First Advisor

Daniel Sullivan

Date of Publication

Spring 6-10-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Community gardens -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Community development -- Oregon -- Portland, Gentrification -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Minorities -- Food supply -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Environmental justice



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 117 pages)


When it comes to the topic of environmental sustainability, most of us will readily agree that we face a litany of local and global environmental threats in the twenty-first century. As such, we would largely agree that the need to address climate change and other issues is urgent. Where this agreement tends to end, however, is on the question of whether this urgency is so great that we need not address issues of inequality and environmental justice when organizing sustainability efforts. Some are convinced that, because sustainability efforts are "saving the world for everyone", so to speak, issues of environmental justice are secondary at best. On the other hand, "just sustainability" advocates argue that no such effort is truly sustainable unless it considers winners and losers from the onset. I will argue the latter and demonstrate the potential consequences of a sustainability effort that has failed thus far at engaging those who might benefit most from involvement. This study is an exploration of the City Soil Network (CSN), a community garden organization comprised of seventeen garden sites throughout Portland, Oregon. Thirteen of these sites are in Northeast Portland, an area with a history of racial and ethnic discrimination and both inequalities and boundaries that prevail across the same lines today. A significant number of these residents are food insecure or at risk of becoming food insecure. Furthermore, recent gentrification in Northeast Portland has disproportionately displaced African Americans and members of other historically marginalized communities. As such, these groups tend to view recent neighborhood changes as a new variation on a decades old theme of injustice. Previous research suggests that community gardens can play a role in addressing all of these problems to some degree. However, this body of research has yet to explicitly analyze the relationship between local historical context, gentrification, the conflicting rhetorics of environmental sustainability and environmental justice and outcomes for community garden organizations. This case study includes content analysis of organizational publications, participant observation from four of the CSN's garden sites in Northeast Portland. It also includes interviews with eleven members of the CSN, representing all three levels of involvement with the organization, and six interviews with representatives of community organizations that serve Northeast Portland in some capacity. This study finds that the CSN largely consists of members of a preexisting community of sustainable agriculture enthusiasts. As such, those involved tend not to live near their garden site(s) and are distinct in a number of ways from the diverse neighborhoods that surround many of the CSN's garden sites. The organization has made very few neighborhood-level outreach efforts thus far, and those that have been made have largely been unsuccessful. Understandings expressed by both groups of interviewees help to explain why this has been the case. They also compel me to introduce the potentially adverse impact of gentrification on understandings of neighborhood socioeconomic conditions into the just sustainability debate; we need to consider that unjust sustainability can be the result of not only a lack of concern for inequality, but also a simple lack of awareness of it. Interviewees also provide suggestions for how the CSN or other community garden organizations might be more successful in appealing to marginalized communities.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier