"Just Enough Green": A Discussion on Environmental Gentrification

By Alyssa Kennedy

Gentrification has been a consistent trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values resulting in the displacement of lower-income families, businesses, and eventually changing the entire neighborhood structure. Recently, Philadelphia has been experiencing a massive gentrification movement. However, a new type of gentrification has been creeping into neighborhoods in the form of “environmental improvement/repair” more commonly known as “environmental gentrification.”

Environmental gentrification means that by adding more green space to an undeserved neighborhood or changing the landscape of the current environment can force out the very people meant to benefit from those changes. The question remains: How, then, can cities enact environmental improvements without displacing the people and businesses that came before? This brings in the idea of “just green enough.” It is the notion of making a neighborhood more livable without triggering gentrification, and helps combat against any environmental inequities or injustices that have been felt by the community by providing them with cleaner, and greener, spaces.

In order for such “green” changes to be successful and not give individuals the sense that they are experiencing gentrification in their home neighborhoods is to incorporate the community in its development. Last month, a town hall was held so that members of the community, particularly those who have experienced social marginalization, could have their concerns heard in a safe environment. During this meeting members of the community had the opportunity to share their real-life experiences with environmental injustice and gentrification. From that gathering, there seemed to be a sense of hope that through effective organizing and increased community participation, individuals have the potential to reclaim their neighborhoods and work towards developing environmentally-conscious improvements by working with members of the City. Working towards being “just enough green” has been successful in other areas, like in Chicago and New York City, but now it is Philly’s turn, and the community is looking forward to getting to work on improving the City one green patch at a time.