Fair Landscapes for All Americans

Lafayette Square Park, Oakland, CA image: Hood Design
Lafayette Square Park, Oakland, CA
image: Hood Design

Environmental justice requires that landscapes be designed through processes that are fair, and in forms that are fair. Without fairness there can be no peace, because we have the responsibility both to obey just laws and to disobey unjust ones. Civil disobedience and destructive revolt follow injustice. Without fairness we can never achieve lasting beauty, except in isolated pockets of exclusive affluence. For these reasons and more, our profession must courageously champion fair landscapes for all, not just a few, Americans.

The form of the landscape contributes to racial, economic, gender, and age segregation and discrimination. Half a century ago, freeway construction and urban renewal, nicknamed “Negro Removal,” destroyed neighborhoods and uprooted primarily African American and poor people. This land was then used to serve wealthier citizens. This exploitation met violent resistance, and over time the injustices became less blatant, but justice and formal ordering of the landscape remain at odds. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. concluded that the problem that persists is that many Americans are more devoted to order than to justice. Today, three formal considerations are directly related to fairness: inaccessibility, exclusion, and unequal distribution of resources and amenities.

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