USP 530 – Assignment 1

CJ Trowbridge

2021-03-02

USP 530

Assignment #1

Choose a social problem that will impact cities in the future and use the healthy cities wheel framework to identify how urban authorities should address this problem – fill out every section of the wheel.

 

Assemble a diverse and inclusive group

There are many different kinds of stakeholders when it comes to the issue of black water remediation. Let’s take a triple-bottom-line perspective on classifying the stakeholders who want to onboard to the cause. On the one hand, there are the people who live in communities affected by existing remediation techniques, disproportionately BIPOC and people in other marginalized communities. On the other hand, there are those who have limited access to fresh water such as the unhoused. Last there are business interests who stand to profit from the change to reclaiming rather than merely remediating black water. Reclaiming black water means converting yesterday’s waste outputs into tomorrow’s resource inputs.

 

Generate a vision

The vision will depend on the perspectives expressed by the stakeholders. It will likely include leveraging the change from remediation to reclamation in order to ameliorate the impacts of existing waste management techniques on people in marginalized communities. It will also include addressing water scarcity and the lack of access to water resources in the community. Third it will include finding buyers and building a supply chain to handle the new resources being created in the form of fresh water and compostables as a result of implementing the new process.

 

Assess assets, resources, and barriers

The current techniques for remediation essentially just dilute black water with up to thirty times as much fresh water, then passing it through aerobic and anaerobic processes to sterilize it before dumping it into the oceans and rivers. One of the biggest challenges will be funding construction of new systems to separate liquids and solids before purifying each through bioreaction and composting respectively. This means not just these two outputs become resources, but also that enormous amount of water which is no longer being wasted diluting black water before dumping it during as a part of the current system.

 

Prioritize issues

The triple bottom line has to drive discussions about priorities. We must be certain to address all three perspectives without missing any. It’s not just about implementation cost-savings, increasing protection from harm in marginalized communities, or saving the environment; rather it must be all three.

 

Develop a community-wide strategy

Every person in the community produces black water every day. This means everyone is involved in both the problem and the solution. Everyone stands to benefit from the improved environmental impact, the implementation cost-savings, whether or not they are in marginalized communities who will see additional benefits. The fact that everyone in the community will be positively affected means everyone can be brought on board with the plan and play a role in pushing the necessary policy changes forward.

It also means the plan will need to be implemented in every current black water facility around the city and eventually the broader region.

 

Implement the plan

The biggest part of implementing the plan will be retrofitting or replacing existing facilities. Rather than diluting blackwater with enormous amounts of fresh water, we will be separating it, cleaning it, and then exporting each component as a valuable resource. This means in place of several large tanks, we will need special filtration systems to separate the liquids and solids, then holding tanks and an infrastructure for exporting the solid resources.

There are a lot of ways we could go with exporting the fresh water we create. Because many may be uncomfortable directly drinking the reclaimed fresh water despite its purity, it may make more sense to pipe it up to the headwaters of the same watersheds we originally took the water from. In the example of San Francisco, there are already pipelines bringing water down from Hetch Hetchy. Additional pipelines could take the purified water reclaimed from black water and pump it back up to the headwaters. This essentially mimics the natural process of evaporation and precipitation which we are already relying on. We are just skipping the step of dumping the water in the ocean and waiting for some small amount to evaporate and then later precipitate into the Hetch Hetchy system. We can skip this middle-man of mother nature and simply put the water back where we took it from.

There is also the potential to sell the purified fresh water to bottled water companies like Nestle instead of allowing them to drain and destroy the aquifers in order to make bottled water. The purity of reclaimed black water would likely improve the quality of the now totally unregulated contents of bottled water.

 

Monitor and adjust your effort

We will need to carefully observe the process of leveraging the outputs to make sure they are being used appropriately. Once we see adoption taking off, it may be time to take the fight to a broader geographic area and expand this vital technology into other nearby regions.

 

Establish new systems to maintain/build on your gains

We should be very vocal about the benefits we see from no longer wasting incredible amounts of water the way we are now. In addition, we should work to emphasize the triple-bottom-line benefits of turning waste outputs into valuable products. This will help accelerate adoption of this new system by other cities.

 

Celebrate benchmarks and successes

Once the system is up and running, the number of bad-pun-fueled galas and public relations events are endless. Imagine the look on a visiting dignitary’s face when they are offered a pu pu platter at the black water gala. Or when it is revealed that their $25 bottle of Voss water was actually repackaged human excrement. The potential for practical jokes celebrating the success of the system would be endless. We might even reach a point where San Francisco can name its sewer system not after people it doesn’t like (George W Bush), but in honor of people it does like.

 

Tackle the next issue(s)

The next issue is obvious; it’s the same issue but on a bigger scale! Now that San Francisco has adopted black water reclamation, we need to get Oakland and San Jose and Berkeley and all the other cities in the bay area to do the same. Then the rest of California and then the world!

Session 4

February 17th
Session Four: Reducing Social and Racial Inequality: Basic Income, Universal Health Care, New Deal Type Stimulus Package for Job Creation, Affordable Housing, Eliminating Student Debt, Reparations, The People’s Budget

This session will focus on the increasing social inequality in the United States and its consequences. We will be guided by the following questions:

Notes

  • Discussed Texas power grid collapse and Malthusian comments about social darwinism from mayor of Colorado City
  • Bezos is now making $150k/hr
    • His workers in Oklahoma are striking for a living wage
    • $15/hr is not enough to survive anymore

 

  1. What do we mean by “social inequality” and “racial inequality”?
    • Disparate impact in things like health outcomes, wealth, and access to vital resources like food and water
  2. How do we measure social inequality and racial inequality?
    • By measuring that disparate impact
  3. How do social inequality and racial inequality impact urban life?
    • by causing social problems
  4. What strategies and policies can be used to reduce social and racial inequalities?
    • Living wage
    • Public healthcare
    • Taxing wealth, stock trades, inheritance, etc
    • Mandating regional minimum wages everywhere which are higher than the cost of living and that update automatically every year based on increases in cost of living.
  5. How do we define a “decent living standard” in cities around the world? (Energy article)
  6. Is there a universal standard of “well being”?
  7. What standards are required for universal well being?
  8. What is the basic income?
    • A flawed attempt to solve the same problem that the lack of living wage is already not solving; helping wages catch up with cots of living.
  9. What do we learn from a case study of Canada’s basic income proposal?

Audio

KPFA Upfront January 25, 2021 Oakland’s Proposed “Peoples Budget”

Videos

  1. Growing Wealth Inequality, 2019 – Why The Inequality Gap Is Growing Between Rich And Poor – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41y4c1Oi5Uo
    • This is that video we’ve all seen a million times where researchers ask people how wealth is distributed and what the ideal distribution is. The people are super wrong and they argue that things should change to be more like the ideal that clearly emerges in the consensus of the survey.
      • “The ideal is as far removed from reality as the actual distribution is from what people think reality is.”
  2. Global Wealth Inequality, 2013 – This video is not up to date but still has great value https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWSxzjyMNpU (4 minutes)
    • global lower class is 70% of the population controlling just 3% of the wealth
    • next 21% controls just 12% of the global wealth
    • next 10% controls
    • next 8% (global upper-middle class) controls 38% of the world’s wealth
    • top 1% controls 47% of the world’s wealth
      • more annual wealth production than Japan and Germany combined
      • top 8 individuals control more wealth than the bottom 50%
  3. The Insane Scale of Global Wealth Inequality Visualized, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caBDPFx2et4 (9 minutes)
  4. Joseph Stiglitz “How Inequality In Today’s Society Endangers Our Future” (1 hour)

Required Reading – For this session, students will take one reading and present it to the class

  1. Inequality.org – https://inequality.org/facts/racial-inequality
  2. The Ever Growing Income Gap: Without Change African American and Latino Families won’t match White Wealth for Centuries – this is outdated
  3. https://equitablegrowth.org/the-coronavirus-recession-and-economic-inequality-a-roadmap-to-recovery-and-long-term-structural-change
  4. https://inequality.org/facts/inequality-and-covid-19/
  5. Free money might be the best way to end poverty, Washington Post, 2013 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/free-money-might-be-the-best-way-to-end-poverty/2013/12/29/679c8344-5ec8-11e3-95c2-13623eb2b0e1_story.html – heather upload article to 530 Ilearn site
  6. Report of 2020 Billionaires – https://ips-dc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Report-2020-Billionaires-Essential-Workers.pdf
  7. What Money Can Buy: The Promise of a universal basic income- and its limitations (Covert, 2011)
    • UBI has ancient roots. Sir Thomas More argued for it in Utopia in 1551.
    • Its recent resurgence stems from concerns about automation and AI
    • It now has widespread support
    • Arguments for why
      • Dramatically reduce poverty
        • Examples
          • Kenya: GiveDirectly NGO
      • 41 million americans living below poverty line in 2016
        • UBI would allow them to fill their unmet needs
      • UBI could be about a real American economic justice
        • No more making the poor submit to humiliation in order to receive benefits
      • UBI could be a more fair way to distribute the nation’s wealth
      • UBI could empower workers to walk away from bad jobs.
      • Federal jobs guarantee could solve many of the same problems.
    • In a recent interview, Yang said $1k is no longer enough and the UBI would need to be doubled (from a year ago), but that as the next Mayor of NYC he does not intend to launch UBI because of budget shortfalls.
      • My own opinion is that UBI tries and fails to address the fundamental problem of the decoupling of wages and the cost of living. Just like minimum wage increases, no one has proposed indexing UBI to cost of living. Therefore costs will simply adjust to consume the UBI, and then everyone will be paying $1k/more for the same things they’re paying for now, and then we will be right back where we started. All the same problems could be solved by automatically indexing regional minimum wage to consumer costs each year.
  8. “Energy Requirements for Decent Living in India, Brazil, and South Africa” – Narasimha D. RaoJihoon Min & Alessio Mastrucci
  9. The Politics of Bernie Sander’s “Medicare For All” (Cassidy, 2017)
  10. New Deal Type Stimulus Package for Job Creation -https://archive.curbed.com/2020/4/16/21223683/coronavirus-stimulus-unemployment-jobs-wpa-green-new-deal
  11. The Shockingly Simple, Surprisingly Cost-Effective Way to end Homelessness (Carrier, 2015)
  12. In Liberal San Francisco, Tech Leaders Brawl Over Tax Proposal to Aid Homeless (Conger, 2018)
  13. Eliminating Student Debt https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/why-biden-should-forgive-student-loan-debt/617171/
  14. Reparations – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/business/economy/reparations-slavery.html
  15. The People’s Budget: A Roadmap to Resistance (2018)

Videos:

  1. Why we should give everyone a basic income | Rutger Bregman | 17 minutes
  2. Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come | James Mulvale | 18 minutes

 KPFA Program January 2, 20 Radio Ecoshock, Nature and Energy, Yale University study https://www.ecoshock.org/2020/01/climate-good-news-and-bad.html start at 2:13 minutes

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT: DUE February 24th FOR SESSION FIVE

1) Go to: https://www.footprintcalculator.org/  and calculate your ecological footprint. Be prepared to discuss what you learned about your ecological footprint in class.

Session 3

Session Three: Healthy Cities Movement Framework and Information for Assignment #1 Due March 3, 2021

This session will focus on the “healthy cities movement”, a long-term international development initiative sponsored by the World Health Organization that places health high on the agenda of decision makers and promotes comprehensive local strategies for health protection and sustainable development in cities. The basic features of the healthy cities model include: community participation and empowerment, intersectional partnerships, and participant equity. The healthy cities movement defines a “healthy city” as: A city that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential. In this session we will address the following questions:

  1. What principles and values undergird the healthy cities initiative and movement?
  2. Can these principles and values guide us as we think about alternative urban futures?
  3. What can we learn about the future of cities from the healthy cities movement?
  4. What are the social determinants of health and why are they important for healthy cities?

Required Reading

  1. The Healthy Cities Movement: Working Paper For The Lancet Commission On Healthy Cities
  2. A Healthy City For All: Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy 2014-2025
  3. The Healthy Eating Plate https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2012/09/HEPJan2015.jpg
  4. CSA Community supported agriculture https://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Videos (SECRET DO NOT WATCH)

  1. WHO: Towards Making a Healthy City – 6 minutes
  2. Making The Connections: Our City, Our Society, Our Health  – (3.48 minutes)
  3. When Healthy Meets City | Marianne LeFever – 17 minutes
  4. NYC coalition against hunger csa fundraiser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-1z4eUpCY0

Notes

  • Healthy cities movement was founded by public health experts, not by urban planners.
  • Healthy cities movement takes public health needs of individuals and applies it to the urban context.
  •   Healthy cities model developed at a meeting in Ottowa
      • Human body needs;
        • low pollution
        • clean water
        • sufficient nutritious food
        • etc
      • Social determinants of health
        • access to adequate housing
        • access to healthcare
        • access to sufficient income
        • access to safe environment
        • etc
        • If you have these or dont have these then you will be more or less healthy vs ill
      • Peace: young black men were at greater risk of physical harm at home then at war
      • Shelter
      • Education that is free, adequate, available, and accessible to all
      • Food, enough and adequate
      • Income adequate to support a reasonable quality of life
      • clean air
      • sustainable resources
      • Social justice: people are not mistreated of discriminated against by those more powerful
      • Equity
    • Comprehensive view of health
      • education
      • diversity
      • inclusion
      • food security
      • health care
      • affordable housing
      • walkability
      • access to public transportation
      • good dispersion of green space
  • Healthy city wheel model from last week’s readingImage depicting Healthy Cities/Heathy Communities that includes the following phases in an elliptical graph: “Assemble a diverse and inclusive group; Generate a vision; Assess assets and resources and barriers; Prioritize issues; Develop a community-wide strategy; Implement the plan; Monitor and adjust your effort; Establish new systems to maintain/build on your gains, Celebrate benchmarks and successes; Tackle the next issue(s).”
    • Assemble a diverse and inclusive group
    • Create a vision
    • Assess assets, resources, and barriers
    • Prioritize issues
    • Develop a community-wide strategy
    • Implement the plan
    • Monitor and adjust your effort
    • Establish new systems to maintain/build on your gains
    • Celebrate benchmarks and successes
    • Tackle the next issue
  • For the assignment
    • Answer who is included in the group
      • Identify the ways they are not homogeneous
  • What factors drive the decisions urban decision makers consider
    • money
      • personal gain
      • how to attract businesses and employment
      • manage cities in ways that attract rich people
      • increase tax base
      • how to prevent getting sued
    • what ideologies are en vogue
    • legacy building
    • increase public safety
    • lulu siting/ nimbys
    • how to build a positive image of the city
  • what factors drive the decisions public health officials consider
    • access to clean water, air, food
    • income
    • shelter
    • environmental factors
    • education
    • conflict, violence, safety
    • stressors
    • indicators
      • vulnerability index
      • child health indicators

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT: DUE February 17th FOR SESSION FOUR

  1. Watch the video below and summarize what you learned from Prof Stiglitz and be prepared to share what you learned with the class Joseph Stiglitz “How Inequality In Today’s Society Endangers Our Future” (1 hour)
  2. Watch the video below and summarize the statistical information provided in the video and be prepared to share what you learned with the class The Insane Scale of Global Wealth Inequality Visualized, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caBDPFx2et4 (9 minutes)
  3.  Update the statistics on billionaires by going to the website inequality.org update and be prepared to share what you learned with the class

Session 2

Session Two: Principles, Values, and the Future of Cities

February 3rd

Review

  • What makes a good city
    •  Thomas
      • Affordable housing
      • Diverse forms of travel
      • Actively democratic
      • Environmental accountability
    • Mariegail
      • Equitable distribution of services and goods like healthcare and housing
      • Sustainability
      • Walkability
      • Everyone’s basic needs are met
    • Tammy
      • Accessible library system
      • Accessible public transit
      • Affordable housing
      • No food deserts
      • No digital divide
      • Open public spaces
      • Quality education systems
      • Renewable energy infrastructure
      • No racist land use policy
    • Madjeid
      • Happy children
      • No traffic
      • Sustainable density
      • Social justice
      • Environmentally responsible/ accountable
    • Marcus
      • Clean water
      • Oversight board for human rights commissions
      • Support for elderly population
      • Draw for young people from rural areas
      • Professional sports
    • Gustavo
      • Integrated neighborhoods (Racially/ socioeconomically)
    • Malik
      • Helping neighborhoods that need help
    • Joshua
      • Living wages
      • Accessible, human-centered transit
      • Community culture, not individual culture
      • Localized power grid
      • Income-based affordable housing
      • Public banks
    • Raquel
      • Support for arts and cultures
      • No prisons, jails, or juvenile centers: prison abolition
      • No differentiation by immigration status
      • No discrimination
    • Ann
      • Zero waste
      • Resource recovery
    • Brian
      • Regional solidarity
      • Regional public health coordination
  • What principles/ approaches
    • Cooperation
    • Respect
    • Global Community
    • Benefits of sharing/ multiculturalism
    • Society needs healthy children

New Content

  • Principles are rules or beliefs that govern our actions
  • Values are things you think are important or not important which inform behavior
  • Obscure, solidify, reify the power dynamic
  • Policies are based on values
    • Policies reflect who has more power
  • Professor wants us to think about policies and laws and zoning codes that get embedded on the books as values.
    • Because she wants us to understand that everything that happens is the result of power dynamics.
  • Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.

This session will focus on the principles and values that inform student’s analysis of urban conditions and on what students hope to see in cities of the future. The following questions will guide our discussion – in 8 breakout rooms, one group for each question:

  1. What principles and values can guide us as we examine and envision alternative models and scenarios for the future of cities?
  2. How can the principles developed by the Black Lives Matter activists inform our principles?
  3. To what extent can social and economic change be planned?
  4. Who should be responsible for determining the direction of change in cities?
  5. Where and when should people be proactive in pushing for change?
  6. How can cities and metropolitan regions be reorganized to produce urban futures that are more sustainable, equitable, and livable?
  7. What are the impacts of increasing inequality in the United States?
  8. When we focus on alternative urban futures, how important is it to focus on large scale dynamics related to the structure of society and the economy?

Required Reading:

Study the website below:
https://www.hok.com/news/2020-02/the-city-of-the-future-will-be-shaped-by-these-7-factors/

Video:

Three Roles Cities Play in Building a Sustainable Future – 2 minutes
Inclusive, resilient, productive, livable, sustainable

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT DUE February 10th

FIRST: Write down all the characteristics you associate with the idea of a “healthy” city.

  • Access to sufficient food
  • Access to sufficient water
  • Access to sufficient housing
  • Clean air
  • Free universal healthcare

After you make your list answer these two questions: What are the measurements you would use to document a healthy city? How do you think urban authorities can promote a healthy city?

  1. Percent unhoused population
  2. AQI and other metrics of air quality
  3. Randomized checks of water quality
  4. Longitudinal analyses of food deserts and swamps

SECOND: Review the website below and be prepared to discuss what you learned from watching the video.

Videos

  1. 7 Principles for Building Better Cities | Peter Calthorpe (14 minutes)
  2. Sustainable Development in Brazil – (21 minutes)

Session 1

January 27th
Session One:

Part One: Introductions, review syllabus, grading, and Zoom policies.

  • Cities are planned by
    • urban planners
    • city government
    • state government
    • national government
    • developers – non-profit/ for profit
    • social movements
    • lobbying, special interests
  • how do people with less social power relate to groups with more social power

Part Two: Discussion focused on concerns, challenges, and hopes for the future of cities. Class discussion for Part Two guided by the questions below into 9 breakout rooms (one for each question):

  1. What do you think of when you hear the term “alternative urban futures”?
    • the realization that sustainability does not have an alternative that you can survive
  2. What are your most significant concerns for the future of cities?
    • urban sprawl
    • “overpopulation”
    • better transit
    • affordable housing
    • people leaving the cities
    • housing
    • sustainable income
    • urban sprawl
    • empty cities
    • crime
    • access to resources
    • urban decay
    • housing quality
    • affordable housing
    • urban density
    • climate change
    • equity
    • corporate dominance
  3. What are the most significant challenges facing the future of cities?
  4. How would you prioritize what you think needs to change to improve quality of life in cities?
  5. What policies and programs do you think are working well in cities?
  6. What changes, policies and programs do you think would improve quality of life for people living in cities?
  7. What do you think would prevent these changes from happening?
  8. What do you think would make it more likely that these changes could occur?
  9. What strategies can urban residents use to promote change in urban areas?
  10.  How do we define: Inclusive, Resilient, Productive, Livable, Sustainable

Video:

Part II “A Message from the Future II: The Years of Repair – 7.36 minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2m8YACFJlMg

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT DUE: February 3rd

FIRST: Create two lists. On the first list, write down all of the characteristics you associate with a “good” city. On the second list, write down all of the principles and values that influenced how you thought about and determined the characteristics you associate with a “good” city?

  • A good city
    • Is safe (Implements resident stewardship and community-based policing.)
    • Provides for the basic needs of its people (sufficient shelter, food, water, public restrooms, etc)
    • Has enough affordable housing for everyone
    • Resists gentrification and displacement
    • Housing is held by the public and planned/subsidized to be sustainable and available in sufficient quantities for all who need it
    • Consumes less of everything
    • Centers people instead of cars
  • Principles and values
    • Sustainable power, water, and food systems
    • Resource sovereignty
    • Housing is affordable and accessible to all
    • Anti-gentrification
    • De-growth
    • Transit oriented development

NEXT: Watch the video below and write down the ways in which this city reflects or does not reflect the list you created of the principles and values that influenced how you thought about and determined the characteristics you associate with a “good” city?

  • Does
    • Enough housing in Songdu
    • Cities like Seoul, Singapore, and Paris are choosing to get rid of highways and replace them with green spaces that center people instead of cars.
    • Almost no one owns cars in Singapore
    • Electric rickshaws are free in Santiago
    • Shanghai hides cars in underground tunnels
    • Reykjavik uses geothermal energy
    • Lima uses air wells
    • Dr Jockin of Slum Dwellers International built a million improvised shelters for people living in slums in 43 countries
      • Also built recycling programs
    • 82% of people in Singapore live in public housing
    • Denmark has 150% tax on all car purchases
  • Does not
    • Private housing in Songdu
    • Neoliberal capitalist solutions in Detroit to the failure of the city to deliver the most basic essentials like water
    • Shenzhen centers cars with giant highways
    • Cheaper in Shenzhen to drive to a supermarket and buy food from thousands of miles away than to use transit to get to a farmers market and buy local food
    • US teaches others that subsidizing cars is a good idea
    • Many architects have a pre-designed approach that they force onto whatever place they get to, rather than listening to what the people there actually want and need.

The Future of Cities – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOWk5yCMMs (18 minutes)

USP 514 Term Paper

USP 514 – Sustainable Development

Term Paper

  1. Summarize what you learned from each and every session in this course. You are required to refer to each session separately and individually with the name of the session on top of each part of your answer.

 

Session 1 “Introduction”

There was a lot of metacommentary in this session. We talked about how to talk about the topics. We learned for the first time that the professor preferred students to interject and interrupt, rather than using tools like “raise hands” on zoom. This made me think about which student groups in the class are privileged by this policy and which are marginalized. I had previously taken a class on the topic of the way that professors set expectations in classes which typically favor extroverts and make things harder for introverts. This seemed like a good example of that.

We also learned that the professor would be requiring everyone to attend class synchronously without recordings to refer back to. At this point the professor indicated that during the spring semester, nearly all the black students had dropped as a result of these and other policies in this class. This comment was what inspired me to reach out to CFA (California Faculty Association), SFSU RRS (Race and Resistance Studies Department), and other organizations in order to set up a service-learning internship next year. I will be researching the topic of how choices by professors in different departments have led to different outcomes for the success of students in marginalized populations during the covid pandemic.

We also learned about one another’s expectations for a safe classroom such as “speaking from I,” allowing people to articulate their point before reacting, and as one student put it, “appreciating one another’s valid subjective opinions even when they’re different.” We finished the first day of this session with an open discussion where the professor asked everyone to explain what they think sustainable development is, and then the professor explained that none of us know what sustainable development is. This is when I learned that the tone of the class would be deeply ideological, with all references to the personal beliefs of the professor portrayed as absolute facts from a universal and objective perspective, rather than within the broader dialectical context of the many valid alternatives to each conclusion offered. Given the context of the previous comment about institutionally racist policies in the class, and the disregard for ameliorating the outcome of “all black students dropping,” plus the fact that this comment came just after a discussion about respecting people’s subjective experience, I almost dropped the class at this point because I find it difficult to have patience when claims are presented this way. It did lead to many tense moments later on, but I’m glad I stuck around because we ended up learning many interesting things as we will see on future pages.

This session was split into two days. On the second day, we discussed the top challenges and “to-dos” within this field and around the world. The mention of reducing consumption motivated me to think more deeply about previous research I had done on de-growth and sent me into a podcast spiral where I learned a lot more about this idea and later presented these findings in class. We also discussed the way social justice is fundamental to the implementation of the solutions to these challenges. I think this was the first time I had reflected on the implementation of infrastructure policy as a means for ameliorating disparate impact. This would become a major theme of the class later on.

We also discussed the definition and foals of development and sustainable development. We learned for the first time several foundational concepts that we would be using in this class. First, that sustainable development considers the externalities of the development process and tries to internalize them or minimize them. This motivated me to reflect on past environmental justice classes I’ve taken and notice that regeneratively was absent from the discourse in this class. The concept of sustainability in this class seemed to lack the idea of doing more than just “being possible to sustain” and going beyond that to actually regenerate what has been lost in order to ameliorate disparate impact as an externality of past unsustainability. I learned and noted this limitation of the sustainable development concept as presented.

 

Session 2 “Challenges in Cities Around the World”

We started by reading about the ten most important issues facing cities according to their mayors. The most significant thing I learned that BRT was widely seen as a good option in place of higher volume and higher sex-appeal modes of transportation like light rail. This was in conflict with what I learned in the Urban Planning classes I had taken at Portland State University where I had learned that affluent American communities generally refuse to adopt bus systems because they view them as an option for poor people. Learning about this different perspective on BRT opened my eyes to the possibilities of BRT which we would learn more about later on.

We also read about five big challenges facing cities around the world. Three of these in particular struck me as highly salient as I watched my cohort continue to lose its diversity; the intersection of environmental threats like pandemics with technology and inequality. One example given in the reading was education and the lack of internet infrastructure in marginalized communities. This motivated me to think more deeply about what was happening to my missing BIPOC classmates.

I really enjoyed reading the five toughest challenges facing cities. In particular the piece about the extreme need for agriculture innovation motivated me to think more deeply about xericulture and desertification, the democratization of food production, and the tipping point we are rapidly approaching when our messy system will suddenly become a totally untenable system. I wrote several essays exploring these issues in greater depth and learned a lot from the rabbit trail this reading sent me on.

 

Session 3 “Urban Design Principles”

One of the first things we learned from the readings in this session was that urban design should start by engaging the community to learn what they actually need and want. It’s easy to find examples where this has not happened, and gentrification is basically the epitome of not doing this. Instead of displacing, demolishing, and otherwise gentrifying communities, we learned that we should start by reaching out to the people who actually live in communities to close knowledge gaps and learn what kind of urban design they actually want and need. We learned that these findings should be quantitative and empirical.

I liked the phrase from the reading, “Opportunities come from overlap,” discussing how nonprofits working together can produce the kind of local change that communities want and need based on the values of the nonprofits and their outreach to the communities they serve. I really liked this concept. This motivated me to think more deeply about the opportunity for housing partnerships at the community level between nonprofits which represent the interests of communities rather than luxury condo developers. I had heard a lot about TLDC (Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation) but that’s only one part of the city. As a nonprofit whose mission is affordable housing in their community, they stand as one element in the set of overlapping organizations which produce the kind of opportunities the reading was describing. I was curious why other neighborhoods don’t have some analog of TLDC, so I reached out and met with several of the boards of directors for the arts districts in San Francisco. All of them highlighted that they are trying to launch NDCs or Neighborhood Development Corporations for their respective districts in order to create the missing partner that could fulfill this ideal from the reading in their communities.

I also reflected on the concept from the reading that reducing transit time adds value for people in cities. This motivated me to reflect on the fact that one of the central concepts of The Portland Plan was measuring the commute time for people in different districts with regular surveys, and then leveraging light rail infrastructure to reduce the commute time across the city to meet the plan’s goal. This is just a night and day difference from the bay area, where there is just no broad regional transit planning on any functional or sane level.

We learned that “Urban design is the entire set of processes that go into creating an urban space.” And we broke this out into class discussion of the points I already mentioned above. This class was also the first time I had heard the NIMBY alternative term BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. Lastly I believe this class was the first time the concept of not sacrificing long-term interests in favor of short-term interests was introduced. This motivated me to reflect on my degree in social justice, and the concept of the bad patriarchal bargain from second-wave feminism. This is essentially the same argument but about workplace sexual harassment; women in the workplace had previously been socialized to expect groping, catcalling, etc from male coworkers in exchange for being allowed to work, but second-wave feminism rose up to interrupt this widely-held belief by calling it a ‘bad patriarchal bargain” because in the long-term, it hurt women, despite presenting the appearance of some short-term employment benefits.

 

Session 4 “Sustainable Development in Historical Context”

This class was framed in the context of post-war economics in America. It was a very interesting way to frame this topic. America came out of WW2 as the only intact industrial power. This was followed by a long period of reconstruction in the rest of what had previously been the developed world. This period of industrial reconstruction gave America a huge but temporary manufacturing advantage. This advantage was leveraged to create new global institutions like the UN and the international banking and finance system including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and two other now defunct institutions. These new institutions were intended to leverage the long period of industrial reconstruction in order to give the US ultimate and enduring economic power around the world and to prevent any other nation from ever challenging them again.

We learned that the new US-based global financial system gave out loans and aid with extremely pro-US contingencies such as structural adjustment which transferred ownership of public institutions around the world to wealthy US investors while also saddling those nations with immense and functionally eternal debt. This is also the point at which the US built hundreds of military bases all over the world in order to occupy essentially every nation and leverage direct military control in addition to economic control.

We also learned about the rise of the Chicago school/ neoliberalism/ neoclassical economics at the same time. Reactionary capitalist demagogues like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher dismantled the social safety nets, enshrined the wealth gap into public policy, and set us on course to most of the widespread economic crises we face today. We learned that these demagogues popularized the idea that natural resources were infinite and we should maximize exploitation and cut down or burn everything we can find in order to unleash unlimited eternal capitalist growth. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on whether any informed person could have ever really believed this, and whether it was always a bad faith argument from the neoliberals because they knew they would be dead before the real problems arose.

We learned about the Brundtland Commission and the UN’s decision to define the goal of sustainable development not in terms of eternal and unlimited economic growth as the neoliberals had, but rather as working to improve quality of life for the people. This is still considered radical by the neoliberals decades later. Brundtland’s expanded concept made me reflect on my past notes about the bad patriarchal bargain and second-wave feminism, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.”

We also learned the professor’s personal definition for this class, “The term sustainable development is used differently by different groups and organizations. In this class we will use the term to encompass urban planning and policy approaches that can be used to minimize a city’s negative impact on the environment while providing urban residents with the infrastructure and services they need to sustain a high quality of urban life.”

This motivated me to reflect back to my previous critique of the lack of focus on regenerativity. For example, if we “minimize” the ongoing destruction of the ice caps and rainforests, that does nothing to replace what has been lost, or to move towards a future homeostasis that will allow us to avoid human extinction. We are in a car with a foot on the gas pedal and the car is already so far past the edge of the cliff that moving the foot to the brake pedal just does not strike me a serious response to the situation we face.

We also learned the definitions of the triple bottom line and learned two mnemonics. First the three Es (Economy, Environment, Equity), and second the three Ps (Profit, Planet, People). This was part of a discussion on the legacy of the Brundtland Commission. Today we have a list of 17 UN SDGs with hundreds of subcategories explaining how to talk about the problems which sustainable development around the world is trying to solve. This motivated me to reflect on a conversation I had several years ago with a friend who is an environmental M&A consultant. It’s been a major challenge for decades for quantitative analysts, actuaries, and other industry professionals to articulate arguments about sustainability because there was no common set of terms and priorities and no common understanding of how to measure sustainability when analyzing a particular stock, bond, etc. This led to many loosely equivalent sets of priorities and measurements among institutional lenders, pension funds, etc. But now with the SDGs, a widespread consensus has emerged and even reached the point that ETFs are being sold by companies like Vanguard which mimic the makeup of indices like the S&P, only with more sustainable alternatives to the S&P companies. This means these ETFs actually outperform the S&P, and creates a huge dual financial incentive for corporations to improve sustainability under the context of the SDGs while also demonstrative the incentive for investment capital to move to those more sustainable alternatives to unsustainable incumbent institutions.

The class did not reach many of the points in the session outline, but one interesting thing I learned from a reading we did not cover is that the definition of the Anthropocene era in geological terms is the presence of radioisotopes in soil strata, because of humanity’s historical proclivity for detonating hundreds of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.

We did discuss the legacy of slavery in Haiti and the way that the international community forced the freed slaves to reimburse the French slavers who had enslaved them after the revolution. I had not previously heard about this, and it motivated me to reflect more deeply on the way that this situation closely mirrors the US-centered global financial system’s efforts to do basically the same thing to all the countries of the world through QE, contingent loans, etc.

During this session, we also learned for the first time about the distinction between the double bottom line and the triple bottom line; that distinction being social justice. Without social justice, environmental and economic progress are not valid, they are just green capitalism. The people most affected by environmental and economic crises are the same people who are left out when social justice is not a part of the plan. These three parts of the triple bottom line are tightly linked together. We later saw the professor reject one student presentation for this very reason. The development in the presentation was green and profitable but it was for rich people, not for people; it satisfied the double bottom line but not the triple bottom line.

We also briefly touched on the difference between economic and ecological cities. I had not previously heard these terms contrasted in this way but it struck me as a perfect example of SF vs Portland. An economic city prioritizes cars, wealth for the wealthy, maximum housing prices, regressive transit prices, and allowing wealthy developers to violate the law with only trivial fines; this is San Francisco in a nutshell. In contrast, an ecological city makes it inconvenient and expensive to use cars instead of transit, it prioritizes affordable housing and refuses to allow developers to violate the law with impunity; Portland in a Nutshell.

Lastly, we learned the class definition of Equitable Development, “Equitable development is an approach for meeting the needs of underserved communities through policies and programs that reduce disparities while fostering places that are healthy and vibrant. It is increasingly considered a strong place-based action for creating strong and livable communities.” This tied in with shock doctrine and the way that things are changing today because of covid, the collapse of the biosphere, the wildfires, the jobs and housing crises, and all the other disasters we are enduring simultaneously. The example was given of the Oakland Moms saga, and the exciting progress that has started happening for housing affordability in Oakland.

 

Session 5 “Equitable Sustainable Development”

The class skipped this session, but I had already done all the work so I’ll talk about what I learned even though this session didn’t actually happen.

In the ted talk with Stiglitz, I learned about the case study of the town of Gary Indiana which parallels the economic story of the larger country. We learned about the example of rent-seekers as a way to critically analyze issues like poverty, inequality, and discrimination not only in Gary but also in the broader national economic context. The example that Stiglitz gives is that of a pie. The problem with the Chicago/ neoliberal/ neoclassical economic perspective is that while the smallest players work to make the pie larger, the largest players work to get a larger slice of the pie without making the pie larger. Stiglitz effect is not just that most of the wealth goes to the right, but that essentially no new wealth is created, and therefore over time there is a widespread redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.

I had not heard this concept phrased this way before and it caused to reflect more deeply on Marx’s Crisis Theory and the way that countervailing forces must build up a certain momentum until a crisis, when they can finally overpower prevailing forces. The current economic situation and wealth distribution is not tenable. It will change one way or another.

Stiglitz points out that the problems multiply because for example only wealthy people have access to education, and therefore entire generations are forced into castes with essentially no potential for vertical mobility, and essentially no one doing better now than their parents were doing at their age. This argument makes sense and gave me a lot to think about.

Stiglitz finishes with the claim that in the past, we have faced many other crises and always pulled back from the bring. He suggests that we must do that again. This caused me to reflect on how that might be possible, and conclude that it seems extremely unlikely that neoliberalism will somehow address these crises that are in reality a product and side-effect of neoliberalism itself.

 

Session 6 “Sustainable Development for Whom?”

In this session, we learned about what the green economy is; a way of describing the cause of our sustainability problems – neoliberalism – as somehow actually the solution to these problems while also ignoring the social justice aspect of the triple bottom line. In short, the green economy fulfills merely the double bottom line instead.

We learned from the reading “Sustainable Development for Whom,” that the Franciscans were arguing for a new definition of Sustainable Development. Their core claim was that while SD often advertises itself as beneficial for everyone, it’s generally not. This caused me to reflect on the lessons of Session 4 on the difference between the double bottom line and the triple bottom line. In fact, argue the Franciscans, there are a set of myths that undergird the idea that economic development is always positive. Chief among these myths is the claim that people who live in subsistence economies are somehow backwards or uncivilized.

In reality as we learned in class, this is basically the opposite of the truth. People in subsistence economies are far more resilient to economic crises than those who rely on global supply chains for things like food and water. We also learned that people in subsistence economies have far more free time for art, family, and enjoying life. This mirrors the Brundtland argument that quality of life is more important than economic growth, and from that perspective, a subsistence farmer is actually living a more sustainable life than someone working 40 hours a week under fluorescent lights in a cubicle and relying on Walmart for their meals.

Next we read and discussed, “Green Economy – The Next Oxymoron?” I really enjoyed this reading. In particular I pasted in bold the following quote into my notes, “the concept of a green economy seems to promise an attractive orientation out of the crisis of neoliberalism that became manifest in 2008 and has hit vulnerable countries and social groups.” Of course, as we already learned, this is the opposite of the truth. Focusing on economic growth within the context of environmental sustainability leaves out the fact that neo-liberalism is the cause of social injustice not just under solutions like “The Green Economy,” but also under the widespread conditions that need solving. Neoliberalism is not the solution to neoliberalism.

A better solution we learned about in the article is De-Growth. I gave the example in class that the oxymoron here is like saying “The solution to climate change is to buy Teslas or Priuses” when in reality the solution is to end cars. There is no product to buy to solve the problem of buying too many products. Instead, we need to buy less, consume less, grow economies less, and stop turning to the problem like it’s somehow actually the solution

Other solutions proposed in this article include internalizing externalities into product prices. The professor gave the gas pricing example; if gas was priced to include all its costs, it would be more than ten times the price it is now. This should be true for all products, because as we learned in the class discussion, these costs are today merely being paid by people in developing countries who are forced to foot the bill while we see steep discounts for the products we buy.

 

Session 7 “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Plans”

At last, the SDGs! In this session we learned about the current set of sustainable development goals from the UN. I won’t list them out here since for me this is not something I am learning about in this session. I have hosted book clubs and taught workshops about this topic in the past, and the instructions say we’re only supposed to talk in this essay about what we learned.

In the reading “Cities Are the Environmental Solution, Not the Problem,” I learned that the US’ population is projected to grow by about a third in the next two decades. This caused me to reflect on how slow our population growth is compared to other countries seeing much higher growth, and particularly in the context of our anti-immigration stance despite our responsibility for many of the humanitarian crises causing mass migration.

The article goes on to argue that we must reinvest in cities, making them a place where the tens of millions of new Americans will be able to live. This led me to reflect on the RHNA forecasts for the bay area. Many of the cities in the bay area are currently forecasting that they will meet their 2016 housing needs in just a few centuries, with some forecasts saying it will take up to eight hundred years to meet their 2016 housing needs based on their current rate of development. A lot is going to change one way or another because a hundred million people are going to have to live somewhere.

 

Session 8 “Urban Infrastructure”

We learned that we will use the World Bank definition of Urban Infrastructure in this class, “Infrastructure refers to the long-lived engineered structures, equipment, facilities, and services that are used by economic production and by household.” The professor elaborated that long-lived means more than fifty years and engineered means using modern technologies.

We were asked to reflect on our Assignment 1 submissions and list the things we did not think to include. Mine were parks, post offices, and factories, though none of these are present in my neighborhood as we are deep within decaying 1950s sprawl here.

There was also a lengthy and passionate discussion about the problems with Assignment 1. There were a number of undeclared expectations for the assignment which naturally no one fulfilled. I checked with several other students and confirmed that we did not cover the material from the course outline, and skipped this session just like session 5.

 

Session 9 “Sustainable Urban Water Management”

In the homework for this session, we learned about the topic by logging all the ways we used water on a daily basis and then discussing it together. I was surprised to learn how much less water I use on a daily basis than others. This seemed to highlight the fact that we need to all be consuming a lot less. There was a discussion about the embodied water cost of buying manufactured goods, plus the distribution chains before and after manufacturing as well as the sourcing of the materials.

We learned from Dr Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy’s Ted Talk about when the Dr went home to Sri Lanka after a Tsunami to help them recover, specializing in water and sanitation services. We learned about the religious connotations of water in the culture of Sri Lanka where water is considered sacred and loved. We heard a story about how because of the extreme scarcity of water in Sri Lanka, the families must work to reuse water multiple times for things like drinking and washing vegetables, then washing clothes and the floors, then watering plants. The Dr described Sri Lankans as having a custodial relationship with water.

The takeaway principles we learned are doing more with less because every drop is valuable and no water can be wasted; all water must be reused. This caused me to reflect on xericulture subsistence farming in places like Taos, where Earthships with rainwater capture systems allow people’s earthen homes to contain large greenhouses which grow food crops while also regulating temperature and providing humidity for healthier air. With 2/3 of the US forecast to desertify within a few decades, this is going to be a skill we all need to learn. Another principle we learned in this discussion is that all water is good water and merely needs to be matched with an appropriate use rather than discarded.

We learned that fresh water is distributed inequitably around the planet. This was the first time I had heard the statistic that 97% of Earth’s water is salinated with just 1% available as fresh water and a further 2% locked in the ice caps.

We also learned about the way that urbanization, industrialization and economic activity destroys fresh water supplies by polluting, salinating, or otherwise contaminating fresh water. We also learned about aquifer collapse which I had not previously heard about. I did further research on this topic and learned that until very recently, the entire San Joaquin Valley was an inland lake. After a series of fairly recent cataclysmic geological shifts, it dried up, and has been desertifying ever since. Within the last century, the last parts of the valley which had still been lakes were deliberately drained to create agricultural land, leading to an acceleration in desertification and an end to the last remaining sources of evaporation which had fed rainfall in the Sierras. This would have been interesting information to include in this session since it highlights the fact that basically all of the disasters we face today are our own doing, and that most of them can not be undone at this point no matter how hard we try.

 

Session 10 “Sustainable Urban Waste Management”

In this session, we talked about the different kinds of waste which must be managed in an urban setting. This led to a discussion of waste management strategies and the social and environmental impacts of these strategies. I learned for the first time that all breastmilk on Earth now contains dioxin, and I learned that this is the most toxic substance known to exist. I also learned that the waste stream is becoming more toxic as long-lived inorganic substances continue to accumulate.

This was also the first day we learned about the professor’s conceptual hierarchy of terms with “approach” being the highest and most broad category. In this case, we talked about the urgency of moving to a resource recovery approach rather than a waste management approach. We learned that currently, 40% of the waste going into landfills could be composted. This alone presents a huge opportunity to divert and recover these valuable resources which are currently going to waste.

We also learned for the first time about the concepts of cradle to grave and cradle to cradle. For example, if there is no safe way to dispose of a product because it is toxic, then maybe we shouldn’t make it; if there is no plan for the grave, then why are you planning the cradle? Conversely, a good cradle to cradle example would be closing the loops for inputs and outputs; dead plant matter can be composted to feed future plants.

We also learned about RRRR or reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. This incorporates similar principles but adds the idea of de-growth. For example, today most of the food we grow goes to waste. Why are we growing all that extra food? Because the system is inefficient. There are lots of problematic side effects to growing more than we consume while also consuming more than we need. We can do all four Rs, just with food.

We learned about upcycling and downcycling. Upcycling is basically thrift stores or something like that where we can reuse things for new purposes instead of disposing of them. Downcycling means deconstructing things to reuse them for their raw materials, such as plastic or metal.

One topic we learned about in the book but not in the class discussion for this session was the idea of putting the responsibility for pollution, disposal, and recycling on both consumers and producers. So for example, we have CRV on cans and bottles, but that’s only on consumers and it’s not clear that it’s enough to actually incentivize recycling. Maybe it would make sense to have a much higher CRV plus internalizing the cost of recycling in the price that producers charge, so that they are paying the cost of later recycling the materials.

In the video “Story of Stuff” there was a lot of interesting statistics about the topic. One that I found fascinating was the fact that 80% of the forests are now gone. This is sort of terrifying and I had no idea this number was so high. Another interesting fact is that while only 5% of the world’s population lives in the US, we consume 30% of the world’s resources and produce 30% of the world’s waste. It keeps going back to the RRRR. We need to consume less and take better care with the way our outputs are managed in close loops.

 

Session 11 “Sustainable Transportation Management”

In this class we made a very long list of all the types of transportation that we could think of. We also discussed progressive vs regressive ticket pricing. I was a little frustrated with the conclusions we reached so I reached out to a friend who is a Principal Transportation Planner to learn more about the practice related to this topic. He seemed to agree, feeling that progressive ticketing has a low impact on ridership, where better routes and service will have a higher impact and be a better target for new spending, but I keep going back to the point that was repeatedly made in class, that economic concerns are not the only concerns and just because it makes economic sense does not mean it’s the right thing to do. I look forward to taking transportation planning in the fall and learning and reflecting more on this important topic.

We also learned about legitimate reasons for using cars which I had not really reflected on before. For example, people with disabilities or anxiety disorders could ethically argue that cars are a better option for them.

We learned about the Fruitvale development. I had heard about this but not in this much depth. I have always been very interested in Transit Oriented Development, but this class really got me to reflect deeply on this topic for the first time. It seems like a very compelling opportunity for high density projects just like we saw in Curitiba along the arterials. It makes sense as a parallel.

It was also very interesting to learn about the Curitiba BRT system in the YouTube video we watched. I had always heard BRT described as a half-measure that rich people would not adopt. It was interesting to see a whole city built on BRT and with such high ridership. This caused me to reflect on whether what I’ve heard about BRT was potentially inaccurate or incomplete. The idea of doing elevated platforms with people paying before they get on seems particularly helpful for the speed of the system. It will be interesting to see how BRT works out for the new East Bay BRT line.

The line that stuck with me most from the Curitiba case study was “Adding population without adding infrastructure and planning to support the additional population will result in a lower quality of life and an increase in social problems in the city.” This seems to be close to where we are at today in America. The idea that we are already in such a housing crisis plus we are adding another 70 million people in the next few decades presents similar sorts of challenges to what this quote is talking about. We will either make changes now or we will make them later, but the way things are just isn’t going to keep working.

One thing that raised my eyebrows in this case study was in “Bogota: Building a Sustainable City”(3:15-5:20) when Penolosa seemed to argue for broken windows theory; that people will decide what kind of life to have based on their surroundings, and so eliminating the negative cues about the kind of neighborhoods you have will cause people to choose to live in a better way. He said this gave people more self esteem which solved urban social problems. This idea is directly responsible for a huge number of social problems in America. I have repeatedly reflected deeply on this segment of the video since we watched it. I think it would take a great deal of research to reconcile these arguments, and I may do that at some future point.

We also learned about the problem of connecting centers rather than connecting people to where they need to go. This problem seems like one of the most challenging unresolved issues in urban design; how can you build infrastructure for the future when the future is in flux? The example of the Chicago trains radiating like wheels on a spoke was very interesting. When the system was built, it made sense, but today most people are commuting from one suburb to another and there is effectively no simple and fast transit option for them using the existing infrastructure.

 

Session 12 “Sustainable Urban Energy Management”

In this class we talked about energy types and sources. We learned about some interesting anecdotes. For example, the story of Moreno glass blowers switching from biomass to coal in the fourteenth century was interesting. They were able to do more work, but with the negative side-effect of an increase in pollution.

We also learned about the asymmetry of future consumption growth in developing nations. The United States uses a lot of power per person compared to developing countries. This means two things. First, the US needs to move to more sustainable energy sources through government subsidies and investment in a green smart power grid. Secondly, the global south is currently not electrified like the global north is. We need to help developing nations produce more-expensive renewable energy instead of allowing them to make the same unsustainable mistakes we did by burning coal to power their development. We also learned that aside from the fact that burning fossil fuels for energy exposes the population to the equivalent of six packs of cigarettes per day, the biosphere can’t handle the CO2 that would be produced during this process.

Based on this fact, we learned about how energy infrastructure development is currently being funded around the world. Bonds and government investment are basically it. So we need better policies around how they make those decisions in order to move to things like photovoltaic instead of coal.

 

Session 13 “Cost Benefit Analysis and Precautionary Principle”

This was an interesting session. We learned about two alternate approaches to evaluating the relative good and bad between different options in urban planning: cost benefit analyses versus the precautionary principle.

In the first reading, Pricing the Priceless, we learned about the principle of cost benefit analysis analyzed through the perspective of a moral argument about society. The claim of the paper was that a cost benefit analysis offers a deeply flawed method which biases economic value above all other concerns. Within this framework, there is no way to argue for social most justice issues and environmental issues, because there is no clear, direct economic measure to compare with these kinds of concerns. On the other hand, some social justice and environmental issues can be addressed under this framework. If we have a long-term financial incentive not to destroy the biosphere, then there is a rational cost-benefit reason not to do that. If it’s cheaper to give homeless people housing, then there is a rational cost-benefit reason to do that.

In the second reading, The Precautionary Principle Puts Value First, we learned about the precautionary principle which argues that rather than basing decisions on economic interests, we should require evidence for a lack of potential harm from those entities who wish to undertake any action in society. It argues that instead of just being a profitable endeavor, products and enterprises should have to demonstrate proof that they will not harm people in the process of what they want to do.

The way this dichotomy was presented led me to reflect on whether this is a true dichotomy or perhaps rather a case of people with different epistemologies talking past each other. Both of these concepts are based on different ideas about how to decide what’s true and right, and both of these concepts have problems. The cost-benefit analysis is often the only possible language which our institutions and businesses can legally interact with. Maybe that should change, but it’s not clear that the precautionary principle is up to the task, based on the readings.

It’s not possible to prove a negative. The idea that every entity should be required to prove it will not cause harm before taking any action would not only be logically impossible but also essentially outlaw all harms. Certainly there are egregious harms from some entities which should be addressed, but a certain amount of risk is part of life. If I want to open a café, how can I possibly prove that I will harm no one? What degree of risk is acceptable? Should we institute a worldwide ban all products containing peanuts because of the risk to someone with an unknown allergy? Under the precautionary principle as stated in this class, yes we should.

This session poses a false dichotomy where neither option works all the time. The missing attempt at reconciling these ideas leaves any underlying truth uninterrogated and demonstrates only that neither of these options works in all situations, while only one of them can even approach those with the power to actually make decisions on these topics. Towards the end of the session, the professor said we “should be thinking conceptually rather than theoretically or practically.” Indeed, that’s the only way I can rationalize the argument made by session is by starting with the assumption that’s right and not thinking too deeply about it.

 

Session 14 “Green New Deal”

In this session’s first reading, “Blueprint for Europe’s Just Transition,” we learned that austerity can not be a solution to the collapse of the biosphere. In fact, progress of any kind of expensive, and you can’t get progress with austerity. There are many related side effects which are both cause and effect of the biosphere’s collapse. These include economic inequality and the collapse of democracies.

Tying back to earlier sessions, we learn that the blueprint calls for community-level outreach and action supported at the federal level through spending by federal and global governments and institutions. The blueprint argues that this can facilitate “a just transition” to a sustainable future which simultaneously resolves the causes and effects of the collapse of the biosphere, while mitigating the worst effects of climate change and preserving some kind of possible future for humanity.

I was excited to learn that one of the main points of this plan is moving to a 4-day work week with a 3-day weekend while maintaining livable wages. It was a surprise to learn that the plan also includes a basic income for people in industries being phased out, in order to help them retrain for a new sustainable career.

In the second reading, “Green New Deal Report, Data for Progress,” I was surprised to learn that the GND is actually quite popular among Americans. It made me reflect on the way these goals would impact America, and it makes sense when you consider that the most popular career in most states is truck driving and there are already many companies with self-driving trucks on the road. The GND could solve many of America’s problems while helping push many of our problems in the right direction.

We also watched a video called “The Green New Deal: Putting the climate at the heart of global policy” in which we learned that insect and animal populations are already collapsing around the world. I was excited to learn that this source also contained the argument that GND policies need to be implemented at the community level with lots of outreach. It strikes me that democratizing the GND in this way would allow private capital and investment money to buy into some of the efforts, creating a whole new green startup industry dedicated to doing ethical work preserving communities around the nation and around the world. Imagine tech bros competing to do the most good for once?

It was also interesting to learn that the GND would be the first ever attempt to meet the scale of the challenges of the climate crisis. This fact caused me to reflect on the terrifying fact that despite the scale of these problems, no one has ever really tried to deal with them on their own scale; it’s just too big and terrifying to grapple. I hope to see us try before we go extinct.

 

Session 15 “The Covid 19 Pandemic”

In this session, we learned about the disparate impact of covid on marginalized populations. We had already all done research projects about this so most of the information was review, and most of my notes were the dramatic graphs showing huge differences in covid impact between privileged and marginalized groups.

In the first reading, “The Fullest Look Yet at Racial Inequality of Covid 19,” we learned about the racial disparities between Black, white, and Latin populations. As you may expect, we learned that the white population is doing significantly better than the Black and Latin populations. In July when the story was published, the Latin infection rate was about double the white infection rate, with the Black infection rate in between.

In the second article, we learned that a similar pattern was playing out across groups based on income and the hierarchical position of workers. Wealthy people and managers were doing great, while front-line workers and the poor were bearing the brunt of the infections. The readings and class discussion did not include a comparison of whether the income patterns in Europe were also true in America but it seems reasonable to assume there might be a strong similarity in the expression of that pattern here.

The Black New Deal reading was a very exciting glimpse into activism in my own community. I was not aware of this document before reading it in this session. I learned that the black community in Oakland had put together a very long and comprehensive list of demands for a new-deal-style investment in the black community to ameliorate not only the impacts of covid, but centuries of impacts which the black community has suffered. I have often cited this document since reading it during this session. It’s a great example of a fairly comprehensive list of examples of what’s wrong and how to fix it.

 

  1. What have you learned in this course about the concept of “sustainable development”?

This question is hard. I’ve worked on this issue for years so most of this was review for me. Some of the most valuable and interesting things I learned in this class were concepts that challenged things I had held to be true based on my past learning. For example, the idea that BRT can be a sexy and functional alternative to trains and that they can find adoption by wealthy citizens, in direct contradiction to what I learned in Urban Planning classes at PSU.

Another example of valuable lessons learned in this class is the elaboration on historical connections between concepts from my past degrees in Sociology and Social Justice and the fight to represent these issues within the context of sustainable development, on par with economic concerns rather than subject to economic concerns.

Also valuable was the idea of a triple bottom line being in contrast to a double bottom line. The EEE and the PPP will come in handy during my future work, and I’m sure I will often cite the argument that these things should be treated equally rather than placing economics as the ultimate concern, particularly with regard to privileging short-term interests over long-term interests. If there’s not going to be a biosphere to do business in, then economic concerns become irrelevant, after all.

Lastly, choosing deliberately from the available futures requires first articulating the options. If we don’t’ learn about what kind of future is possible (sustainable) then there isn’t any chance we can get there. David Harvey argued that urbanism is a process, and if we don’t choose how to do it, then we will do it wrong. This is a bigger argument than just cities. Nations and global institutions face the same challenge. If we don’t articulate how we want to live in the world and what possible future we want to move towards, then we will instead move away from a possible future and towards extinction. The choice is ours but only if we keep PPP/EEE in mind and use it to articulate the just and possible future we want to build.

 

  1. What are your five main takeaways from this course?

The first main takeaway is the concept of PPP/EEE and the way this course tries to articulate a moral argument for placing social justice and environmental sustainability on the same level as economic concerns. This makes sense intuitively, but a coherent epistemic and logical framework for discussing these things together seems to still be under development to some degree. I think the recent publishing of the UN SDGs is a huge step forward towards unifying the language and conceptual understanding of how these things are related, how to measure the impacts and duties we have, and how to talk about them in a coherent and more objective way.

The world is turning to a desert. Most of the United States is already desert. Even if we do a 180 today and get every person on the same page about doing a Green New Deal, it’s too late to stop most of what’s coming. The prescient fact that most of the world is going to be a desert very soon gives us a huge advantage in taking steps today to prepare while it’s still relatively easy for the future that is now inevitable. Xericulture subsistence farming just seems like the most obvious thing after taking this class. Those weirdos in Taos building earthships were right, and the rest of us need to start learning before we run out of food and water, because it seems basically impossible that the collapse of the food and water system is not just around the corner. To that end, I’ve actually already started looking at funding sources and sites for building an experimental desert farm focused on minimizing water costs and maximizing nutrient-rich crop production. Even if everything ends up being fine, the people who go to Mars are going to have to learn this; that whole planet is a desert just like this one is about to be. We’ll need to develop the tools to grow food both here and there, and we can start now.

The accomplishment that is the Black New Deal document can not be overstated. Honestly, this should have been its own unit. I feel like we glazed over it in this class, when it’s a verbose and prolific list of examples of exactly what’s wrong and exactly how to fix it. I have already started constantly citing this document, and I will continue doing that as I try to find any way I can help check off anything that’s on that list.

To that end, number four on my list is the lack of action on “almost all black students dropping all their courses when the lockdown started.” This anecdote is a textbook example of institutional racism in a class and program and university that’s ostensibly about not doing that. If antiracism at SFSU and USP is more than greenwashing, then this should not have happened. I get that it’s inconvenient to do the outreach to these students and make the concessions that are necessary for social justice to happen for our classmates, but that’s literally what this class is about. This department failed to live up to the values we learned about this semester. As I said before, I am already launching an internship research project in collaboration with CFA to investigate what happened and why and what we can do about it. This situation in our department and school is not acceptable, particularly in the context of this class literally about not doing that.

Lastly has to be the final discussion of the semester. Based on what we’ve seen and learned, is any of this working or is there any reason to think it will ever start working? The answer I heard from both the professor and the other students was a resounding “no but it makes us feel better,” and that’s what I find most frustrating about this class, and especially its inattention to intellectual laziness in many of the topics we discussed. The fact that there were so many points when we were told things like that we “should be thinking conceptually rather than practically,” or the example I raised in the previous point about nothing being done about “all the black kids dropping their classes” just makes the idea of considering a career in this field impossible. We raise so many important concerns in this class, offer conflicting or absent solutions, and “[focus on concepts rather than practical]” things like the footnote that was the Black New Deal with its list of specific, local, actionable demands that could actually be worked on today. I find this extremely frustrating, and we have to do better. If this doesn’t work then why are we doing it? If we can’t articulate possible futures using real-world, non-conceptual calls to action, specific policy recommendations, etc then why are we doing this? The cognitive dissonance and frequently self-refuting moral arguments at the core of this subject are the biggest thing I am taking away from this course.

 

  1. How has this class impacted you professionally?

I left my previous career in Software Engineering with a degree in Computer Science. My primary academic goal is to get and MBA and then start working on a PhD in Strategy. I decided I wanted to get a broad undergraduate background in social sciences on the way to my primary goal, as a way to develop a strong understanding of social problems and the way they relate to different communities in cities. In three years on a triple full time workload, I got six associate degrees in Sociology, Social Justice, Women’s Studies, Behavioral Science, Arts and Cultures, and LGBT Studies and Queer Studies. I always knew I wanted to study Urban Planning for my Bachelor, but the reason I came to San Francisco to study the topic of what’s wrong with cities is because there is nowhere in the world where problems with housing, transportation, wages, equity gaps, and institutional racism are worse. This city is the capital of doing things the wrong way, so it’s naturally the perfect place to study these social problems in depth. I’m also doing three minors along with my Bachelor: Race and Resistance Studies, Queer Ethnic Studies, and Philosophy. The purpose of all of these is to tie together a strong understanding of the way that social problems effect many different types of communities in cities.

My ultimate professional goal is to develop nonprofit solutions to social problems in cities. I’m planning to start working specifically on housing and then eventually on food as well. This class has impacted my professional development by providing many important connections between the topics I chose for my many other degrees as background for understanding the state of these communities and the problems they face. For example, the PPP/EEE concept puts the many social problems on the same level as the economic concerns of the luxury condo developers who have been erasing whole neighborhoods in the Market/Octavia district, on the same level as the collapsing biosphere, and urges that these three concerns be solved together.

Being able to articulate these problems in this way means being able to take action and make progress actually happen. This is why I have been so frustrated with the conceptual and non-practical approach to analyzing many of the topics in this class, because I’m interested in actually doing something about these problems. I think perhaps that frustration is the most valuable takeaway for my professional career, because it gives me the context to process these conflicting ideas and parse out the practical, pragmatic, possible solutions from sources like the BND or the GND in order to argue for their implementation. It’s also why I’m looking forward to the Alternative Urban Futures class which seems much more practical and less abstract.

 

  1. How has this class impacted you personally?

When I got my Sociology degree, I did an internship looking at student success gaps based on demographic permutations; how is one population doing compared to another and why? I interviewed a researcher at the time who had conducted a qualitative analysis of the success of a particular ipop (impacted population) and he said the number one indicator that a student will succeed is whether someone would miss them, whether another student knows their name and would notice if they were gone. For this reason and others, cohorts are one of the most important factors not just for success but also for resiliency.

Many undergraduate programs cohort their ipops for their core classes. For example, Latin students are placed in a cohort which uses culturally relevant texts in their English classes. The same is often true for Black students, and other ipops. This has been a major personal resiliency factor during the covid crisis. I have personally relied heavily on strong relationships with other students in the cohort, and we have leveraged tools for collaboration and mutual support like group chats, shared collaborative study guides, discords, and other things that have allowed us to succeed together in a way that we just could not without the close-knit group we have become during this crisis. I can see many of these relationships continuing long after we graduate. This difficult year has certainly been made much easier than it would have been without these relationships, not just as a student and professional but also on a personal level.

Lastly, I should assume good intent. This is something I have been working on all my life, because I can often come across much more strongly than I intend to. I’m sure there have been points in this semester or this essay when I should have dissimulated more or should have worded something more subtly, and I’m sorry for that. I recall a tense conversation about the homeless population in Berkeley in particular. Looking back, I realize that erasing the hardships of the people who have suffered so much was not the intention, and my frustration with the city’s hostility towards its citizens should be more clearly separated from the discussion in the class and the positions that were taken by those I disagreed with. Overall, it was a great semester and I would do it again. Thank you for your labor, and I look forward to working with you in the Spring.

 

  1. What was your experience taking USP 530 classes on Zoom?

I hate zoom. I hate that it is not accessible to so many people. I hate that it reinforces structural racism by excluding so many marginalized students, and also I don’t see any alternative. This year has been a nightmare and no part of it was ideal. I hope that it spurs someone somewhere to invent a better option, and I hope most of all that SFSU finds a way to offer online options to students who don’t feel able to follow the president’s demand that we start looking for jobs and apartments “starting now” in spite of the stay at home order.

USP 515 Term Paper

USP 515 – Environmental Justice

Term Paper

  1. Summarize what you learned from each and every session in this course. You are required to refer to each session separately and individually with the name of the session on top of each part of your answer.

 

Session 1 “First Peoples and Traditional Territory Introductions”

We started by learning about approaches for discussion in this class. It was basically the same as the other class. There was a lot of metacommentary. We talked about how to talk about the topics. We learned for the first time that the professor preferred students to interject and interrupt, rather than using tools like “raise hands” on zoom. This made me think about which student groups in the class are privileged by this policy and which are marginalized. I had previously taken a class on the topic of the way that professors set expectations in classes which typically favor extroverts and make things harder for introverts. This seemed like a good example of that.

We also learned that the professor would be requiring everyone to attend class synchronously without recordings to refer back to. This led to a similar discussion about spring semester and the anecdote that nearly all the black students had dropped as a result of these and other policies in this class.

We also learned about one another’s expectations for a safe classroom such as “speaking from I,” allowing people to articulate their point before reacting, and as one student put it, “appreciating one another’s valid subjective opinions even when they’re different.” We finished the first day of this session with an open discussion where the professor asked everyone to explain what they think sustainable development is, and then the professor explained that none of us know what sustainable development is. This is when I learned that the tone of the class would be deeply ideological, with all references to the personal beliefs of the professor portrayed as absolute facts from a universal and objective perspective, rather than within the broader dialectical context of the many valid alternatives to each conclusion offered. Given the context of the previous comment about institutionally racist policies in the class, and the disregard for ameliorating the outcome of “all black students dropping,” plus the fact that this comment came just after a discussion about respective subjective experience, I almost dropped the class at this point because I find it difficult to have patience when claims are presented this way. It did lead to many tense moments later on, but I’m glad I stuck around because we ended up learning many interesting things as we will see on future pages.

This session was split into two days. On the second day, we learned about self-care in the context of the urban process, departing from the 514 topics. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on Harvey’s essay about the Urban Process Under Capitalism and the way that taking a social justice class during a pandemic highlights the absence of BIPOC people and the institutional complicity it takes to make most minority students drop all their classes because of what I would later learn is called “unequal protection from harm.”

 

Session 2 “Central Concepts”

During this session, we discussed the terms and concepts that would be central to the course. We learned that the professor would be applying an anthropocentric definition of the term, excluding any discussion of animal welfare, the welfare of the ecosystems, and rather framing issues only from the perspective of environmental costs and benefits to humans. This seems like an ironic position to take in retrospect, based on claims made later about the inherent flaws of all cost-benefit analyses.

Since we were taking an anthropocentric perspective on the topic, I offered several concepts from my social justice degree to the discussion such as systemic oppression, the definition of allyship, and the duty for reparations. I learned that these core concepts of social justice would not feature in the discussion or as part of the central concepts of the course. This motivated me to think more deeply about the overall purpose of the course and whether it was based on a colonized perspective of what justice is and should be, rather than on an honest critical analysis of the lessons, demands, and strategies conferred by those people most impacted.

It was also interesting to learn the claim that environmental justice must necessarily feature redress as a core duty. This motivated me to reflect with some confusion during later units about cost-benefit analyses vs the precautionary principle. This claim from the beginning of the class seems to be yet another contradiction with that later claim. If redress is the core duty, then how are we avoiding any discussion of reparations or the duty of allyship (in the social justice sense) and focusing instead on demanding future actions be taken only after entities prove they will do no further harm? Reflecting further, it does seem that these core claims of the course are in conflict.

We learned the in-class definitions of things like race, class, ethnicity, and poverty which were roughly equivalent to the social justice definitions with the possible exception that race and ethnicity are generally not treated separately under Critical Theory Analyses like they are in this class.

We also learned the in-class definition of the environment which confusingly does include the animals and ecosystem and not just humans. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on what struck me as an odd contradiction at the time; we had heard in the previous session that we would not be hearing or making any moral arguments about the rights of any entities in the environment except homo sapiens. Syntactically, the class is called “environmental justice” and we have just defined the environment to include all animals, and yet we are only talking about the impact to humans and not the duty to protect animals for their own sake. Perhaps the class should be called human justice? Reflecting further now, it does seem like a core conflict in the curriculum of this class.

We then unironically learned that the definition of prejudice in this class would be the belief that some groups are better or more deserving than other groups, and that institutional racism means racism in institutions like education. This motivated me at the time to note that we had already seen examples of both of these in the class.

 

Session 3 “Central Theories”

In the Feagin and Eckberg reading, we learned that most of the social science literature contains the assumption that prejudice causes discrimination, but that the reality is more complex. Discriminatory actions within one institution are frequently related to discrimination in other institutional settings. For example, it would be easy to argue that the low rate of black enrollment in the SFSU USP program makes it easy for professors to ignore the environment they create which excludes those few black students who do enroll. The big takeaway from the article is that there are dimensions of racial discrimination and that each of the permutations should be studied and remedied in a different way.

We also learned in the Bullard article about the strong connection between settler colonialism and the displacement and extermination of native populations around the world. This was the first time we touched on the fact that Costly externalities cause disparate impact for those communities unable to resist being a dumping ground for toxic colonialism. This was also the first link back to the idea of sacrificing long-term interests in favor of short-term interests.

In the Mohai and Bryant article, we learned about evidence that an inverse relationship exists between proximity to whiteness and proximity to environmental harms; white people are protected from harms at the expense of BIPOC.

We also learned from the Democracy Now interview about the timeline and details of the Flint water crisis. I had been aware of the broad strokes but I think this was the first time I really learned the details of the case study. Particularly interesting was learning about the white emergency manager who subverted the democracy of the city and exposed the black residents to harm for the promise of some trivial degree of austerity.

 

Session 4 “Environmental Justice”

In this session, we defined environmental justice as a social movement in relation to environmental movement with a social justice component. I noted at the time being surprised that the topic was not centered around stronger core social justice principles and in particular epistemic and moral frameworks like feminist ethics and animal rights.

It was interesting to learn about the disparity between which nations cause problems and which nations pay the price for problems. In past classes I had studied toxic colonialism, but I had not explicitly studied the way the causes and impacts of climate change mirror the issue of toxic colonialism.

We learned about how capitalism is at the core of what’s wrong, because we have a profit-motivated economic system built on centuries of things like the legacy of slavery, redlining, the Chinese exclusion act, the concentration camps, xenophobic immigration laws, and the prison industrial complex. With such a foundation, how could it be possible to have a just system? This motivated me to reflect more deeply on whether this argument is internally consistent or whether critiquing across an epistemic gap is just pandering without the capacity to affect change. I figured this would be developed further in later modules, which it does seem to have been.

We also touched on the same topic from 514 about post-war America being the only remaining developed industrial power and having lots of big, temporary advantages which were distributed unequally to white people instead of black people. The legacy of this moral failure survives to this day.

This was also the session when we first learned the term LULU: Locally Unwanted Land Use. In the context of this session, we discussed land use policy, the political process, and the way these and other factors comingle to give us infrastructure and justice/injustice outcomes. We also learned about the way that the LULU is the chicken that comes both before and after the egg of the local population. They are sited where minorities live, and then those areas are more affordable drawing more minorities who are exposed to the harms related to the LULUs.

 

Session 5 “The Politics of Pollution”

This was the first real meat and potatoes of the course. We learned in the Davies and Davies reading about the way interdisciplinary scientific study of pollution is not based on science. Instead of being scientific, the standards used to study pollution are political. The standards are arbitrary but presented as scientific fact. At the time, I reflected that this was a missed opportunity in the class. It would have been the perfect moment to point out that we are making moral claims about how people should be protected from harms, not scientific claims about how harms are bad. Good and bad are not scientific terms after all, they are moral terms. We could then couch that perspective within a strongly developed moral framework like feminist ethics or critical theory.

In the Bullard reading, we learned more about the way proximity to whiteness corelates inversely to exposure to harms. Reflecting more deeply now within the context of the previous paragraph, this is an example of a good scientific claim; it is testable, reproducible, and can be used to explain the past while making testable predictions about the future. Again it seems like a missed opportunity to contrast this kind of good scientific claim with bad scientific claims like how much lead exposure is fine. (This is actually a moral claim, since it’s not testable, reproducible, etc.)

We also learned about the story of Alex Nieto with regard to gentrification. I had not heard this story before, being new to the city. White gentrifiers wrongly called the police on a person of color who had grown up in what was now a colonized neighborhood. He had been eating a burrito on a break from work, and the police showed up and murdered him for no reason. This story has played out across the city and across the country countless times for centuries, but this local example is particularly germane for those of us who exist in the spaces where this example took place.

 

Session 6 “Unequal Protection from Harm”

We started by learning about a wild memo that was written by Chief Economist of the World Bank, Lawrence Summers in 1991. In it, he argues that developing countries are “under-polluted” because shorter lifespans there means it’s more likely that people will die of other causes before dying of pollution, thus reducing the cost to polluters from lawsuits and other barriers to pollution. He also argued that only rich people care about pollution, so it makes sense to produce our pollution where there are mostly poor people. There was nothing particularly surprising about this since it’s basically been the state of the world since the industrial revolution started, but it was the first time I had seen it worded so concisely and unironically.

We then learned that Brazil’s then secretary of the environment Jose Lutzenburger responded, “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane… Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in…. If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility.” Ironically, this sound moral response to an absurd moral claim by Summers earned Secretary Lutzenburger a termination because we live under the fascistic hegemony of capitalism which works hard to silence any moral critique.

We then read David Harvey’s piece, The Environment of Justice. Harvey talks about both the statements from both Summers and Lutzenburger before connecting to several recent session topics. For example, Harvey points out that the presence of minorities is the strongest indicator of LULU siting, and points to the fact that endorsing toxic colonialism is antithetical to any notion of justice and progress. I noted that the text seemed to be cut off suddenly mid-piece, and we discussed in class that this had been intentional.

We also learned about a religious organization which published a list of examples of forms of pollution and related health conditions. They also listed many significant events in the history of the environmental justice movement. All of this was tied back to religion in what seemed like an attempt to frame the issue of environmental justice as an eschatological argument. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on the fact that this example deviated from the class’ norm of making objective scientific claims about what are actually moral issues rather than scientific issues as I’ve mentioned several times. Eschatology seems sort of adjacent to morality since it evolved to fill that niche in religion. I actually appreciate this framing of claims within a clear epistemological framework. I may personally reject religion, but at least this argument is logically consistent.

We touched briefly on spatial issues, and learned that a person’s zip code is the most important indicator of success in life because privileged and oppressed groups are sorted into regions where they are either protected from or exposed to harms. We learned that for research purposes relating to environmental justice, zip codes are treated as essentially interchangeable with factors like race, class, and other demographic characteristics of populations.

 

Session 7 “Health Justice: Case Study of Covid 19”

            It was interesting to have this similar unit from the other class but with an EJ twist. We learned about the impact of covid on undocumented immigrants specifically. We learned that while covid has exposed huge disparities across the board, few examples are as shocking and problematic as the impact on undocumented immigrants. We also learned about the racist exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the Affordable Care Act, and the way that Obama’s own signature healthcare package failed to achieve parity for immigrants.

We also learned that the stimulus and relief efforts in response to covid deliberately exclude these immigrants who are already most at risk not just of poor health outcomes but also poor economic outcomes as countless jobs disappear overnight.

We also touched briefly on the Black New Deal. Again, I have to say I feel like this was a huge missed opportunity. Something like this would be a perfect overall framework for the class; it is full of a long and comprehensive list of specific claims based on outreach to those who are actually in the populations we’re talking about and paired with specific solutions to the problems they bring up. It’s an excellent document which deserves at a minimum its own unit. The fact that in an environmental justice class, the only place for the Black New Deal is as a footnote on a session about covid just does not make sense. At a minimum it should have its own session. Ethically, each section of the BDN should have its own session.

In prisons in particular, we learned that the impacts of covid are widespread and dramatic. Inmates in California have about triple the risk as the average person. In New Jersey, this gap jumps to over seven times. Death rates are also extremely high with half-again the deaths in New Jersey prisons versus the overall population.

We touched very briefly in this session on sacrifice zones which seems like another huge missed opportunity. We learned about the fact that LULUs are often clustered together in formerly minority neighborhoods which essentially become uninhabitable toxic areas called sacrifice zones. This led me to reflect more deeply on the way many of my past environmental justice classes have framed this and other topics the other way around; instead of talking very dryly about correlations between minority racial prevalence and LULU citing, they tended to talk about the way capitalism creates sacrifice zones, converting whatever minority neighborhoods are not bulldozed and gentrified into toxic waste sites, leaving nowhere for minorities to go. This kind of claim is moral rather than scientific, highlighting disparate impact with a call to action for progress towards justice rather than merely citing a statistic and moving on.

 

Session 8 “The Environmental Justice Movement”

In this class we learned a lot about psychedelic drugs including the stoned ape hypothesis. The connection being the fact that any amount of time spent in nature reflecting on the complex ecology around us makes us feel some obligation of stewardship towards the land. It’s a perspective that seems to make its own arguments to those who agree, and to create a gulf between these stewards and those who voluntarily salt and burn the land with no apparent regard for the future.

This was the first time we learned about the open letter published by the conference of top environmental justice organizations accusing the large environmental organizations of being environmentally racist and ineffective in their mission. For example, the letter highlights that the staffs of these organizations are rich white people who focus only on wilderness areas while ignoring the impacts to the environment of the urban landscape. The letter went on to point out that the policy advocacy of these organizations was never focused on BIPOC issues and the urban poor. The letter finished with demands that these organizations diversify their staff and boards and stop tokenizing black children to fundraise for rainforests if they are not actually going to help those black children and work on the environment where those children live.

We also learned about the professor’s perspective on how to discuss these issues with Malthusian ecofascists. The professor advised that we should talk about big problems first, then talk about small problems, before advocating for specific things we agree about like moving away from industrial agriculture. The professor also recommended that we make a distinction between avowed ecofascists and those who merely share all their views, because there is some chance that for people who merely hold ecofascist views there is some potential to change those views if we argue correctly. If we start with articulating the problem descriptions which we agree on, we can use those agreements to advocate for fundamental changes instead of incrementalism.

 

Session 9 “Research and Measurement Issues”

This was the session when we learned about measuring disparities using biomarkers.  We learned about biomarkers of exposure, biomarkers of effect, and biomarkers of susceptibility. Each of these can be measured separately and correlated with demographic data to make real scientific claims about the disparate impact of environmental injustice. For example, if we compare exposure to lead based on race, we are likely to see white people with lower lead levels than black people.

One critical area in research which we learned about is culturally equivalent measures and cultural bias. It’s important that research is conducted without the assumption that subjects who have different cultural perspectives will see their biomarkers measured the same way because of the potential for confounding variables, different sets of connotations, and other cultural factors which need to be controlled for in this kind of research.

Next we learned about the differences between community and institutional research. Most of the really interesting examples in the history of the environmental justice movement are when institutions which ostensibly exist to do this kind of research instead fail to serve the community. Institutional research is often deeply political and based on motivated reasoning rather than objective scientific review of the evidence. It takes work as we saw in the last paragraph to conduct good research on diverse populations. It also takes work to ignore the evidence of problems in those communities. Examples we’ve learned about include the changing of the “official” levels at which lead contamination is dangerous rather than admitting there is a problem. This is where community research comes in. In examples like Love Canal and Flint, the community worked together to demonstrate the problem. The community did this because the institutions which ostensibly existed to research and prevent exactly these kinds of problems were complicit in actively hiding the very problems they existed in order to prevent.

 

Session 10 “Climate Justice”

We started by learning about the climate gap. Communities of color contribute less to the climate problems we face as a global society. Despite that, they face more of the impacts. For example, they suffer more during heat waves without access to life saving climate control. They suffer dirtier air which exacerbates the risks of covid, asthma, and other respiratory problems. They face higher prices for basic necessities. They also have fewer prospects for jobs and economic growth and advancement.

The report we read for the class contains several recommendations. We learned that it makes sense to site new LULUs in communities which don’t already have LULUs, privileged communities in order to share the burden of pollution with rich white people who are currently not sharing in the risks and side effects of these sites.

In the case study on Malawi, we got the first statistics about the gap between impacts felt by rich white countries versus poor BIPOC countries. This gap is 200-300x according to the reading. The nation of Malawi is working hard on increasing resiliency to storms, droughts, floods, agricultural externalities, and other problems. Despite this work, they are still subject the side effects of countries like the US where instead of mitigating these outcomes, the outcomes are simply shifted onto countries like Malawi.

Next, they give a list of ways that rich countries can help Malawi survive what we have exposed them to. Specifically, they want help with solving hunger, poverty, and flooding. This led me to reflect on whether that seems likely to happen, since the US refuses to even admit that this reality exists. I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, but only once they have tried everything else.”

Lastly, one of the readings covers five ways to make the climate movement less white. It was very interesting and useful to learn about this list of specific actionable steps. First, we need to build intergenerational power for BIPOC people, and this is something we already see happening today, particularly in the context of the BND proposal. Second we need to require white organizers to acknowledge and confront their internalized white supremacy. I see this more and more in direct action organizations where I volunteer, but it needs to grow and be further normalized in society. This made me reflect more deeply on the finding from the economist that the most strongly correlated factor that predicts how someone voted in the recent election is whether or not they admit that systemic racism exists. Next, we need to acknowledge, converse with, and understand those activists who don’t look like the cookie cutter activist. This is critical and connects back to many of the points we’ve covered in the class so far from the value of culturally competent community research to the fact that outreach is the only way to form solutions which actually represent what is needed by those who are actually a part of the communities being affected. Lastly, we need to provide accessible environmental education that comes from nonacademic ways of learning, and this really ties them all together, because if we’ve doing to acknowledge the history and practices that created the problems we’re trying to solve while also including and centering those who are most affected, then we have to acknowledge the fact that our institutions are complicit and responsible for the problems we’re trying to solve. Therefore, those same institutions are not the solution to the problem which they themselves helped to create.

 

Session 11 “Transportation Justice: Case Study of Curitiba, Brazil”

This was covered in the other class. It was very interesting to learn about the Curitiba BRT system in the YouTube video we watched. I had always heard BRT described as a half-measure that rich people would not adopt. It was interesting to see a whole city built on BRT and with such high ridership. This caused me to reflect on whether what I’ve heard about BRT was potentially inaccurate or incomplete. The idea of doing elevated platforms with people paying before they get on seems particularly helpful for the speed of the system. It will be interesting to see how BRT works out for the new East Bay BRT line.

The line that stuck with me most from the Curitiba case study was “Adding population without adding infrastructure and planning to support the additional population will result in a lower quality of life and an increase in social problems in the city.” This seems to be close to where we are at today in America. The idea that we are already in such a housing crisis plus we are adding another 70 million people in the next few decades presents similar sorts of challenges to what this quote is talking about. We will either make changes now or we will make them later, but the way things are just isn’t going to keep working.

One thing that raised my eyebrows in this case study was in “Bogota: Building a Sustainable City”(3:15-5:20) when Penolosa seemed to argue for broken windows theory; that people will decide what kind of life to have based on their surroundings, and so eliminating the negative cues about the kind of neighborhoods you have will cause people to choose to live in a better way. He said this gave people more self esteem which solved urban social problems. This idea is directly responsible for a huge number of social problems in America. I have repeatedly reflected deeply on this segment of the video since we watched it. I think it would take a great deal of research to reconcile these arguments, and I may do that at some future point.

We also learned about the problem of connecting centers rather than connecting people to where they need to go. This problem seems like one of the most challenging unresolved issues in urban design; how can you build infrastructure for the future when the future is in flux? The example of the Chicago trains radiating like wheels on a spoke was very interesting. When the system was built, it made sense, but today most people are commuting from one suburb to another and there is effectively no simple and fast transit option for them using the existing infrastructure.

 

Session 12 “Civil Rights”

This was a pretty straightforward session. We learned about the history of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in America, particularly the legacy of poll taxes, gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement within the context of a racist police state with a deeply corrupt and for-profit school-to-prison pipeline.

This led to a discussion of the prison abolition movement and the call to defund the police. We learned that many of our cities are spending more on their police forces than nations spend on their militaries, again all as part of a corrupt for-profit scheme to commodify minorities into a product to be unjustly incarcerated.

There is much cause for hope. We learned in the “Restoring Voting Rights for Felons” reading that an amendment in Florida recently restored the rights of millions of formerly incarcerated people to vote, with similar bills being worked on around the country as a response to the BLM movement.

 

Session 13 “Addressing Environmental Injustices/Cost Benefit Analysis/Precautionary Principle”

This was covered in the other class. We learned about two alternate approaches to evaluating the relative good and bad between different options in urban planning: cost benefit analyses versus the precautionary principle.

In the first reading, Pricing the Priceless, we learned about the principle of cost benefit analysis analyzed through the perspective of a moral argument about society. The claim of the paper was that a cost benefit analysis offers a deeply flawed method which biases economic value above all other concerns. Within this framework, there is no way to argue for social most justice issues and environmental issues, because there is no clear, direct economic measure to compare with these kinds of concerns. On the other hand, some social justice and environmental issues can be addressed under this framework. If we have a long-term financial incentive not to destroy the biosphere, then there is a rational cost-benefit reason not to do that. If it’s cheaper to give homeless people housing, then there is a rational cost-benefit reason to do that.

In the second reading, The Precautionary Principle Puts Value First, we learned about the precautionary principle which argues that rather than basing decisions on economic interests, we should require evidence for a lack of potential harm from those entities who wish to undertake any action in society. It argues that instead of just being a profitable endeavor, products and enterprises should have to demonstrate proof that they will not harm people in the process of what they want to do.

The way this dichotomy was presented led me to reflect on whether this is a true dichotomy or perhaps rather a case of people with different epistemologies talking past each other. Both of these concepts are based on different ideas about how to decide what’s true and right, and both of these concepts have problems. The cost-benefit analysis is often the only possible language which our institutions and businesses can legally interact with. Maybe that should change, but it’s not clear that the precautionary principle is up to the task, based on the readings.

It’s not possible to prove a negative. The idea that every entity should be required to prove it will not cause harm before taking any action would not only be logically impossible but also essentially outlaw all harms. Certainly there are egregious harms from some entities which should be addressed, but a certain amount of risk is part of life. If I want to open a café, how can I possibly prove that I will harm no one? What degree of risk is acceptable? Should we institute a worldwide ban all products containing peanuts because of the risk to someone with an unknown allergy? Under the precautionary principle as stated in this class, yes we should.

This session poses a false dichotomy where neither option works all the time. The missing attempt at reconciling these ideas leaves any underlying truth uninterrogated and demonstrates only that neither of these options works in all situations, while only one of them can even approach those with the power to actually make decisions on these topics. Towards the end of the session, the professor said we “should be thinking conceptually rather than theoretically or practically.” Indeed, that’s the only way I can rationalize the argument made by session is by starting with the assumption that’s right and not thinking too deeply about it.

 

  1. What have you learned in this course about the concept of “environmental justice”?

I think the biggest change for my own knowledge after already having a degree in social justice and taking many other environmental justice classes before has been framing that knowledge within the context that there is still a lack of consensus about how to define and accomplish the goals of environmental justice. It has been interesting to read so many articles and essays from central bankers, professors of related fields, and other sources.

In the past my own perspective has been much more focused on and aligned with what the people in marginalized communities are saying about what they are experiencing and what they need me to do about it. I have always been somewhat averse to the sociological perspective which often overlaps with the neoliberal perspective; form a nonprofit and board of directors to lobby institutions for reform. I was glad to see this class touch on that and reject it, favoring the community perspective over the institutional perspective.

In short, there are many versions of what environmental justice is, and this class reinforced my own perspective that the version I want to be a part of is the one that listens to those most impacted, measures things like biomarkers, shares the knowledge and takes concrete steps to demand change. I really related to the session when we learned about the way a group of activists called out the leading environmental institutions as being a part of the problem and that’s really the kind of environmental justice that I want to be a part of.

 

  1. What are your five main takeaways from this course?

It seems like a lot of the claims and points made in both classes include people talking past each other and equivocating on many of the terms being used. The first thing I take away is the failure to distinguish moral arguments from ontological claims. It’s one thing to make a claim about reality, for example black families have 1/10th the wealth of white families on average. It’s another thing to try articulating a “scientific” claim that we should do something about this. That just isn’t a scientific claim, it’s a moral claim. And the problem I see is conflating the way we talk about these different types of claims. A have noted numerous examples in the previous pages where acknowledging that the claims being made are actually moral claims would make them clearer and enable us to use the tools of ethics and logic to examine and compare conflicting ideas which are in my opinion incorrectly presented as equivalent and dichotomous. This is a common failure of academic discourse particularly on interdisciplinary topics where it is much harder to broad some of these topics without committing equivocation fallacies.

Unequal protection from harm is another key takeaway for me. In my Sociology and Social Justice degree programs, there was a huge focus on measuring disparate impact and the first stage of Kingdon’s model for solving social problems, but this was always from the perspective of harm, not protection. It is interesting and new for me to reflect on harms as a byproduct of society with their impact being unevenly distributed specifically because some groups and being protected while others are not. This also opens the door to epistemic questions about the argument being made for these protections, and why they do not apply to everyone. It’s a novel perspective which I’ve picked up as a result of this class.

Sacrifice zones and toxic colonialism both seem like a missed opportunity as I mentioned before. We talk a lot about the way we colonize the developing world and dump our trash and toxins there, but it’s very interesting to reflect on the way this also happens domestically with LULU siting in our own communities. The same arguments against dumping our toxins in Nigeria can be applied to minority communities in California. This opens a whole can of worms. It would be very interesting to explore the way America has turned many of its own communities into sacrifice zones not at all unlike those far-away lands outside the circle of sentiments where we’re used to thinking of the sacrifice zones as being.

Voting rights never really seemed like an environmental justice issue with the definitions I had before this class. I like the way this class frames the environment to include causes and effects of the problems and centers the discussion where people actually are, the urban landscape. It’s easy to see now how disenfranchising minorities is both a natural side effect of injustice and also a potential avenue for progress through efforts to enfranchise those who have been pushed out.

 

  1. How has this class impacted you professionally?

As I mentioned in the other class, I left my previous career in Software Engineering with a degree in Computer Science. My primary academic goal is to get and MBA and then start working on a PhD in Strategy. I decided I wanted to get a broad undergraduate background in social sciences on the way to my primary goal, as a way to develop a strong understanding of social problems and the way they relate to different communities in cities. In three years on a triple full time workload, I got six associate degrees in Sociology, Social Justice, Women’s Studies, Behavioral Science, Arts and Cultures, and LGBT Studies and Queer Studies. I always knew I wanted to study Urban Planning for my Bachelor, but the reason I came to San Francisco to study the topic of what’s wrong with cities is because there is nowhere in the world where problems with housing, transportation, wages, equity gaps, and institutional racism are worse. This city is the capital of doing things the wrong way, so it’s naturally the perfect place to study these social problems in depth. I’m also doing three minors along with my Bachelor: Race and Resistance Studies, Queer Ethnic Studies, and Philosophy. The purpose of all of these is to tie together a strong understanding of the way that social problems effect many different types of communities in cities.

Also again, my ultimate professional goal is to develop nonprofit solutions to social problems in cities. I’m planning to start working specifically on housing and then eventually on food as well. This class has impacted my professional development by providing many important connections between the topics I chose for my many other degrees as background for understanding the state of these communities and the problems they face. Importantly, these are a mostly different set of connections from the other class. For example, unequal protection from harm is a radically different perspective on social justice from my past experience. Rather than viewing impacts as impacts, we can view impacts as a side effect and view the way they are distributed and who is protected from them as what’s most interesting to study. This again means that all those places where people are being protected from harm have already made the arguments and passed the laws and built the institutions to do that. These successes merely need to be replicated for those who are not currently protected, ideally at the federal level so that everyone is protected in the way only rich white communities are today.

 

  1. How has this class impacted you personally?

As I mentioned in the other class, I think the biggest benefit personally has been the strong cohort that has formed to support each other though the many overlapping disasters we are all enjoying this year. Having a team of motivated people to rely on and collaborate with has made this year a lot easier.

Also again my frustration with the lack of focus on things like the BND which exists in this class only as a footnote to the covid session has led me to try to elevate that particular document in my own research, discussions, and efforts outside this class.

My feeling that ethical and scientific claims are not sufficiently differentiated between has also led me to explore creating a podcast on the topic of learning about different epistemologies. It’s easy to picture two people with very different ideas yelling at each other while both of them feel like their own argument is 100% correct while that of the opponent is 0% correct. We live in an age when shouting is easy but understanding others on such a level that we can actually motivate them to change their minds is very hard. This art is absent from much of today’s discourse, and my frustration with it in this class has motivated me to explore it for myself and potentially to try to help others do the same.

 

  1. What was your experience taking USP 530 classes on Zoom?

I hate zoom. I hate that it is not accessible to so many people. I hate that it reinforces structural racism by excluding so many marginalized students, and also I don’t see any alternative. This year has been a nightmare and no part of it was ideal. I hope that it spurs someone somewhere to invent a better option, and I hope most of all that SFSU finds a way to offer online options to students who don’t feel able to follow the president’s demand that we start looking for jobs and apartments “starting now” in spite of the stay at home order.

Data: Antivaxxer Prevalence Correlates With Covid Incidence

CJ Trowbridge

USP 493 Data Analysis

2020-12-01

SPSS Final Project Outline

  1. Introduction – what hypothesis you will test and why you expect your independent variable or variables will affect your dependent variable
    • In the recent past, it was legal for California parents to refuse to vaccinate their children in on the basis of various superstitions. I hypothesize that there is a significant correlation between covid infection rates and the rates at which parents chose not to vaccinate their children before such decisions were banned. I am using counties as the unit of analysis to test this hypothesis.
  2. Brief description of the data you will use
    • There are several datasets that I will need to compile in order to test my hypothesis.
    • First, I need the covid case data by county. I am using the most recently published dataset from Johns Hopkins.
    • Second, I need the population for each county in order to calculate the percentage of the population that has become infected with covid. I am using the 2019 census population numbers.
    • Third, I need the kindergarten vaccination data from the year before the ban on exemptions happened. I got this from the California Department of Public Health Archives.
  3. Univariate statistics for each variable you will use in your hypothesis. Discussion of what these tables tell you.
    • The kindergarten vaccination data for each county is my independent variable.
    • To get my dependent variable, I divide the covid infections by the population for each county in order to get the case incidence numbers for each county.
    • Here’s what it all looks like put together;
  4. Hypothesis testing. What do the statistics tell you.
    • In order to visually compare the two values for each county, I first sorted the data by the independent variable’s value. I then created a combo line-chart with two y-axes plus an x axis. The x axis in this chart is the county name. The dependent variable is on the second y-axis. Initially, the graph was not so clear to look at in SPSS. I asked the professor how to sort the x-axis by the value of the left y-axis but apparently that feature does not exist in SPSS…
    • …So I moved to Excel.
    • But first I ran the descriptive statistics in SPSS to find the minimum and maximum values for each variable in order to scale the axes so that the lines would be comparable as you see in the graph below.
    • I then added trend lines to both y axes to simplify the visual representation of the data.
    • Lastly, I ran a two-tailed Pearson Correlation at a .01 significance in SPSS to determine whether there is a significant correlation between the dependent and independent variables. The result was significant.
  5. Conclusion: Was your hypothesis supported? Implications of what you have found.
    • The hypothesis is accepted. There is a significant correlation between Kindergarten vaccination rates and covid infection rates by county. As far as the possible implications, I will rely on this quote from Isaac Asimov, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

My Data Files

USP 514 Session 15 Notes

November 18th
Session Fifteen: The 
Covid 19 Pandemic 

REQUIRED READING FOR SESSION FIFTEEN (click on Session 14 on left side to access reading)

 

  1. The Fullest Look Yet at Racial Inequalty of Covid 19 –https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/05/us/coronavirus-latinos-african-americans-cdc-data.html
  2. How Covid 19 is laying bare inequality in Europe
  3. Black New Deal 
    • Community Ready Corps and The Anti Police-Terror Project convened a wide range of Black leaders in Oakland gathered virtually to develop a set of demands in terms of what we expect of our City’s response to this crisis
    • WE, as the Descendants of Slaves, Black, African American organized in order to force acknowledgement of the impact of this crisis on the Black community to forge a path forward to health, demand equitable treatment from all public, local and state government and to establish a space for Black voices at all tables that plan around, impact and shape our lives.
    • Black people are not suffering at higher rates of COVID-19 because we are “lazy” or “unhealthy”. We are suffering at higher rates as a direct result of 500 years of discriminatory treatment. East and West Oakland have the worst air quality in the City of Oakland, we have the least access to healthy food, the least access to quality education and jobs and face the most discrimination by city policy and policymakers.
    • The disproportionate impact on Black people demands a disproportionate response – most of the resources must be given/directed to the greatest need.
      • Publish desegregated data by race and zip code to properly track spread and to inform allocation of resources.
      •  No person, company or entity should be allowed to profit off of a pandemic. Nor should the city of Oakland direct COVID disaster funding towards ongoing development plans without being informed by relevant data to support those decisions as being a science based response to the pandemic.
      •  No government can place a demand on a people without incurring responsibility for the costs those demands will exact – free masks for all, testing, retesting, contact tracing and healthcare, internet access, etc.
      • Reparations for Black people, who as a demographic are disproportionately affected in this moment as a result of historic structural, institutional, and systemic racism
    • TESTING, PUBLIC HEALTH, AND PATIENT RIGHTS:
      • To have free, full, accessible testing and retesting sites, both walk-up and drive-through, in East and West Oakland and at encampments throughout Oakland.
      • Supply 500,000 reusable face masks and 500,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to the African American community.
      • Give anyone of African or African American ancestry priority status for testing, the same as medical personnel, first responders, and essential workers.
      • Black maternal health and birth workers’ rights are prioritized to offer greater safety and better outcomes for Black mothers and babies.
      • Better resource the already culturally competent and accessible clinics in East and West Oakland, with funds to enable them to buy tests and offer unlimited testing.
      • Data is collected and that the race of all people impacted and the outcomes of their interaction with COVID 19 such as hospitalization, ventilation, or death, are recorded and desegregated by zip code.
      • Ventilation and other care for COVID 19 not be denied due to anti-Blackness.
      • Systemic racism be addressed, through both short and long term solutions, as a root cause of the disproportionate impact of COVID 19 on Black people.
      • Alameda County to scale up their overall testing capacity, as more testing sites are needed countywide, including in many hospitals such as Highland Hospital.
      • All people are entitled to free masks, testing, contact tracing, and care – especially people who are currently incarcerated, living in congregate living situations, and newly released and entering into a living situation with family and/or other people.
      • Consistent best practices put in place, monitored, and enforced in all congregant living spaces that house vulnerable minority populations in danger of being infected by staff or one another, mass death due to lack of intentional care should be considered as a threat to life.
      • An end to all permits regarding potential pollutants in opportunity zones, closures for non-essential businesses that impact the environment, and concrete action on factors contributing to a toxic environment in Oakland.
      • Free healthcare and access to testing, including antibody testing, for all people.
      • Testing and a policy concerning containment at transitional homes.
      • Specific, relevant and community-led mental health resources for Black people to be made free, accessible and available to all, including grief support for people who have endured loss due to COVID 19 and beyond.
    • EDUCATION AND FAMILIES:
      • A moratorium on school closures and co-locations in Oakland.
      • Universal passage of all students during this time due to lack of technology equity and redistribution of resources to ensure that all students have access to what they need.
      • Measures to increase access to the internet including buses with wifi in neighborhoods to provide internet access and making internet a public utility to ensure access for all.
      • Shelter, housing protections, and healthcare for all students and their families.
      • No criminalization of youth in Oakland related to COVID 19 precautions such as wearing a mask, etc.
      • Investment in community schools once students return, with wraparound services such as health clinics, nurses, mental health services, food for students and families.
      • Divest in school police departments altogether and invest instead in health services, arts and culture programming, and student supports.
      • Recognize the difficulty of distance learning for many students and create accessible resources. All students should have equal access.
      • Hold a fair vote for the school board that is open to youth.
      • Have a community oversight body that is chosen by community members to oversee a holistic transition back to school.
      • Create meaningful programs to offer mental health support for youth in their respective community.
      • Retention of and protections for Black Educators, including a right to return to jobs.
    • SUPPORT FOR BLACK WORKERS AND SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS:
      • Protection, security of employment rights and immediate paid sick days for all essential service workers, the majority of whom are Black people.
      • Personal protective equipment for all frontline workers and financial compensation for the risk that essential frontline workers are taking.
      • Mandatory free testing and retesting for all frontline workers and protection and paid time off for people who are self-isolating, parenting children or caring for others.
      • Overall support for the livelihood of Black people during this time.
      • Additional protection and support for rebuilding for Black businesses to ensure their survival, including a dedicated fund that is low-barrier and without application process.
      • Deferral of current payments and taxes for Black businesses and forgiveness of debts.
      • Requirement of the city to contract specifically with Black businesses in order to provide much-needed income.
      • Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to receive no interest loans, reimbursements, and debt forgiveness.
      • Right to return requirement to combat systemic racism for all employees.
      • Community oversight body to ensure that “return to normal” does not usher in a new era of even more violent capitalism and greater dispossession for Black people and businesses.
      • Transparency around the cruise ship that docked in Oakland and the impacts on the workers, as well as free healthcare and testing for all workers who were exposed and their families. And any other major events that jeopardize the health and safety of workers, and communities—the right to know.
      • The ability to declare and receive compensation for a standby for health and safety.
      • Right to return for workers who are laid off and right to stay for workers who do not want to leave their jobs. And right to return to those who elect to protect their health in a pandemic.
      • Protection for Black union leaders.
      • Congress should create a supplementary direct assistance program for the self-employed and microbusinesses to help cover the cost of lost business, paid sick leave, individual health care costs, and fixed expenses.
      • Self-employed Americans depend on critical e-commerce infrastructure, including financial services, shipping, and Internet connectivity. The federal government should ensure that these essential services remain fully operational, even as the public and private sectors take greater measures to contain the spread of the virus.
      • PPES mandatory for all Frontline and essential workers. State/County/City should make them available to employers at cost. Currently they have to get them at retail this is an additional cost they can’t afford.
      • Employers should receive subsidies as an incentive to protect their workers.
      • Unemployment Insurance rates should not increase because of COVID layoffs – rates should stay flat.
      • Workers compensation insurance should be covered for employers so that they do not take a hit when workers are out sick with COVID 19.
      • Congress should expand Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by increasing the income threshold (which is dependent on a number of factors), including younger and childless workers, and eliminating the marriage penalty. Lawmakers should also allow it to be calculated and administered on a quarterly basis instead of annually, which would better support individuals struggling to manage short-term income volatility.
      • The City of Oakland and the County of Alameda should help facilitate a local Small Business Relief fund. The fund will be Hosted by The California Endowment, the Small Business Relief Fund to provide immediate support to struggling self-employed and small business owners. TCE will partner with Opportunity Fund, California’s largest nonprofit microlender, to ensure critical capital remains available to these entities throughout this crisis.
      • Six-month income replacement program conditioned upon full and continued employment of all restaurant staff, payment of rents to landlords, and ongoing payables to suppliers.
      • Provide rent abatement for the duration of the administrative closure followed by percentage rent through 2020 for tenants. This must be coupled with mortgage forgiveness for landlords.
      • Suspend state sales and payroll tax through end of year. Permit deferral of utility payments until reopening. Mandate that fees charged by third-party delivery platforms to our local restaurants be capped at a maximum 10% of the order.
      • Require business loss insurance to cover COVID-19 closures for hospitality businesses. The Governor must declare that the pandemic has caused physical loss and damage.
      • Suspend the payment of all insurance premiums (and, protect against a spike in premium related to COVID-19), utility payments, fines and provide cure periods to businesses for violations that do not pose an immediate hazard to the public and workers. All taxes, fees, premiums and fines must be suspended indefinitely until a thorough and thoughtful strategy can be implemented to address these payments.
      • Add flexibility to the definition of small business to allow small to mid-size restaurants to apply for aid.
      • Establish an on-call pool of African American restaurants to provide food and beverages throughout all city departments for all events, functions, meetings, etc. This list is not exhaustive.
      • City/County should contract with Oakland based businesses for office supplies, cleaning supplies, paper, vehicles, etc. This list is not exhaustive.
      • Corporate accountability- no more subsidies, no more tax breaks! Corporations, real estate investors, developers must pay their fair share to fund public resources we rely on like public health, affordable housing, etc.
      • Create a pool of funding to support the programming of CBOs, cultural institutions, direct service nonprofits, and artists whose services are essential to the cultural preservation and artistic health of marginalized communities
    • PUBLIC SAFETY/CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM:
      • Decarceration for the safety of all people, including those inside prisons who are incarcerated and also for the workers inside jails.
      • Mandatory testing for all people inside jails to prevent community spread.
      • Re-entry resources for people who are released, including financial support, identification, food, housing, MediCal and funds for family members who house and care for newly released people.
      • The removal of barriers resulting from a criminal record in accessing key essential human necessities.
      • End the militarization of police.
      • No national guard or military enforcement.
      • No further criminalization, fines or arrest of Black people based on the COVID 19 mandates, including orders on masks, travel, etc. especially for unhoused people who are disproportionately targeted and impacted.
      • All law enforcement must immediately cease profiling Black people, including health authority, housing authority, Oakland Police Department, sheriffs, BART and other transit police.
      • End all requirements that people meet with parole officers, attend court, and other appointments. End all penalties related to this.
      • Stop criminal enforcement and divert funds to invest in public health workers, education and distribution of resources.
      • Cease police use of pandemic to conduct raids.
      • No expansion of the surveillance state.
      • No increased surveillance in connection to slow streets project.
      • No use of disaster funds by City to implement non COVID19 data to implement non essential programming connected to non essential development/gentrification.
    • HOUSING:
      • Access to hotel rooms and vacant units for all unhoused residents who want them now.
      • A humane, dignified, harm reduction approach to non-infected residents in housing or hotels, to allow for the same shelter-in-place guidance and guidelines as the general public.
      • Provide safe and secure off or onsite storage for all belongings of unhoused residents while sheltering in hotels or spaces.
      • Access to jobs for hotel workers on a voluntary basis, to work in hotels providing housing and a right to return for all of the hotel’s usual workers once business returns to normal.
      • No over-policing of people who are unhoused and sheltering in hotels.
      • Resources for new mothers and babies in sheltering spaces, including diapers, wipes, and other essentials.
      • Debt forgiveness of back rent for renters who cannot pay rent or utilities during this time.
      • Personal protective equipment, training, testing, and paid sick leave for all people working in transitional housing and shelters. Protections for residents and workers.
      • The return of buildings to the people once developers default, abandon it or leave it vacant.
      • The use of private hotels, closed schools, the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and the Coliseum to provide housing for those who need it.
      • Rent and mortgage moratorium and forgiveness across the board for the length of time necessary not to experience massive evictions.
      • No evictions citywide.
      • Stop all sweeps of houseless settlements and provide bathrooms, showers, hand washing stations, soap, drinking water, laundry vouchers, dumpsters, vermin abatement, and cleaning supplies.
    • TRANSPORTATION:
      • Protections for transit drivers including partitions between driver and passengers, space for physical distancing, paid sick leave, and personal protective equipment.
      •  Disclosure of COVID 19 positive status for emergency services drivers who are transporting someone who has COVID 19.
      •  AC Transit must implement safety guidelines for drivers and passengers.
      • Guaranteed free public transportation for frontline workers, including BART.
      • Protection and funds for families of transportation workers and mandatory free testing and retesting for all transportation workers.
    • Other Resources:
      • Stop all nonessential construction in marginalized high-risk communities.
      •  Transparency on the use of COVID disaster funding in Oakland.
      • The City of Oakland’s Department of Race and Equity must activate itself around the disparity of this moment and be given additional resources and staff to do so.
      • City of Oakland shall Fully implement the ordinance establishing the Department of Race & Equity and increase staffing with an additional 7 FTE and requisite funding for the Department of Race and Equity.
      • Prioritizing community projects- City and County staff time and resources should go to community projects first (affordable housing, small business support, etc) and private profit-driven projects and proposals last.
      • Food access- ensure all Black people have access to healthy and fresh food even when the market drives up food prices in the crisis.
      • Diversify the boards and commissions that inform and govern city decisions to ensure Black folks are part of decision making.
      • Ensure pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures in East and West Oakland neighborhoods so that Black children and youth can walk, play and bike outside without fear of injury or fatality. Without the isolation or criminalization through enforcement of communities, with impacted communities at the table to be part of any plans.
    • Long Term Demands:
      • Reparations, which include: debt forgiveness, free education, free healthcare, enforcement of CA Slavery Era Insurance Registry & similar local slavery era disclosure ordinances including mandatory reporting, imposition of maximum fines & penalties, mandatory fund contribution from companies that have disclosed already, and distribution of funds to Black-led organizations serving Black populations. Possibly even expand law to include profiteers from the housing/financial crisis and carceral systems.
      • HEALTHCARE: Access to long term mental health care, funding of culturally competent free clinics, cooperatives, community programming centered around healing and facilitation of individual and group agency.
      • Environment – cessation of environmentally compromising projects placed in black and brown communities, united and systematic planning, and immediate remediation of toxic neighborhoods.
      • FOOD SECURITY:
        • Create neighborhood food banks.
        • Fund urban farms.
        • Fund urban gardening.
        • Utilize public land to grow food for distribution.
        • Plant edible plants in marginalized neighborhoods.
        • Tax property owners for boarded “unavailable” housing discouraging vacancies to raise prices or to divest neighborhoods for speculators.
      • EDUCATION:
        • No more privatization of public schools serving Black communities.
        • Fully functioning state of the art facilities with the appropriate technology.
        • Culturally relevant curriculum.
        • No sale of school land to private developers.
        • Community oversight.
        • Staff should reflect student body recruitment and incentivize to become educators.
        • Find out of school community based enrichment.
        • College fund.
        • Professional/craft/trade training.
        • No police in schools.
      • HOUSING
        • Land trust for Black people in East and West Oakland. Utilizing eminent domain over vacant or underutilized properties to create a land trust for housing and economic development for Black people. This would be a form of reparations for many things but specifically for the use of eminent domain to displace Black residents from Oakland and ongoing gentrification etc.
        • Toxic-free communities, immediate repudiation, right to be housed elsewhere during remediation with funds to relocate with right to return/right of first refusal at the previous rate.
        • Equitable neighborhood services including cleaning and access to parks.
      • CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
        • Alameda County must increase diversion programs that keep people out of cages and allow them to successfully thrive.
        • End cash money bail.
        • No late night releases out of Santa Rita jail.
        • An audit of the Santa Rita jail by an impartial party.
        • Redistribute recidivism funds to culturally competent programming invested in education, job training, and service to those incarcerated.
        • Remove all police from schools and redistribute those funds to student materials and needs.
      • PUBLIC SAFETY
        • The Oakland Police Commission should have the autonomy to function without interference from city leadership.The citizens of Oakland have agreed with the establishment of the concept of the Police Commission in order to create proper and impartial oversight for OPD.
        • The city of Oakland must create and implement a response to mental health crisis, interpersonal violence and substance abuse that does not lead with law enforcement.
        • The city of Oakland must redefine public safety to include jobs, housing, education, clean streets, mental health and access to food, water and clean air.
        • The Oakland Police Department must be transparent and honest about incidents of Use of Force which still disproportionately impact Black Oaklanders.
      • TRANSPORTATION
        • Provide free transportation to unhoused/displaced persons with a means to access health care and other human needs.
        • Provide free transportation to all low-income community members.

USP 515 Session 13 Notes

November 16th and 18th
Session Thirteen:  Addressing Environmental Injustices/Cost Benefit Analysis/Precautionary Principle

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION THIRTEEN (click on session 13 on left to access reading) 

 

  1. Pricing the Priceless (this is a legal article so you may have to review it several times

    • Cost-benefit analysis is a deeply flawed method that repeatedly leads to biased and misleading results
      • offers no clear advantages in making regulatory policy decisions and often produces inferior results, in terms of both environmental protection and overall social welfare, compared to other approaches
    • Proponents of cost-benefit analysis make two basic arguments in its favor.
      • First, use of cost-benefit analysis ostensibly leads to more “efficient” allocation of society’s resources by better identifying which potential regulatory actions are worth undertaking and in what fashion
      • Second, the use of discounting systematically and improperly downgrades the importance of environmental regulation.
      • Third, cost-benefit analysis ignores the question of who suffers as a result of environmental problems and, therefore, threatens to reinforce existing patterns of economic and social inequality.
      • Finally, cost-benefit analysis fails to produce the greater objectivity and transparency promised by its proponents
    • While economists have spent three decades wrangling about how much a human life, or a bald eagle, or a beautiful stretch of river, is worth in dollars, ecologists, engineers, and other specialists have gone about the business of saving lives and eagles and rivers, without waiting for formal, quantitative analysis proving that saving these things is worthwhile.
  2. The Precautionary Principle Puts Value First, Nancy Meyer
    • Professor definition: if the producer is not able to prove that no one will be harmed occurs in the process of their activity, then they may not proceed.
    • potential harm, scientific uncertainty, and precautionary action
    • The Wingspread Statement went on to define three additional components of the principle’s application: In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed, and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action

 

NO HOMEWORK