The election season from hell: check your privilege

This post will be short. It’s a Facebook status I posted just now in response to a very brief exchange I had with a differently-abled friend of mine.

An old friend of mine–an incredibly brave and confident individual who just so happens to be differently-abled than I– just made an amazing point… just when I was leaning toward Jill Stein and voting for the candidate who most aligned with my personal ethics, and as I assured myself that even if Trump were elected I would have been confident that my morals had not been undermined by my vote, I was reminded that the ability to vote for a third party and even risk Trump winning was a testament to my own privilege. This election would have significant repercussions for people of different races, ethnicities, beliefs, genders, sexual preferences, and abilities, etc. As a white woman from a middle-class family, my personal life would likely have minimal direct adverse impacts in a Trump presidency; whereas my black, brown, LGBTQ, differently-abled, etc. friends have so much more to lose.

I want a third party candidate to win. I believe in a third party candidate. And while I think there is a hopeful glimmer of a chance that we can change the system now and elect a third party candidate in 2016, I am more confident with the odds of Hillary winning the election than I am with the odds of Jill winning. Will the system still need to change? Absolutely. Can we work toward changing the system with a democratic president? Absolutely.

Checking my privilege right now and thinking about what’s best for all my brothers and sisters.

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.

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.

Research published in the ENRE Division Newsletter

July 2015 Newsletter for the Environment, Natural Resources, & Energy Division of the American Planning Association is out, and guess who’s in it! That’s right, me! As a result of my 2013-2014 Fellowship with the ENRE Division, my research has been published in their newsletter. You’ll have to become a division member to receive the publication, but here’s a snapshot of my page! ENRE Newsletter_July 2015 page

It may not be significant to some people, but this makes me extremely proud! Now, if only I could find more time to work on my research!

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

Why the Lack of Writing?

Well, I’ve been busy!

I started a new job in June at a Landscape Architecture firm that’s had my interest since my undergraduate studies; then, just two months later, my husband and I purchased our first home! Proud to say that I am FINALLY a Baltimore city-dweller (and my twitter handle—@theurbangranola—is now validated by my truly urban lifestyle :)).

Between those two major life events, I haven’t had much time for anything else!

I suspect I’ll have time once again soon, but I’m also preparing to take the AICP exam (the professional certification test for urban and regional planners) in May 2015. Thus, I’ll surely be spending a good deal of time studying. But maybe there’s a way to make my studying a writing component?

Stay tuned!

Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research (BESLTER) Annual Meeting and Fun events!

Dearest readers, please mark your calendars for this very cool event in Baltimore this month. The BESLTER is having a number of opportunities to engage folks interested in sustainability in the city during their 2014 annual meeting—including a Science for a Sustainable City session on the 21st (see this flyer: BES Sustainable City Flyer 10-21-14), and a open house on the 22nd.

Being held at the Vollmer Center at Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21209.

Hope to see you there!

Capture

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).