly the lead orga­niz­ers in Rhode Island among the few. And then Mara Dolan is way back there, we’re gonna bring her up too, who’s worked pulling togeth­er a Green New Deal from fem­i­nist groups from around the world in a group called WEDO, Women’s Environment and Development Organizations.

So it’s gonna be great. And we’re gonna fin­ish this amaz­ing day off with the most excit­ing pan­el of all. So Kian, do you wan­na kick us off? Thanks.


Kian Goh: Holy shit. Holy shit.

Roberts: …the tech­nol­o­gy or—

Goh: No no, the whole day. So, this is an amaz­ing day. My mind is indeed blown. My name is Kian Goh and I teach urban plan­ning at UCLA. And I real­ly want to thank Damian and Timmons and the teams here at RISD and Brown. It’s such a priv­i­lege to be here, and par­tic­u­lar­ly on this pan­el. I’m look­ing for­ward to learn­ing from folks I’ve real­ly admired from afar for a while now.

Today’s the day of putting AOC on the screen as many times as pos­si­ble.

So I’ll make some brief notes from a paper now in press titled Planning the Green New Deal: Climate Justice and the Politics of Sites and Scales. I have some notes to make sure I’m on track.

The urgency of cli­mate change and the rise of a grass­roots leg­isla­tive polit­i­cal envi­ron­men­tal move­ment in the United States should change the way urban plan­ners think and act on spa­tial change and social jus­tice. In the paper, I sit­u­ate the con­texts: the IPCC 1.5 degree and the Fourth National Climate Assessment reports, the orga­niz­ing around the 2018 US elec­tions, and I intro­duced the Green New Deal as a propo­si­tion that is envi­ron­men­tal, state-driven, and woke.

The orig­i­nal New Deal reor­ga­nized soci­ety and space in the US. To what extent do we under­stand the poten­tial of a Green New Deal to remake the nation’s cities and regions?

So I won’t go into detail in these fol­low­ing tables. Some of this has been cov­ered before. So, the Green New Deal’s ten-year mobi­liza­tion goals include resilien­cy, renew­able ener­gy, and nation­al smart grid, and mea­sures for ener­gy effi­cien­cy and elim­i­nat­ing green­house gas emis­sions.

It is not real­ly spe­cif­ic on projects, cit­ing the need for trans­par­ent and inclu­sive con­sul­ta­tion of stake­hold­ers. It pri­or­i­tizes the role of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and pub­lic fund­ing. And it empha­sizes the unjust impacts of cli­mate change on front­line and vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties. The Green New Deal’s fore­ground­ing of jus­tice is impor­tant. It is nec­es­sar­i­ly big­ger than a cli­mate action plan.

The orig­i­nal New Deal changed rela­tion­ships between soci­ety and state. It con­sti­tut­ed a crisis-fueled polit­i­cal move­ment and realign­ment of pow­er, an ide­o­log­i­cal shift. So begin­ning with efforts to pro­tect the bank­ing sys­tem, it then expand­ed to work relief and to financ­ing and build­ing infra­struc­ture and hous­ing. And as a whole, it changed the way Americans saw the pos­si­bil­i­ties of work, hous­ing, infra­struc­ture, and art. It rein­forced pub­lic and coop­er­a­tive ini­tia­tives and reset the bounds of gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tions across space and time.

The Green New Deal pre­sumes a par­al­lel realign­ment of pow­er and an ide­o­log­i­cal shift. It might be said to pre­fig­ure a new peri­od of soci­ety and state rela­tion­ships, with sup­port for high lev­els of fed­er­al spend­ing and coor­di­na­tion of indus­tri­al pol­i­cy, spa­tial plan­ning and devel­op­ment, and social pro­grams. And asso­ci­at­ed­ly a new plan­ning regime, one inspired by but dis­tinct from the orig­i­nal New Deal, and diverg­ing from recent neo­clas­si­cal and com­mu­nica­tive turns in plan­ning.

In the paper I spec­u­late a lit­tle bit about the pos­si­ble projects and plans of a Green New Deal. And I think many of these will be long-standing ini­tia­tives of plan­ning, but under a Green New Deal might be clas­si­fied into three core inter­twined objec­tives. And they are green­house gas emis­sion reduc­tions, pro­tec­tions against and adap­ta­tion to cli­mate impacts, and jus­tice for mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tions.

The 1930s New Deal changed the way plan­ners per­ceived the sites and scales of plan­ning. Green New Deal ini­tia­tives will take place in sites and scales that have not been part of pre­vi­ous plan­ning efforts and will con­found and com­pli­cate those that have.

New ini­tia­tives will have to con­sid­er longer time hori­zons and larg­er spa­tial extents than a typ­i­cal ten-year plan, on the basis of uncer­tain­ty and incom­plete infor­ma­tion. For plan­ners, this brings up con­tra­dic­tions between long-temporal and large-spatial scale recon­fig­u­ra­tion and more imme­di­ate and small-scale social jus­tice.

So take the exam­ples of hous­ing, trans­porta­tion, and coastal infra­struc­ture. In the first, plan­ners have advo­cat­ed for hous­ing to be more energy-efficient, dense, and clos­er to jobs, ameni­ties, and trans­porta­tion. At the same time, many cities across the US are fac­ing hous­ing cri­sis and grow­ing inequal­i­ty. Grassroots activists in these cities have orga­nized against devel­op­ment poli­cies that lead to dis­place­ment of poor urban res­i­dents. They have fought against the state, the city, devel­op­ers, and focus on the pro­tec­tion of local neigh­bor­hoods against large-scale change.

Bullet-train land acqui­si­tions are mov­ing so slow­ly a judge hear­ing the cas­es calls it a life­time job’

In the sec­ond exam­ple, plan­ners rec­og­nized a need to decar­bonize trans­porta­tion sys­tems by tran­si­tion­ing from cars and high­ways to rail. But progress on rail devel­op­ment in the US is slow at best. So in California, pos­si­bly the best state to try to under­take these kinds of pro­grams, protests in regions out­side of met­ro­pol­i­tan cen­ters and in urban periph­eries have stymied the high-speed rail project. And so here, local oppo­si­tion to large-scale change comes from a dif­fer­ent part of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum, but invok­ing par­al­lel claims in local com­mu­ni­ty rights.

In the third exam­ple, plan­ners and design­ers involved with Rebuild By Design in post-Hurricane Sandy New York envi­sioned region­al multi-level pro­tec­tion. But pro­pos­als were con­strained to local­i­ties by fund­ing mech­a­nisms and the com­pe­ti­tion direc­tive to gar­ner local stake­hold­er sup­port. And this direc­tive to gar­ner that sup­port was con­sid­ered a more just cor­rec­tive to pre­vi­ous plan­ning eras, and as well appease­ment for pro­pos­als that often seemed to be storm-resilient but market-compliant urban devel­op­ment.

In these exam­ples, calls for local community-based jus­tice are in con­flict with the spa­tial envi­ron­men­tal imper­a­tives to address cli­mate change.

Planners have learned crit­i­cal lessons from com­mu­ni­ty activists. Like the activists protest­ing hous­ing dis­place­ment and infra­struc­ture incur­sions, plan­ning’s best practices—that are fair­ly recent—around issues like envi­ron­ment and equi­ty have been to fore­ground the local scale and com­mu­ni­ty inter­ests, empha­siz­ing community-scale approach­es, community-based par­tic­i­pa­to­ry plan­ning, and com­mu­ni­ty exper­tise and knowl­edge. This is a fea­ture or a lim­i­ta­tion depend­ing how you choose to see it.

Concerns of jus­tice, under­stood to be sys­temic and struc­tur­al, are made con­crete and action­able through rein­forced account­abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­ties. But when large-scale change is essen­tial, how can efforts to pro­tect local places and social rela­tion­ships in the now lead to recon­fig­ured soci­eties and spaces in the future?

Further, the mod­els we have, such as large-scale fed­er­al hous­ing financ­ing and infra­struc­tur­al ini­tia­tives rem­i­nis­cent of the New Deal, have not been nec­es­sar­i­ly just or con­ducive to community-based approaches—and folks have talked about this today. So plan­ning’s prac­ti­cal charge for the Green New Deal is to think of the new bounds of prac­tice for trans­lat­ing broad fed­er­al ini­tia­tives and very spe­cif­ic community-based con­cerns into action­able frame­works, giv­en the objec­tives of emis­sions reduc­tions, pro­tec­tions and adap­ta­tions, and jus­tice.

These con­cerns of sites, scales, and pol­i­tics are not new issues of urban gov­er­nance and jus­tice. So to close I’ll offer two inter­re­lat­ed con­cepts build­ing on ideas from Iris Marion Young. So, Iris Marion Young, tak­ing issue with com­mu­ni­tar­i­an notions of jus­tice, offered ideas about dif­fer­ence with­out exclu­sion, a broad­er notion of jus­tice bet­ter aligned with the nor­ma­tive ideals of urban life. And empow­er­ment with­out auton­o­my, a more open and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion achieved through regional-scale urban gov­er­nance and democ­ra­tized invest­ment deci­sion­mak­ing.

So first on the spa­tial scales of plan­ning. A recast urban region­al scale for cli­mate plan­ning would include the urban eco­log­i­cal water­shed and key pat­terns of cur­rent and future and emissions-related devel­op­ment, includ­ing the spa­tial dis­tri­b­u­tion of hous­ing, trans­porta­tion net­works, and urban nature. So the preva­lent plan­ning ques­tion about where to build dense hous­ing, for exam­ple, would not only involve prox­im­i­ty to the city cen­ter or to trans­porta­tion hubs but con­sid­er­a­tions of the extent to which such devel­op­ment actu­al­ly sup­ports, togeth­er, low-carbon infra­struc­ture, urban eco­log­i­cal link­ages, and adap­ta­tion to cli­mate impacts, and the rec­ti­fi­ca­tion of pat­terns of socioe­co­nom­ic mar­gin­al­iza­tion.

Second, on the polit­i­cal rela­tion­ships of plan­ning. Community- and place-based activism cen­ter issues of his­tor­i­cal injus­tice and raise legit­i­mate claims for recog­ni­tion and agency. But a new vision for just plan­ning for cli­mate change, beyond the com­mu­ni­ty, would trans­pose such claims to the broad­er polit­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal stakes in the urban region. Because of the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of the urban water­shed and the fac­tors of cli­mate change, con­cerns of polit­i­cal jus­tice at any one local­i­ty are inter­de­pen­dent with socioe­co­nom­ic and envi­ron­men­tal out­comes across the region. So here, Young’s ideas about pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion and invest­ments are crit­i­cal. Democratized invest­ment deci­sion­mak­ing would entail the mate­r­i­al recog­ni­tion of mul­ti­ple polit­i­cal claims across urban region­al demar­ca­tions of pow­er and socioe­co­log­i­cal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty.

So divi­sions about invest­ments in pro­tec­tive and adap­tive infra­struc­ture, for exam­ple, or con­verse­ly disinvest­ments, or invest­ments in cli­mate retreat, are after all fights for recog­ni­tion of com­mu­ni­ties across mul­ti­ple sites.

For plan­ners versed in com­mu­ni­ty and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry approach­es that have been crit­i­cized for being depoliti­cized, this entails deep­er polit­i­cal analy­sis of mul­ti­ple his­to­ries of social and spa­cial oppres­sions and longer-term notions of jus­tice. A bigger-than-local frame­work of jus­tice turned towards cli­mate change chal­lenges would com­pel plan­ners to think about jus­tice as inter­con­nect­ed across polit­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal bound­aries, work­ing across often unaligned admin­is­tra­tive areas and water­sheds. It would ask plan­ners to expand justice-oriented meth­ods and actions beyond spe­cif­ic local com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing, devel­op­ing coali­tions of con­stituents across local­i­ties towards broad­er envi­ron­men­tal and social out­comes.

And I’ll end—one paragraph—by not­ing this: So the thoughts here are main­ly in engage­ment with debates in urban stud­ies and plan­ning. And I think that actu­al­ly betrays a lit­tle bit a some­what lim­it­ed notion of com­mu­ni­ty. Ideas of com­mu­ni­ty, ide­al­ly, are more rela­tion­al and mul­ti­po­si­tion­al than some of the ways that I rehearsed it. And the most provoca­tive and inspir­ing social move­ments right now, includ­ing the glob­al cli­mate jus­tice move­ment, embrace expand­ed notions of com­mu­ni­ty. And so I think that this is as much of an invi­ta­tion for me, and pos­si­bly oth­ers, to rethink social move­ment build­ing as it is to rethink plan­ning. Thank you.

Further Reference

Climate Futures II event page


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