.|  Baltimore Ecosystem Study
Demographic and Socioeconomic Research Projects
 
Environmental Justice in Baltimore
 
  • Geoffrey Buckley, Ohio University
  • Christopher Boone, Arizona State University
Urbanization is one of the most significant changes in the human condition over the last century. As cities become habitat for the majority of the world’s people, new challenges arise. Bringing together diverse groups in relatively compact areas has led to inequities based on class, race, and other social dynamics. Segregation and clustering of people and land use, and the uneven distribution of environmental amenities and disamenities, mean that some groups will suffer more from living near undesirable land uses. At the same time, others groups may enjoy disproportionate benefits from residing near desirable land uses. Unmasking such patterns of inequity and the processes responsible for creating them falls under the broad rubric of environmental justice, a growing field of scholarship to which the BES has been a major contributor. Through interdisciplinary research and a focus on longitudinal analyses, investigators in the BES have generated results that reveal the spatial and temporal dynamics of environmental-equity patterns and processes in a large, post-industrial city that has undergone profound socioeconomic change. Environmental justice research in the BES is driven by the following questions:
 
Changing Pattern over Time
 
How have the spatial patterns of environmental equity — defined by access to environmental amenities and disamenities — changed over time? Do patterns of environmental amenities and disamenities spatially correlate more with race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status?
 
Linking Pattern and Process
 
What social and institutional processes drive patterns of amenities and disamenities?
 
Social Dynamics of Environmental Inequity
 
Do patterns of population characteristics shift at certain threshold densities of amenities and disamenities?
 
Do population characteristics respond to rapid rates of change in amenity and disamenity densities?
 
Results
 
Environmental justice studies typically examine the spatial correlation between environmental disamenities, most often Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) sites, and demographic characteristics of surrounding neighborhoods. An earlier study shows that TRI sites in Baltimore are concentrated in census tracts that are primarily white. Statistical analyses point to majority white census tracts as the best explanatory variable for the presence or absence of a TRI site, a finding in contrast to many other environmental studies that show a concentration of TRI sites in minority neighborhoods. Analysis for the study employed buffering methods to try to reduce the limitations of using large polygons as units of analysis (demographics were weighted in proportion to area of the census tract covered by the buffer), but the results were based on the notion that populations are spread evenly throughout census tracts. A follow-up study using dasymetric mapping methods, however, confirmed these earlier findings. In the City of Baltimore, whites tend to be over-represented in zones near TRI facilities. The single snapshot in time, however, does not explain the processes that generated these unexpected results. BES researchers have conducted a series of longitudinal studies to examine institutional and legacy factors that shed light on the present patterns of inequity. The distribution of TRI sites reflects long-standing segregation practices that kept black residents from living near industries in white neighborhoods. Living close to work, even in a polluting factory, has historically been an amenity enjoyed by the privileged. While the demographics have changed significantly in Baltimore, many of the older, white working-class neighborhoods remain majority white today, and are thus exposed to the toxins released from nearby facilities.
 
Similar to other metropolitan regions, parks are not distributed evenly in Baltimore. The uneven patterns can be understood as an environmental justice issue, because it denies some areas of the city with the same access to an urban amenity as other neighborhoods. Our results showed unexpected results. We found that a higher proportion of African Americans have access to parks within walking distance, defined as 400 meters or less, than whites, but whites have access to more acreage of parks within walking distance than blacks. A needs-based assessment shows that areas with the highest need have the best access to parks but also have access to less acreage of parks compared to low-need areas. Park service areas that are predominantly black have higher park congestion than areas that are predominantly white, although differences are less apparent at the city level than at the metropolitan level. We examined how segregation ordinances, racial covenants, improvement associations, the Home Owners Loan Corporation, and the Parks and Recreation Board created separate black spaces historically underserved with parks. These mechanisms ultimately fueled middle class flight and suburbanization and black inheritance of much of Baltimore’s space, including its parks.
 
An analysis of the correlation between race, poverty, and redlining and the location of environmental disamenities in Baltimore shows a statistically significant correlation between race and variances for the period 1940 to 1970, with the correlation weakening after 1970 and disappearing by 2000. Charles Lord has an article forthcoming on these findings in Environmental Law.
 
Research on long-term trends of household location and floodplains, streams, and shorelines indicates that low-income whites disproportionately live in floodplain areas. The proportion of these households diminishes in the 1960s as formal segregation ends and black populations have more freedom to choose where they live. Household location associated with current and historic streams is not different from general location proportions for the City. In the case of current shorelines, high-income white households are disproportionately associated with these areas, particularly in recent decades. These trends reflect larger processes associated with historic preferences to live close to work (manufacturing jobs located in floodplains), long term segregationist housing practices, and regional demographic changes with older, and lifestyle trends associated with more affluent white households moving back into the city to live close to the water and city amenities.
 
Publications
 
Buckley, G.L. 2010. America’s Forest Legacy: A Century of Saving Trees in the Old Line State. Santa Fe: Center for American Places.
 
Boone, Christopher G., Cadenasso, Mary L., Grove, J. Morgan, Schwartz, Kirsten, Buckley, Geoffrey L. 2009. Landscape, vegetation characteristics, and group identity in an urban and suburban watershed: why the 60s matter. Urban Ecosystems. doi: 10.1007/s11252-009-0118-7
 
Boone, C.G., G.L. Buckley, J.M. Grove, and C. Sister. 2009. Parks & People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99(3):767-787.
 
Boone, Christopher G. 2008. Improving resolution of census data in metropolitan areas using a dasymetric approach: applications for the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Cities and the Environment 1, 1: article 3. Online: http://escholarship.bc.edu/cate/vol1/iss1/3/
 
Boone, Christopher G. 2008. Environmental Justice as Process and New Avenues for Research. Environmental Justice 1, 3: 149-153.
 
Buckley, G.L. and C.G. Boone. Forthcoming. “To promote the material and moral welfare of the community”: Neighborhood Improvement Associations in Baltimore, Maryland, 1900 – 1945. In: Environmental and Social Inequalities in the City since 1800, eds. R. Rodger and G. Massard-Guilbaud. New York: Berghahn.
 
Korth, C.A. and G.L. Buckley. 2006. Leakin Park: Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.’s Critical Advice. The Olmstedian 16(1, Fall).
 
Merse, C.L., G.L. Buckley, and C.G. Boone. 2009. Street Trees and Urban Renewal: A Baltimore Case Study. The Geographical Bulletin 50(2):65-81.
 
Pickett, S.T.A., Boone, Christopher G., Cadenasso, Mary L. 2007. Relationships of Environmental Justice to Ecological Theory. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 88(2): 166-170.
 
Wells, J., G.L. Buckley, and C.G. Boone. 2008. Separate but Equal? Desegregating Baltimore’s Golf Courses. The Geographical Review 98(2):151-170.
 
Theses
 
Michelle Chevalier, M.S. Environmental Studies (Thesis: “Toxic Playground: A Retrospective Study of Environmental Justice in Baltimore, Maryland,” March 2009)
 
Andrew Giguere, M.A. Geography (Thesis: “. . . and never the twain shall meet: Baltimore’s east-west expressway and the construction of the Highway to Nowhere,” June 2009)
 
Cassandra A. Korth, M.A. Geography (Thesis: “Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the Creation of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park,” June 2005)
 
Erin McCarty, M.A. Geography (Thesis: “Green Belt Planning in Edinburgh and Baltimore: A Cross-site Comparison,” June 2007)
 
Cynthia L. Merse, M.S. Environmental Studies (Thesis: “Historical Geography of Urban Forestry and Roadside Tree Planting in Baltimore,” June 2005)
 
James Wells, M.A. Geography (Thesis: “The Historical Geography of Racial and Ethnic Access within Baltimore’s Carroll Park, 1870 – 1954,” May 2006)
 
Presentations
 
“Lots for Tots: Paving the Way for Recreational Space in Baltimore.” Annual Baltimore Ecosystem Study Science Meeting (Baltimore, MD, October 2009).
 
“Access to Environmental Amenities in Baltimore, Maryland: Patterns and Processes, 1900 – 2000.” First World Congress of Environmental History (Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden, August 2009).
 
“Urban Ecology: The Baltimore Ecosystem Study.” Humane Metropolis – A Public Workshop Sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (Baltimore, MD, June 2009), with Steward Pickett, Sujay Kaushal, and Yvette Williams.
 
“From Green to Black and Back Again: Asphalt Removal in Baltimore.” Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (Las Vegas, NV, March 2009).
 
“Neighborhood Improvement Associations in Baltimore, Maryland, 1900 – 1945.” Annual Baltimore Ecosystem Study Science Meeting (Baltimore, MD, October 2008).
 
“To promote the material and moral welfare of the community”: Neighborhood Improvement Associations in Baltimore, Maryland, 1900 – 1945.” Annual Meeting of the European Association for Urban History (Lyon, France, August 2008).
 
“Park Access and the “Negro youth” of Baltimore, 1900 - 1940.” Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (Boston, MA, April 2008).
 
“Improvement and Protection Associations in Baltimore, Maryland, 1900 – 1933.” Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (San Francisco, CA, April 2007).
 
“Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the Leakin Park Controversy.” International Conference of Historical Geographers (Hamburg, Germany, August 2006).
 
“Exploring the Peabody Heights Improvement Association File, 1909-1933.” Annual Baltimore Ecosystem Study Science Meeting (Baltimore, MD, October 2005).
 
Boone, Christopher G. Environmental Justice and Urban Dynamics in a Post-Industrial City: Lessons from Baltimore. Paper Presentation at the Center for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ (October 2009).
 
Kirstin Dow, Morgan Grove, Sierra Murdoch, Jarlath O’Neill-Dunne, Christopher Boone, and Geoff Buckley. A Parcel-level Dasymetric Approach to Mapping Changes in the Distribution of Urban Flooding Risks, Baltimore, Maryland (1950-2000). Poster Presentation at the Long Term Ecological Research All Scientists Meeting, Estes Park, CO (Sept 2009).
 
Boone, Christopher G., Pickett, Steward T.A., Grove, J. Morgan. Demographic and Temporal Modifiers of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) Approach at a Neighborhood Scale: Examples from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES), Baltimore, Maryland, USA. International Human Dimensions Programme Open Meeting, Bonn, Germany (April 2009).
 
Boone, Christopher G., Fragkias, Michail, Cadenasso, Mary L., Pickett, Steward T.A., Grove, J. Morgan, Schwarz, Kirsten. Linking Ecology and Environmental Justice through Ecosystem Services: A Socio-Ecological Framework for Urban Sustainability. International Human Dimensions Programme Open Meeting, Bonn, Germany (April 2009).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Environmental justice: a latter-day indulgence or core socio-ecological principle?” Invited paper presentation, Central Arizona Phoenix LTER symposium, Tempe, AZ (January 2009).
 
Sister, Chona E., and Christopher G. Boone. “A longitudinal analysis of park equity in Baltimore, 1930-2000.” Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Las Vegas, NV (March 2009).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Park Access and Environmental Equity in Baltimore, Maryland.” Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Boston, MA (April 2008).
 
Sister, Chona E., Boone, Christopher G., Wilson, John P., Wolch, Jennifer. “Park Access and Equity in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Baltimore.” Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Boston, MA (April 2008).
 
“Measuring park equity in Baltimore using a park service areas approach.” Baltimore Ecosystem Study Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD (October 2007).
 
Boone, Christopher G., Bob Bolin, J. Morgan Grove, Geoff Buckley, Alexandra Brewis, Bethany Cutts, Kate Darby. “CAP-BES Cross-Site Research on Environmental Justice.” Poster presentation, CAP LTER mid-term review, Tempe, AZ (September 2007).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “An ironic landscape: environmental justice and parks in Baltimore, Maryland.” Invited colloquium, School of Geographical Sciences, Arizona State University (September 2007).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Environmental equity, parks, and accessibility in Baltimore, MD.” Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, San Francisco, CA (April 2007).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Environmental Justice and Urban Sustainability.” Invited colloquium, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY (March 2007).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Legacy Effects on Environmental Equity in Baltimore and Phoenix: A Cross-Site Analysis.” Invited presentation, Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER 9th Annual Poster Symposium, Tempe, AZ (January 2007).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Importance of Legacies for Social Sciences Research in the LTER.” Paper presentation at the First Workshop of the Joint ASU-Chinese Academy of Sciences Center for Urban Sustainability, Beijing, China (December 2006).
 
Boone, Christopher G. and J. Morgan Grove. “Environmental equity analysis of parks and open spaces in Baltimore, Maryland.” Paper presentation at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD (October 2006).
 
Boone, Christopher G. and J. Morgan Grove. “Environmental Justice across the LTER Network: long-term and multi-scale understandings of past, present, and future.” Workshop presentation at the 2006 All Scientists Meeting of the Long Term Ecological Research network, Estes Park, CO (September 2006).
 
Boone, Christopher G. “Dasyemtric methods for improving resolution of historical data sources.” Paper presentation at the 2006 All Scientists Meeting of the Long Term Ecological Research network, Estes Park, CO (September 2006).