Greening the industrial city: equity, environment, and economic growth in Seattle and Chicago

  • Corina McKendry
  • Nik Janos
Original Paper


In many cities of the global North, city leaders are using greening as a way to compete in the globalized economy. Critiques of this development strategy typically focus on downtown areas, and many have noted that such processes often displace poor and working class people. Less studied are those areas that have not been fully incorporated into the postindustrial economy and where the struggles around social justice, economic development, and ecological restoration are still being played out. It is this insufficiently informed area of knowledge which this paper seeks to address and as to which we ask: What has been the impact of the green economy discourse in relatively more marginalized urban areas? Using industrial areas of Southeast Chicago and South Seattle as case studies, this paper draws on previously unreported qualitative data to argue that community efforts to promote environmental justice in these areas have the potential to redefine practices of green economic growth to incorporate social equity and community coherence. However, their ability to do so is constrained by the difficulty in challenging neoliberal discourses of the primacy of growth and the need of greening to benefit the consumer class. The paper contemplates the implications of the lessons learnt for greening cities in both developed and developing countries.


City greening Environmental justice Neoliberal urbanism Seattle Chicago 



Duwamish river cleanup coalition


Environmental protection agency


Eco-industrial district


Lower Duwamish waterway group


Leadership in energy and environmental design


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceColorado CollegeColorado SpringsUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyCalifornia State University, ChicoChicoUSA

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