Thursday, February 25, 2010

California data for tracking healthy places

An innovative non-profit out of Los Angeles is releasing the next iteration of their Healthy Cities database and mapping program.  These new data will enable users to analyze a wealth of information across California, not just LA County as the previous web portal allows.  This is a major opportunity for comparative analyses and development of healthy city indicators, something this State and all metropolitan areas desperately need.
While the new system launches March 3rd, I had a chance to preview it at
 I searched the Iron Triangle neighborhood in Richmond, CA, using zip code 94801. I selected environmental facilities and health clinics, then added asthma rates to produce this map:

Green Urban Innovation? Lacks a racial & social justice lens

Prospect Magazine has just published "How Slums Can Save the Planet"
What the article argues is that living in dense environments requires and inspires green innovations; from intense recycling to urban agriculture, like these folks in Nairobi growing food staples in sacks of soil
Yet, this article fails miserably because it give scant attention to the reasons WHY folks are living in slums in the first place and why they must innovate - namely a lack of planning for urban migration, global trade that has exploited resources and ravaged local economies, non-existent poverty and food programs and inadequate land rights and legal protections, among other issues. In other words, romanticizing urban poverty and slum-life will NOT save the planet for the poor; only the rich will benefit. This type of analysis also runs the risk of accepting slums or informal settlements as necessary, rather than working to organize residents to demand better planning and treatment from governments and multilateral agencies. Unfortunately, another elite 'green' white guy living in Marin County telling the world how 'those slum dwellers' can help him.