Decolonizing the Green City: From Environmental Privilege to Emancipatory Green Justice

Isabelle Anguelovski*, Anna Livia Brand, Malini Ranganathan, Derek Hyra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The expanding reach of urban greening across the United States and beyond often materially and immaterially impacts communities of color, leading to displacement and decreased access to new urban amenities. While many scholars point to the persistence of racial inequality, we observe the urban greening orthodoxy in urban planning and development as evidencing a deeper strain of environmental injustice bound up in the legacy and continuance of White supremacy. In this article, following the prompts of the Black Lives Matter Movement to enact life-affirming Black geographies, we call for decolonizing the green city and for an emancipatory spatial imaginary to enact green justice. Reflecting on the development of the 11th Street Bridge Park in the predominantly Black Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast, Washington, DC, we ask how urban greening can enact a more emancipatory green justice. We use this case example to trace the contours and constraints of current greening and equity logics and practices and contend that decolonization and emancipation fundamentally require new spatial planning practices. While the green project is deployed as an "intentional"equity-centered infrastructure, it is limited in its ability to embrace multiple forms of land recognition, redistribution, control, and reparations and to develop green practices that engage with the history of a multilayered geography of dispossession and include cultural and symbolic recognitions of networks of resilience and care. We thus argue for a more emancipatory spatial imaginary in urban planning that more directly confronts White supremacist forms of dispossession, centers resistance to anti-Blackness, and articulates a geography of reparations through decolonizing settlement patterns at multiple geographical scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • abolitionist ecology
  • anti-Black racism
  • Black Lives Matters
  • emancipatory justice
  • green justice
  • the green city
  • urban greening


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