by Ryan Treves, '22
This blog post is the first in a series called Missing from the Mainstream. Members of the SSS Environmental Justice group are amplifying narratives often missing from mainstream news outlets that show the intersection of social justice and sustainability.
Question: Does the quality of American urban park systems vary based on the cities’ socioeconomic and ethnic composition? Answer: YES. Among America’s 100 most populous cities, scientists found “Wealthier and Whiter cities have higher quality park systems than less affluent and more ethnically diverse cities” even when controlling for confounding variables. This means greater park coverage, park access, park spending per resident, and better facilities. More specifically, a recent study confirmed “Cities with larger percentages of Latino residents had lower quality park systems.”
What does this mean? Urban green spaces have been shown to support human well-being, sustainability and resilience. Specifically, physical activity, social integration and mental health may be correlated with access to urban green spaces. Less affluent cities with more nonwhite citizens are restricting that access and the benefits that come with it.
Why? Local funding for parks has dropped significantly in the last 50 years, meaning more cities have to look for state or federal funding. In practice, local organizations must prepare competitive grants for urban park funding. Wealthier cities are more likely to have skills and capacity to prepare winning grant applications. In addition, impetus for tourism and development -- which are key factors in park creation -- are often focused away from communities of color.
What can we do? Learn and spread the word about the green space inequity that disproportionately affects Latinx and other communities of color. Advocate for state park funding that prioritizes park-poor and low-income neighborhoods!
A.C.K. Lee, R. Maheswaran; The health benefits of urban green spaces: a review of the evidence, Journal of Public Health, Volume 33, Issue 2, 1 June 2011, Pages 212–222, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdq068
Rigolon, Alessandro, et al. “Inequities in the Quality of Urban Park Systems: An Environmental Justice Investigation of Cities in the United States.” Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 178, 2018, pp. 156–169., doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.05.026.
Welcome to our blog!
This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.