Which Type of Gentrifier am I?

This article got me thinking. I’d like to share some of those thoughts here with my reaction—I invite discussion.


I am a vocal advocate for “gentrification without displacement.” I see no problem with creating a better neighborhood if lifelong residents can easily remain. Yet, could I actually be an active participant in displacement?

I chose Hampden not because it was up-and-coming, but because it had qualities I love and wanted in a community. The developing “hipster” scene feels to be quelling some of that, and I worry that my willingness to buy a higher-than-neighborhood-average priced home here in 2014 (combined with my support of said hipster establishments) only adds fuel to the fire.

Now, I had my eyes on Hampden long before there were beer halls, high-end restaurants, or the city’s “choicest liquor store.” I’ve loved almost everything about the neighborhood for over a decade. That being said, I do often complain about “old Hampden” — specifically, those of whom are racist.

So as I sit here and complain about the people I replace (and, again, sometimes feel no remorse when it’s replacing racists), and as I remain involved in improving the community through various means, I do nothing but watch as housing prices skyrocket and vacant homes flip and sell for MORE than my once-higher-than-average/but-now-probably-below-average priced home. Worse still, my worry is less about the people who’ve spent their entire lives in the community but can no longer afford it, and more about what I’m going to do when I need to grow my home and won’t be able to afford it. How shameful of me.

So, as I reflect, I’d say I’m a combination of all four types of gentrifiers:

  1. The Gentrifier Against Gentrification because, as I expressed, my ideal scenario is to invest without displacing.
  2. The Tiptoeing Gentrifier because I recognize my intrusion in the community and thus I tread lightly (though I am well aware of the strength of the existing fabric);.
  3. The Conqueror because I indeed am ashamed to be neighbors with racists and wish some would leave to make room for more open-minded and especially more minority residents (and at the same time, yes, I recognize the unlikeliness of seeing more minorities given the rapidly developing landscape of the community).
  4. The Curator because—even though I have ties to the neighborhood through my great grandfather and my mother-in-law—I have no immediate connection to the community or its quirks, yet I’m still quick to take the “keep Hampden weird” stance.

It’s important to recognize my role in gentrification with displacement, and it’s giving me the opportunity to consider what I can do to play a positive role.

 

Share // A Connected, Walkable City: Building for Urban Wildlife

Originally seen on Planetizen.com, this article by Steven Snell tugs on my heart strings. How can we create a humane (or, as the article refers to it, a human(e)) city? What does it mean to be a human(e) environment?

Read the article here: http://www.planetizen.com/node/87396?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-07212016

On Intersectionality.

Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. [Source: Geek Feminism Wiki]

The term is relatively new to me. The concept, however, I believe has been long ingrained within my core.

Humanist. Feminist. Environmentalist. Animal Rights Activist. LGBTQ (“SAGA”) Ally.

All of these doctrines are so fundamentally intertwined that they cannot entirely be removed from each other. Therefore, I strongly believe—as the intersectionality doctrine supports—that you cannot be one advocate  without also being an advocate for the others.

You cannot be a humanist, supporting equality and social justice, while at the same shop at big box retailers (some of which offer minimal or no services/benefits to their employees) to buy products manufactured via, at best, abysmal working conditions or, at worst, child/slave labor … so that you can have that cheap shirt. [Resource: Last Week Tonight]

You cannot be a feminist, and still support the artificial insemination of female cows, who are doomed to life of torture and without bodily autonomy, impregnated but never to become mothers, as their babies are then stolen from them almost immediately after birth … so that you can have that slice of cheese. [Reference: A Call to Feminists]

You cannot be an environmentalist, but at the same time support the industry which is the leading cause of environmental destruction and degradation, the depletion of precious resources, and the generation of pollution through greenhouse gas emissions … so that you can have that meatball sub. [Resource: Cowspiracy]

And you cannot be an animal rights advocate but support the destruction of rainforests and decimation of an entire ecosystem … so that you can eat that palm oil margarine. [Reference: Say No to Palm Oil]

Intersectionality is the belief that all of these movements are interrelated. That it is a moral imperative to practice the beliefs of all these doctrines, as they complement the tenets of the others. At one point in my life, I would advocate for one cause but, in the next breath (or bite of food) contradict my own morals. It took a great deal of research/soul-searching and contemplating before I came to understand, truly, the intersectionality of it all. In the past year, I’ve only just begun to familiarize myself, as I said, with the terminology. And as I am now able to assign a name to this concept, I’ve also been able to more clearly and comprehensively form arguments in support of each of the causes I hold very dear.

Recently, I’ve begun to write more often about my veganism on this blog, which began as an environmental blog. (I got a little heated in my last post.) I still very much feel that this blog is an environmentalist’s blog. And that is precisely why I have found it so significantly important to share these thoughts of mine. I am who I am because, deep down, my love for the environment and my love for animals (human animals included) has driven me to become the person that I am today. From my profession as an urban planner—which I have pursued in an attempt to protect what land and resources we have left on this planet—to my decision to live a vegan lifestyle, to reduce harm as much as possible to the living beings with which I share this planet. My environmentalism is what started to define me as the woman I am today. It opened my eyes to the struggles faced throughout the world. And I am thankful for that.

While I see the value in discussing all of these topics in one blog, I’ve been playing with the idea of having an alternate blog dedicated strictly to veganism and advocacy. I haven’t yet decided; I’d be interested to hear thoughts from some readers?

In the mean time, I encourage all to look into some of these fantastic resources on understanding intersectionality:

Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack! Podcast. Specifically Episode 009 Othering and Intersectionality but they have a series of different episodes which address this topic to some degree.

Washington Post Article: Intersectionality: A Primer.

Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.

Yes, Our Lives Are Intersectional: Reflections on the Secular Social Justice Conference.

Carnism is NOT a Personal Choice

Being a carnist (i.e., eating flesh [aka, “meat”]) is not a personal choice; and it’s not your “right.”

Okay, so there are a number (and by “a number” I truly mean copious amounts…like, ridiculous amounts) of arguments as to why you should live a vegan lifestyle if you also aim to be an environmentalist (likewise, feminist or equalist). Today, however, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about something that’s recently made me quite frustrated. And so this post is coming, largely, from the moral perspective rather than an environmental perspective.

That being said. Let’s get into what’s been eating at me.

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I went vegetarian almost 14 years ago now. I’ve been vegan for four (yay, me!). In all this time, I’ve typically been complimented—thanked for not being “like other vegans,” for not being “that militant vegan.” I believed that it was a testament to my compassion for all living things, both humans and non-humans.

But in 14 years of being the “nice vegan,” how many people had I convinced to become vegetarian or vegan? Maybe one (if that), and I’m not even sure I can take credit.

At this point, I know enough about the meat and dairy industries, and I know enough about the widespread impacts of carnism—from healthcare to hunger, to environmental destruction and my sacrifice for tax dollars spent on meat and dairy industries—to feel comfortable with my new-found, active and vocal stance. So what I’m about to say is really important, and it’s stuff I probably should have said years ago but I was too afraid to “offend” people with the facts.

But first, let me tell you a bit about my journey.

Carnism Post

Look at that! I I had a damn zoo-themed birthday party, I loved animals so much! And then look at me feeding that baby tiger and getting a kiss from a dolphin! So much love for the animals, right? Wrong. Absolutely wrong. I wish I knew then what I now know about the exploitation and abuse of animals for human entertainment.

I grew up an “animal lover.” I put that in quotes because, while I was an animal lover, I was at the same time participating in activities that generate extreme discomfort for animals. I had zoo-themed birthday parties, I nursed a baby tiger in captivity while at the fair, I swam with dolphins in a tiny enclosed area in the Bahamas. (Note: I am a privileged white cis-girl, and I am well-aware of that fact. That’s a topic for another day.)

But those were behaviors that, at best, did nothing to advocate on behalf of animals and, at worst, led to the discomfort and likely injury/demise of innocent beings. I might as well be tried as an accessory to murder, or charged with second-degree murder for my participation in animal-related entertainment.

Carnism Post2

I was a definite pet lover. In addition to my best childhood friend—the family dog—I owned gerbils, mice, ferrets, guinea pigs, and a sun conure. (That last one was actually my brother’s, but I loved him nevertheless.)

If I have trouble saying I was an animal lover, I can at least say I was a pet lover. Prior to going vegan, I had some amazing animal friends and companions. And they played a huge role in shaping my life.

Carnism Post3

Speciesism much?

But my contribution to speciesism continued, and I visited the zoo, and places like Disney where animals are exploited daily. Until I watched one influential movie…

Wait for it…

I watched Chicken Run.

If you’re thinking, “wait; but wasn’t that some claymation kids’ movie?” Why yes. Yes it was. And it’s not like it was the first time I had seen the movie, either. It was the second, or maybe even third time. It was the last week of class in my freshman year high school art class. As far as I’m concerned, that was Mel Gibson’s best cinematic performance. Because that shit hit me hard.

What the fuck was I thinking? (Pardon my language in this post, but I’m actually fucking furious about dealing with being vegan in a non-vegan society. And you need to know that.)

I told myself that day: I’m going to try to be vegetarian. That was it. I was just going to try. And I might have only been talking about chicken. I may have told myself that I was just going to try to not eat chicken for a week.

But then, after school, I told my friend (bless her heart) and she, by saying “you won’t make it a week,” turned it into a competition. In my stubbornness, I cut out all meat and became a lacto-ovo vegetarian (meaning I continued consuming dairy and eggs). And that was that.

Carnism Post4

I became an environmental activist around the same time. But while I tried to show compassion towards all animals, I still made mistakes. Look at the frightened and miserable face of this lemur.

In learning about compassionate living, I also learned about the destruction of the planet. And so I became an environmental activist and tried to care for all living beings I encountered. But I wasn’t perfect. I slipped up and I still went to the zoo one final time. In the picture above (bottom right), you see the poor and terrified stare from this Coquerel sifaka, a rare breed of lemur, here held captive and bred at the Maryland Zoo. I was an idiot. Plain and simple. I knew it was wrong. I felt it was wrong being there, looking at the sad and miserable animals held in captivity. But I went. Oh, how I regret it. The zoo was not fun, it was torturous.

I’m sharing my history because I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve led a “perfect” veg-friendly life. I haven’t. I’m sharing it because, no matter where you are in your life right now, no matter what you’ve done, you can still change.

Carnism Post5

My first time at the DC VegFest was a bit overwhelming, but amazing.

Then, I finally went vegan. I knew for years prior that it was something that I should do, that I needed to do. But I couldn’t do it. “I could never give up cheese.”

Famous.

Last.

Words.

I read an article in VegNews magazine about Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi going vegan and the wheels started to turn more seriously. Two months later, I watched Forks Over Knives. The end.

But actually not; because there’s more.

Carnism Post6

Today, I believe I am a true animal advocate.

Fast-forward to today, I am comfortable saying that I am a true animal advocate. I stop the car for injured animals. I support local animal rescues. I share about my veganism to friends and family.

The problem? It’s not enough.

Why am I mad? Despite living a compassionate and ethical lifestyle, I am still part of a system that supports, relies upon, and idolizes cruelty toward animals. And that’s not okay.

I find living in such a society is fundamentally, ethically, and morally wrong. Which is why it was so important for me to create a “safe space” at home—where I do not have to be surrounded by animal corpses in the way that I do around the office lunch table, through advertising, at the store, at dinner with family and friends, etc.

My husband, a carnivore, graciously agreed to keep a vegetarian home for me. To many, my request was offensive. Even my family and friends that have supported my veganism felt I was “going too far” in making such a request—that asking my husband to “sacrifice” so much for me was infringing on his choice to be a meat eater. (Side note: “sacrifice”? Really? That’s the word you choose?)

Meanwhile, I’m expected to accept decisions that are cruel while I’m constantly overwhelmed and offended by the sights, sounds, and other expressions of carnism every.single.day.

So no, your decision to eat meat and animal products is not a “personal choice.”

You have rights, but allow me to clarify. You have rights up to a pointYou have rights until your right to choose removes the right of another being to live. 

If that’s still not clear, this is what I mean: When a living thing must die or endure significant pain so you can have something, your choice is affecting that living thing.

When my tax dollars support animal agriculture, your choice is affecting me. When children and people are dying from cancer because of animal products, your choice is affecting other people. When grain that could end world hunger is fed to cattle raised for meat in wealthier societies, your choice is affecting the entirety of the Earth’s population. When methane from cattle pollutes the atmosphere…when runoff from CAFOs (google it) contaminate our waterways…when water is used in excess during times of drought because of intense animal agriculture…when the Rain Forests are being cleared to graze cattle…your choice is affecting the planet.

I could go on for hours. But I’ll spare you for now.

All that being said, here is one final point with which to end. You can be vegan. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have the fortune of living in a society where you do not need animal products. (Some societies are still very much dependent on animal products, and I acknowledge that.)

We do not need animal products for proper nutrition. In fact, in most cases we are better off and healthier by eliminating animal products—which are linked to carcinogens, bad cholesterol, heart disease, etc.—from our diet. Bonus: we live during a time when vegan specialty items are both affordable and abundant. And here’s the ringer: vegan food is just food.

Have you ever had an apple before? You’ve eaten vegan food. There.

Listening to the Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack! Podcast the other day, I heard an interesting (and valid) point: Vegan food is the common denominator. Everyone can eat vegan food.

So what’s stopping you? Really? Be honest with yourself. Take a minute and really think about it, because “this is how I’ve always done it” is not an acceptable excuse. (Nor is “but I like it”…)

The last thing I want to say is this, my favorite quote:

“If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others…why wouldn’t we?” ~Edgar’s Mission

(Oh, and for anyone all in a tizzy over this…I got over dairy-based cheese.)

Resources and Further Reading

But where do you get your protein?

But calcium?

Links for interested/new vegans:

Links about carnism:

Links about the economic impact of meat and dairy industries:

There are so many others but I am emotionally drained from writing this blog post. Be a smart and conscious consumer. Do your research. Remove your blinders. Absorb the wealth of knowledge out there. Go vegan.

The Challenges We Face

I’m here at work creating a list of the challenges we (our firm) face in our work. The next task: to create a list of the problems our clients face. Yet, I find it much easier to view Planet Earth as our client, and its challenges are indeed many.

While I list these threats—all very significant, all looming—I feel surprisingly less uneasy as I would have expected. In fact, I feel relieved; as if listing these massive problems will help me wrap my brain around them, and guide every action from this day forward in an effort to address, resolve, or at least pacify them somewhat.

They are, nevertheless, monumental. My list evolved:

  • Depleted resources
  • Social unrest
  • A changing climate
  • Extreme weather events
  • Global habitat destruction/loss and global species extinction
  • Pollution and contamination of all Earth’s ecosystems (including the omnipresence of trash)
  • Continued and potentially increasing violence, at many scales
  • Extreme population growth
  • Energy dependence (rather than self-reliance)
  • Loss of human interaction; society becomes a slave to technology
  • Worldwide hunger
  • Economic instability (on a national level) and poverty (on the individual level [albeit an issue tied to the entirety of society])
  • Globalization (including the spread of invasive, non-native species and the loss of culture and individuality)

Putting these worries to paper was therapeutic, but putting pen to paper is not a solution. The step, now, is to DO SOMETHING. And every person, no matter how small, has the ability to affect great change. This list will be in the back of my mind, a constant reminder of what I’m fighting for: a safer, healthier, inclusive, equitable, “greener,” cultural, and more sustainable and resilient Earth.

It’s no easy task, but I remain ever the optimist. With collaboration and a concerted effort, we can quell these noisy threats.

I can’t be the only blogger who fails to deliver on their promises….

I’m really disappointing myself more than I’m failing any of my readers (although I’m sure I’m doing that, too) when I say “I’ll write more soon.”

I really do love to write, especially about planning and sustainability, but finding the time to research and write is a bit more challenging…as you’re read my say in the past…sorry.

Until I can find more time, I recommend interested readers take a look at my facebook page, Charm City EcoVillage. You won’t find original work, or many opinion pieces (like you would find here), but you’ll get updates on some of the more innovative sustainability-related programs and models in society, architecture, planning, and urban design — like this article by Anthony Flint in CityLab about Regenerative Design.

(Hope to) be in touch soon!

-Sustainable Meg

Baltimore Riots … Blame the Urban Planner?

Blame the Urban Planner

With my City in turmoil, I’ve been asking myself about the role of society, citizens, and my profession in contributing to, and then resolving, conflicts like this.

As a practicing Urban Planner who is relatively “fresh” out of grad school (one year, now), I have found myself wondering these past weeks (well, to be honest, my whole life, but especially in these last few weeks) what society must do to remedy tragic and unequal conditions in urban neighborhoods. As a minority majority member in a City whose population is 63% African American/Black, it becomes an issue about race whether you want it to or not (I know, we thought racial inequality ended decades ago…well it very certainly did not).

Being connected to many white people through facebook, posts this past week have created deep chasms between polar opposite viewpoints.

This presentation, which I gave yesterday morning to the Planning and Urban Design team at my office, talks about how structural racism has contributed to a cyclical and viscous inequality among Baltimore’s residents.

Despite its name, the presentation is not so much an attack on Urban Planners, but a criticism of society and urban policy as contributors to urban inequality and the resulting violence. However, the presentation is intended to be a call for action for urban planners and designers, and citizens alike.

Megan_May2015_TeamResearch_lores links

Consulting in Lancaster City

Not to begin yet another blog post with an apology, but I truly am sorry for not posting more often!

Since graduating with my Master’s in City and Regional Planning, I’ve been working as a planner for the Baltimore-based landscape architecture firm, Mahan Rykiel Associates. In addition, my husband and I are looking at a house down the street from my new office. Should all go as planned (there have been a few hiccups), we’ll be in there next month! In short, life has been great!

Although I don’t have much planning content at the moment—especially not written—I would like to share some of the work I’m doing with Mahan Rykiel.

One of the main projects that I’m working on is an Economic Development Strategic Plan for the City of Lancaster, PA. You can read about the project on the website of our client, the Lancaster City Alliance. In case you haven’t been to Lancaster, or haven’t been in some years (as was the case with myself), I highly recommend a visit soon! The city is in such a great place that this plan, being produced more than 15 years after their previous Economic Development Strategy (1998), is being shaped from a “position of advantage.” Believe me, that’s not just some cheesy line, this city is really something to see! Rather than a reactive, symptom-based plan, this will be a proactive, asset-based strategy that builds on existing strengths in the city!

One of the things that I find most refreshing about Lancaster is the lack of chain stores. Though it does, at times, limit the ability of local residents to meet their daily needs (where to buy underwear!?), it provides visitors and residents alike with unique products and experiences. Furthermore, it enhances the city’s identity as an authentic place, built from diverse backgrounds and a rich heritage.

I credit this success to the strong, energetic spirit of Lancaster’s creatives, young professionals, investors, and business entrepreneurs. There are some terrific dialogues taking place, center on great ideas and inspiring collaboration.

I just got back from my third trip up there; and am still feeling enthusiastic after our Thursday evening public meeting! As a planner, I have never been in a public meeting where the tone remained almost completely positive throughout, where there appeared to be total agreement on many of the points brought up, and where the community truly saw and embraced the potential. I was able to visit a few of our study areas during this most recent trip. Below are some of the (many) photos that I took while up there! Enjoy!

Juxtaposition of cables, wires, church steeple, and moon in the morning sky

Juxtaposition of cables, wires, church steeple, and moon in the morning sky

The Southern Market Center building, Queen Street

The Southern Market Center building, Queen Street

Green window boxes along Queen Street

Green window boxes along Queen Street

Wayfinding signs become attractive from the back with the imposed City logo design

Wayfinding signs become attractive from the back with the imposed City logo design

Commissioned Sculpture outside of the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCAD)

Commissioned Sculpture outside of the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCAD)

A neighborhood park in Lancaster, PA

A neighborhood park in Lancaster, PA

Curved alleys are scatter throughout Oldtown in Lancaster, PA

Curved alleys are scatter throughout Oldtown in Lancaster, PA

The Cork Factory Hotel, Urban Place along New Holland Avenue/Pike

The Cork Factory Hotel, Urban Place along New Holland Avenue/Pike

Economic Development Strategic Plan Public Meeting, mapping activity

Economic Development Strategic Plan Public Meeting, mapping activity

Economic Development Strategic Plan Public Meeting, mapping activity

Economic Development Strategic Plan Public Meeting, mapping activity

El Jardin, Florist along East King Street in Lancaster City

El Jardin, Florist along East King Street in Lancaster City

Street in Lancaster, PA

Street in Lancaster, PA

Pub facade in Lancaster City

Pub facade in Lancaster City

Downtown Lancaster, Duke Street

Downtown Lancaster, Duke Street

Green window on Duke Street in Lancaster City

Green window on Duke Street in Lancaster City

An arts initiative places painted pianos throughout the City of Lancaster

An arts initiative places painted pianos throughout the City of Lancaster

Lancaster City Central Market Day

Lancaster City Central Market Day

The project is looking at some of the major commercial corridors in the city—Prince and Queen Streets, New Holland Avenue, Harrisburg Avenue, South Duke Street, East King Street, Manor Street and West King Street, and the downtown area. The photos above are limited, mostly, to the corridors we visited this past week (New Holland Avenue and East King Street) and to the downtown area simply because that’s where I went walking yesterday morning!

While this project is still in the early stages, I encourage people to follow along! Search twitter and other sites for #BuildingOnStrength to see what’s happening!

Also, if you happen to be from Lancaster, please take a moment to complete this survey (there is a version en Español).

Assistance requested for professional project:

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Background: I’m an urban and regional planning student considering a new framework for planning and designing our cities….

I’ve broken human communities into 4 layers:

  1. Habitat
  2. Biota
  3. Society
  4. Cycles

Each layer has 2 sectors:

Habitat describes all physical things that are either (1) built or (2) natural
Biota includes (1) wildlife (e.g. flora, fauna, microbes, fungi, etc.) and (2) humankind
Society is made up of our (1) communities and (2) institutions (i.e. social norms)
BUT….

Cycles describes “things” that are moving, and the act of moving them. BUT I’M NOT SURE HOW TO BREAK DOWN “CYCLES” INTO TWO COMPONENT SECTORS…

I’ve had a couple ideas in the past……

  • A. Networks 
  • B. Metabolisms
  • A. Networks
  • B. Commerce
  • A. Infrastructure (essentially the same thing as networks but new name)
  • B. Stocks + Flows

or something else? I’m having a super hard time and would really appreciate any input!

Essentially, it would need to cover resources as commodities (when left alone, a resource would be a part of habitat, only when it’s harvested would it be a part of cycles); energy; waste; water; trade; industry; economic activity (“economy” used to be a part of cycles, where industry and jobs would be categorized; although I currently have “economy” as a part of institutions…)