Essay / Academic Rant: Closing the Next Frontier: An Analysis of Offshore Oil and Wind Exploration Along the Atlantic Coast

The United States is moving to close the next great American energy frontier: the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This move is part of an overall energy agenda to increase the United States’ energy independence through domestic energy. Since President Obama took office, the nation’s dependence on foreign oil has been at a 20-year low, and he has formed policies aiming to increase domestic energy production.[1]  In January 2015, President Obama proposed a plan for the Department of the Interior’s 5 Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that has the potential to reopen the Atlantic coast for oil and gas drilling.[2] While this plan could stimulate domestic oil production and further the President’s energy independence political agenda, opening the Atlantic to drilling also has the potential to create serious negative externalities. Similarly, the Atlantic coast is a goldmine for offshore wind production with North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia holding 82 percent of the total Atlantic coast wind potential in the OCS.[3] Under the Obama Administration’s Smart from the Start initiative, Wind Energy Areas are being designated for development of offshore wind.[4]  The development of renewable domestic energy has the potential to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels it also faces several technological and political barriers to implementation. Below, I will compare the policies and politics surrounding oil exploration and wind energy development in the Atlantic OCS, and determine which energy source can be considered a greater contributor to the United States’ goals of achieving energy independence. Continue reading

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Academic Rant: Residential Segregation, Gentrification, and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice in the Nation’s “Most Sustainable Cities”

Sustainability and sustainable development are terms widely used and often misunderstood. Sustainable development is most commonly defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations.[1] Many cities use sustainable development initiatives in response to climate change and diminishing resources. Leaders of these urban communities fight to negate the stigma of pollution associated with cities by incorporating open spaces, green jobs, and affordable, efficient housing into the urban space, as well as upgrading transportation infrastructure and waste management programs. Sustainable development places a focus on community-based decision-making, economic policies that account for both social and environmental externalities, the reduction of pollution and the general goal of creating clean and healthy communities. Continue reading

Post-Disaster Property Rights: A Case Study on the Redevelopment of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward

The impacts of climate change have and will continue to deteriorate fee simple absolute property rights of littoral and riparian property-owners. Climate change has exacerbated and increased the frequencies of destructive storms that have effectively demolished homes, buildings and other private properties. Hurricane Katrina and its devastating impact on New Orleans is a prime example of the power of natural and climate-related disasters to essentially “take” or reduce private property owners’ fee simple absolute rights. Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans August 23rd through August 31, 2005 and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans up to 20 ft.[1] Seventy-one percent of homes in the city sustained damage (See Figure 1).[2] Consequently, Hurricane Katrina resulted in the greatest resettlement in American history with an estimated 1.5 million people abandoning their homes.[3] Since 2005, the City of New Orleans and various private groups have been working on rebuilding and repopulating New Orleans. Specifically, rebuilding efforts are targeted at the Lower Ninth Ward, which scattered a population of 14,000 people. In 2010, the Census reported 2,842 residents and as of 2013, only 30 percent of former residents have returned to the Lower Ninth Ward. [4] In 2000, population of the Lower Ninth Ward had 95 percent African-American residents, with an average household income slightly under $30,000 a year.[5] Homeownership in the Lower Ninth Ward was high, with approximately 54 percent of the homes homeowner-occupied.[6] Post-Katrina, approximately 82 percent of the residential units in the Lower Ninth Ward were damaged or destroyed.[7] The Lower Ninth Ward was the first neighborhood in New Orleans to receive remediation funding and was declared an area in need of revitalization: $60 million for street repairs, $50 million for rebuilding schools, and $14.5 million for a new community center, in addition to federal homeowner and rental assistance funds.[8] Post-Katrina, local, State and Federal programs and plans aimed at rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward has influenced the ability and conditions under which former residents can rebuild their homes. Since the Lower Ninth Ward hasn’t yet rebounded and hundreds of homeowners have chosen not to or have been unable to rebuild, the status of those refugees’ fee simple absolute rights can come into question.[9] Below, I explore the status of Lower Ninth Ward refugees’ fee simple absolute rights to their property since Hurricane Katrina and analyze how governmental response has facilitated or hindered owners’ ability to rebuild. Continue reading

Essay / Academic Rant: Sugarhouse Casino

Philadelphia, PA is now the largest city in the United States with a casino. SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia is a highly contested and controversial development. Since being awarded one of two gaming licenses in 2006, SugarHouse has been challenged by the City of Philadelphia, neighborhood associations, cultural groups, and local non-governmental agencies. Although many parties feared the entrance of casinos into Philadelphia would lead to more violence and neighborhood decay, there is still uncertainty as to whether the development has had the predicted negative impact on Philadelphia, and whether it’s as positive an economic resource as predicted. SugarHouse Casino and casinos in general were brought into the state to generate revenue and increase tourism into the state. The introduction of the gaming industry into Pennsylvania is a political move fueled by backdoor politics, money, and patronage.

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Figure 1. SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown, Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading

Academic Rant: Rural Realities vs the “Black Metropolis” (Part 2)

Migrations and Urbanization

The Black Metropolis was formed as a result of migration from the rural south to large northern cities during the beginning of the twentieth century. At the turn of the century, about nine in 10 African Americans lived in the South, predominantly in rural areas.[1] Before the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North, the three states with the largest black populations were Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.[2] Until 1960, the concentration of the black population in the South and in the rural areas of the South has made the total black population in the United States more rural than the white population.[3] In 1870, over 80 percent of the black population resided in the rural south, and as recently as 1940, nearly 50 percent still lived in the rural South.[4] The Great Migration drove a massive influx of black communities into Northern cities. Between 1910 and 1920, an estimated 6 million African Americans left the South and New York’s black population rose by 66 percent; Chicago’s by 148 percent; and Philadelphia’s by 500 percent.[5] Detroit also experienced a growth rate of 611 percent.[6] Continue reading

Essay: Philly’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Prioritizes Bicyclists

Philadelphia is becoming one of the most bike-able and walkable cities in the United States:  in 2014, Philly was ranked as the 14th most bike-friendly city [1] and the 13th most walkable city [2], by Bicycling and Smart Growth America, respectively.  Published in 2011, Philadelphia’s Bike and Pedestrian Plan builds on and supports the objective of several city plans. [3] This includes Mayor Nutter’s  commitment to making the right of way safer for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, and motor vehicle drivers with the Complete Streets Executive Order in 2009. [4] And it also supports the objectives of the city’s environmental plan, Greenworks Philadelphia; the city comprehensive plan, Philadelphia 2035, and several other plans and initiatives aimed at improving the health and safety of Philadelphia residents. Continue reading

Academic Rant: Rural Realities vs the “Black Metropolis” (Part 1)

The intersections of race and place in Anthropological, Urban Studies, and Africana Studies inquiries are beginning to take root in academia, placing importance on the social, economic, and geographic impact of the city on black experiences. The conceptualization of the “Black Metropolis” considers the urbanization of Africa and other locations, diasporic processes and influences, as well as transnationalism and insurgent citizenship. This focus on black urbanism is becoming increasingly important—urban populations are rapidly increasing and cities are sites of high environmental and social vulnerability. A focus on the history, socialization, and resilience of black populations is crucial to understanding a global reality. However, a focus on the Black Metropolis may overemphasize the urban influence in black experiences and may further silence the experiences and relationships of Black populations to the natural or rural environment. Continue reading