In this essay, Hanna Garth reflects on how her several years of fieldwork in eastern Cuba and Los Angeles, California, inform her critiques of the ways scholars and practitioners look at issues of food access and food security. She argues policymakers should focus more on food acquisition practices to better understand and address a community’s dietary needs and its food preferences. Based on her research, Garth questions the current focus on only dietary needs, and demonstrates the importance of tracing people’s actual pathways for acquiring food.
Kristen Lewis, Sarah Burd-Sharps, and Becky Ofrane dive into the demographic data in Measure of America’s latest report on youth disconnection, More than a Million Reasons for Hope. While the recent rebounding economy offers some good news in terms of the overall disconnection rates among young people, these remain disturbingly high for minority youth. The authors argue economic growth alone cannot erase the multiple structural barriers and institutional racism that produce significant gaps in the disconnection rates between different racial and ethnic groups, but solutions can be found through local organizations and by including youth in the conversation.
A collaboration between Duke University scholars and the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) has focused on environmental justice questions in rural Alabama. In this essay, the partners describe their research on how sewage and related environmental problems intersect with broader social structural issues, and consider how to address these challenges. The authors also reflect on the process by which scholars and community-based organizations can work together, and what goes into a mutually rewarding partnership.
In this reflection on MOA’s A Portrait of LA County report, Kelly Lytle Hernandez and Terry Allen connect their research on incarceration and policing in LA to the report’s findings. The same neighborhoods coded as Struggling LA and Precarious LA by the report have the highest incarceration rates, as well as high “collateral damage” of the prison system such as the cost of bail. The authors refer to these parts of the city and county as Caged LA, and argue that an understanding of urban inequality needs to incorporate patterns of incarceration into measures of human development.
In a new response to the recently published Measure of America report A Portrait of LA County, Pedro Noguera unpacks a range of socioeconomic disparities revealed in the report. Noguera calls attention to how comparing inequalities across neighborhoods can miss the ways in which different parts of LA are interconnected—how what happens in one part of the city shapes social outcomes elsewhere. Showing how the lack of affordable housing, long commutes, and poor access to quality education are related, he proposes recommendations for addressing inequality based upon geographic interdependencies.
In this “Just Environments” essay, Celeste Gagnon, Alicia Boswell, and Patrick Mullins examine the impact of devastating El Niño storms on small, rural communities in the Peruvian Andes. Largely overlooked by the federal government, these communities have relied on grassroots responses to the rains, in effect building new social structures of resilience. As climate change increases the potential for more frequent and intense rains, it is clear that new forms of resilience will become ever more essential to the well-being of these communities.
Veronica Herrera continues the “Just Environments” series by examining the ways in which low-income communities that are impacted by toxic contamination mobilize grassroots movements as forms of resistance and vehicles for claims-making. Focusing on neighborhoods in Buenos Aires and Bogotá, Herrera notes that community residents partner with better-resourced actors to frame environmental protections as legal rights, effectively forging new types of environmental citizenship.
Drawing upon a long history of anti-racist, feminist, and decolonial struggles, Malini Ranganathan continues our “Just Environments” series with an essay that suggests freedom can serve as a powerful analytic through which to reimagine environmental justice. Ranganathan makes the case that a comprehensive understanding of freedom must include (though, crucially, is not limited to) the ability to live in a safe and clean environment. Situating environmental harms within a broader emancipatory politics, she brings us closer to redressing multiple, intersectional injustices.
Alexa Dietrich co-launches the “Just Environments” series by reflecting on the environmental challenges faced by transnational communities—in this case, families that live on opposite sides of the US-Mexico border, whose lives are separated by stringent immigration policies. In highlighting the connections between immigration and the environment, Dietrich argues that a more humane approach to legal residency is critical to bolstering local resilience to climate change on both sides of the border.
Isha Ray’s contribution, the first of several essays in our “Just Environments” series, examines gender equality through the lens of access to basic sanitation. Moving beyond what the United Nations and others have proposed, Ray argues that in-home toilets are inadequate because they fail to account for those without homes, or those who are not home all day. Rather, if we are to make sanitation truly accessible, we must explicitly design and construct infrastructure that meets the needs of the most marginalized—including the low-income woman whose dignity and mobility rests on the presence of clean, safe facilities outside of the home.