First Advisor

Federico Pérez

Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in International & Global Studies: Global Studies and University Honors


International and Global Studies




Sustainable development, Neoliberalism -- Environmental aspects, Equality -- Economic aspects, City planning




Despite its banner of common-good altruism, urban sustainable development becomes a branding scheme for municipalities when it operates under and prioritizes a neoliberal agenda. Neoliberalism is the dominant economic philosophy within the United States, and other western economies, that emphasizes extreme economic liberalism and open markets with public fiscal austerity and the diminished role of governments. This has transferred a great portion of power and funding once held by the public sector into the hands of the private sector. Under neoliberalism, city governments function with stripped federal funding and limited budgets, while leaning on private companies for public operations, like urban development. When private interests are deeply embedded in urban development, urban landscapes become molded by profit and investment.

Areas become developed and valued based on monetary gains rather than social needs. This has created drastic spatial inequality and gentrification in many cities. When this form of neoliberal development is tied to sustainability and environmental health, not only does spatialized economic disparity unfold, but environmental disparity unfolds as well. Green infrastructure, like bike lanes, parks and gardens, or street trees, are predominantly visible in high-income neighborhoods, or neighborhoods that are gentrifying. Low-income or minority spaces often lack these environmental amenities. Conversely, environmental burden and hazards are often zoned in close proximity to marginalized communities. This disproportionate exposure to pollutants and hazards and the uneven distribution of environmental 'goods' and 'bads' has been coined "environmental racism."


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