Lead Scientist(s): Dr Steward T A Pickett, Dr Timon McPhearson
Green infrastructure (GI) is usually assumed to be a benefit everywhere and for everybody in a city. Is this assumption correct? Or are there differences in where and who is served or burdened by GI? Our group of urban ecologists, social scientists, GIS analysts, and environmental historians is working together to discover how to best improve the equity of GI through policy and practice.
This practical goal requires learning three things:
Team 1 has created the first complete map of GI in Baltimore, bringing together the projects permitted by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and those installed by NGOs. NGO projects were mostly missing from the DPW data set because those projects were often intentionally too small to require regulatory approval. The NGO projects were intended to satisfy neighborhood needs, while DPW projects aimed to satisfy EPA stormwater permits. The map at right shows that using just the DPW data set alone gives the city an incomplete understanding of whether the distribution of GI in Baltimore is equitable. Analysis of the full data set shows that GI is related to both race and income. Future data on the function of NGO installations is needed to assess equity of GI.
Team 2 is conducting stakeholder and resident interviews, as well as engagement and outreach activities in Baltimore’s neighborhoods.
Their key takeaways so far are:
Team 3 examined 119 plans from 20 cities to determine: how GI is defined and used; how equity is defined and applied to GI; and how communities are engaged in the planning process. Examining plans reveals important patterns:
There is little consensus between plans and cities on what things count as GI. Nor is there consensus around co-benefits and functions of GI. These situations point to a widespread need to improve the integration of equity into the way GI is planned and implemented by cities.
To summarize, the ‘good’ of GI cannot be attained through universal best management practices. Rather, equity must itself be purposefully and democratically constructed as part of GI plans and installations in specific social contexts.