by Kari Spiegelhalter, Tess Ruswick, and Patricia Noto, ASLA Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives
What is environmental justice? How does it relate to social justice, environmental racism, community health, and equitable design? As designers of places and cities, what is our responsibility to work towards greater equity? As students of landscape architecture, and the student representatives of the Environmental Justice PPN, we found that these questions that weren’t always being addressed in our coursework or studio projects in school. We had a hunch that other students felt the same way, so in spring of 2017, we attended LABash at the University of Maryland, the annual gathering of landscape architecture students from all over the country. Through surveys and conversations with students, we found that many students were concerned, if a bit confused, about environmental justice. Read more about our experiences at LABash in The Field article “Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives At LABash.”
Students frequently interpreted design for environmental justice as ecological design rather than design that addresses the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on minorities and marginalized groups and the unequal distribution of and access to environmental benefits.