Delivering the Good
Delivering the Good
Why did I choose to end this book with the Gila River Indian Community’s effort to win back its water? Because it is a parable about how democracy and its courts can not only serve but also be served by the quest for sustainability. The GRIC water settlement brought a long struggle for environmental justice to a triumphant conclusion. Delivering justice meant that a large portion of the region’s available resources would be sequestered from the growth machine. Instead of supplying a new generation of low-density tract housing, the water could now be used to produce healthy, local food for the area population, and, if nonindustrial agriculture prevailed, the result would be a double win for carbon reduction. Surely, this is how a green polity ought to act, redressing the claims of those who have been aggrieved, and doing it in a way that extends long-term benefits for all. If all responses to environmental injustice were able to follow suit, it would be a welcome model for moving forward. Even if the Gila River example is unlikely to be replicated in other places, its guiding spirit is a sound one. What if the key to sustainability lies in innovating healthy pathways out of poverty for populations at risk, rather than marketing green gizmos to those who already have many options to choose from? These are not mutually exclusive options, of course, but the lessons I took away from my research convinced me of the pressing need for clear alternatives to the eco-apartheid syndrome that afflicts Phoenix and so many other cities. Building a low-carbon economy by targeting only the LOHAS demographic (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, the upmarket segment of 40 million, or 20 percent of consumers, nationally) will end up doing little more than adding a green gloss to patterns of chronic inequality. Likewise, placing all of our faith in clean-tech fixes will cede too much decision making to a closed circle of experts who, regardless of their technical prowess, will have no power to prevent the uneven application of their solutions.
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