Poverty, Environment, and Inequality

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This course explores the relationship between poverty, environment and social inequality.  It examines how race and class interact in American rural and urban environments to produce or sustain inequalities (the study of rural poverty includes a look at poverty on Indian reservations also).  The course examines how structural factors and community characteristics influence environmental outcomes.  Students will begin by examining the relationship between degraded environments and poor schooling.  They will examine the environmental hazards that exists in urban and rural public schools; they will also assess how educational experiences influence aspirations and social outcomes. In Units II and III students analyze inner-city and poor rural communities as they examine disinvestment, the concentration of poverty, efforts to disperse the poor, and the potential for community revitalization.  Unemployment and green job creation for low-income residents will be assessed.  The class will examine how the rising cost of housing and shifts in housing policies have impacted urban communities.  One result -- growing homelessness  is examined in the course.  The course also examines another aspect of poverty the issue of food security; it looks at the rise in community gardening in poor communities as an attempt to combat lack of access to healthy food.  Unit IV of the course examines environmental justice.   In this unit students will examine spatial inequalities that arise from the siting of hazardous facilities in minority and low-income urban and rural communities.  It examines economic questions related to costs of hosting noxious facilities and if and how communities can seek compensation to host such facilities.  The course also examines the quandary communities face when presented with economic models that seek to provide compensation the question of the long term health of the people and environment take center stage as community residents seek to determine how to balance economic development with concerns about sustainability.  Students will also examine access to amenities such as parks, open space, and urban farming.  The look at health hazards in public parks and inequities in the distribution and maintenance of these spaces as well as examine the challenges cities face in providing funding for parks.  The final unit of the course examines two aspects of sustainability  ecovillages and climate justice.


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