" BES Project Abstracts 2006
Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2006 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Towards Geographies of Consumption: Measuring energy consumption from transportation in metropolitan areas
Neff, Rob
Abstract: This presentation demonstrates the utility of consumptive landscapes, a metropolitan-scale, geographic lens through which to view the energy consumption that leads directly to GHG emissions. A traffic assignment model was applied to commuter origin-destination data, and the results were used to generate GHG emissions maps that were interpreted based on a historical understanding of the region and on contemporary demographic data. The results show that the responsibility for gasoline consumption lies disproportionately with the affluent suburb-to-suburb commuters traveling in automobiles. Conversely, poor populations working in the suburbs use public transport despite the poor quality of service. These results demonstrate that consumption of gasoline is linked to Philadelphia’s segregation patterns, which often are associated with an urban/suburban split. Nonetheless, the results also identify places that are not easily classified as urban or suburban. This “other” category is useful because it suggests alternative descriptions of cityspace based on the functioning of coupled human-environment systems rather than socioeconomic status and racialized identities. A social analysis of these findings makes the case for an extension of the environmental justice literature based on responsibility for environmental change, rather than just vulnerability to its effects. Plans to extend this approach to Baltimore will be discussed.