Reproducing Spatial Inequality? The Sustainability Fix and Barriers to Urban Mobility in Portland, Oregon
This work was supported by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University, as part of the Portland Climate Action Collaborative.
We explore how the language of “just sustainability” may become subsumed into a sustainability fix strategy, depoliticizing the utility of concepts such as justice and/or equity. Building from critical GIS insights, we combine digitized spatial data from participatory mapping exercises and community-organization-based focus group in Portland, Oregon, regarding a proposed six-mile biking and walking path around downtown. We find that 80 percent of participants’ typical travel destinations are outside of downtown Porltand and that participants experience planning and sustainability in a highly localized manner, challenging the equity rationale of downtown investment. We argue the top-down planning model, which presumes that the spatial diffusion of benefits is equitable, is inherently ahistorical and fails to benefit those in historically marginalized neighborhoods. Finally, we argue for the value of community-oriented research, which, in this case, inspired a coalition of community organizations to formally oppose a city-led project based on the inequitable distribution of infrastructure benefits.
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Mahmoudi, D., Lubitow, A., & Christensen, M. A. (2019). Reproducing spatial inequality? The sustainability fix and barriers to urban mobility in Portland, Oregon. Urban Geography, 1-22.