As I meditated on what I’ve gained in this course thus far and what I could possibly write about in my blog posts, many thoughts emerged. I could begin by delving in what I consider the most significant change I’ve noticed which is the way I now interact with art, information, knowledge, technology and sustainability not only as an academic but as a human, artist and member of society. Before this course, all these things seemed more conceptual to me and although I understood its pressing inhibatance in modernity and in my own life, I had never really taken the time to speculate what this rigorous immersing of engagement between all these elements really meant for me or for the world. As a self proclaimed artist and art enthusiast, I appreciated all the open discussions in the overlapping similarity of artists, such as Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 and Steve Prince’s own art and their interaction to social issues and sustainability. This class offered by the tools and environment I needed to step back in order to truly speculate on the subject and reflect on how I’d like to use what I’ve learned in this course and apply it outside of my own major and into all different areas of my life. Through the courses constructed commentary, short witty anecdotes, and insights, I was able to see how all these areas of disciplines overlap and interact. As I take a step back now and begin reflecting on what I’d like to write about not only in my blog posts but in my self reflective essay, I have come to recognize that I have more to talk about than what I had originally been led to believe, the hardest part is just starting.
As the melancholy begins setting in on the realization that the spring semester is heading towards an end, it has become much clearer to me how much of the earlier content of the course is still relevant to the work we are looking and studying now, despite the semesters inevitable end. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples that I am THINKing of is Geography Departments very own Jen Rogalsky and English Departments Lytton Smith’s lecture on the parallels of geopolitics and quality of life—specifically the racial origins of zoning in U.S cities—and the collaborative blog post I contributed to this semester. As I worked closely with my group mates in unpacking the context of the prompt, we discussed sustainability in reference to Prince’s art which led me to the basis of my observation: the role of technology and information in the idea of sustainability.
I would like to explain this connection in further detail, but first, I’d like to disclose the most prevailing way sustainability is envisioned and conceptualized in efforts to make the connection I am about to render as coherent as possible. When reflecting on the idea of sustainability, it will often come in the form of envisioning its materiality in three pillars: social, economic, environmental. What this metaphorical rendition offers then, is a way in which to understand how a sustainable system requires balance from all three pillars in order to be deemed as efficient and effective. Moreover, it delineates the need for balance and harmony within the three pillars of sustainability, prioritizing the needs of not only ongoing economic production, but of environmental and social sustainability as well. Early on in the semester we were asked to read Christopher Silver’s The Racial Origins of Zoning in American Cities, a text expounding on the examination of the clear cut social implications of early zoning and planning in the United States. Southern cities, for example, served as frontrunners in the reinforcement of racial segregation, a phenomenon powered through efforts to “combat urban congestion” and “protect property value” by excluding groups deemed as undesirable and inferior—these being prominently African Americans and immigrants (Silver 1). As the racial zoning movement only seemed to expand and perpetuate its presence all across the United States, it came to a stumble on 1917 when the U.S Supreme Court acknowledged the racial zoning ordinance exercised in Louisville, Kentucky as unconstitutional in the monumental Buchanan v. Warley case. Despite the case’s outcome, environmental injustices and segregated land use planning and zoning simply reconstructed itself as ‘expulsive zoning,’ allowing “the intrusion into Black neighborhoods of disruptive incompatible uses that diminished the quality and undermined the stability of those neighborhoods (Silver 2).” As the infrastructure of land use became tainted through planning consultants stealthy maneuvering of finding crevasses to practice legally “defensible ways to segregate Black residential areas,” housing segregation endured and prevailed, thus significantly contributing to local health and economic disparities in minority and low-income industrial communities. This is where the role of technology and information begins.
According to a report published by Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, restaurants, food and beverage companies often target Black and Hispanic consumers in an effort to sell their least nutritious products, all which fall primarily under the category of fast-food items—high in sodium and fat, with little to no substantial nutritional value. Through market research data, researchers were able to measure TV advertising spending in total which revealed how the majority of companies spend a significantly greater amount of money targeting Spanish-language and Black-targeted networks. By having unhealthy food marketing purposely aimed at minority youth, companies are able to contribute to the lack of proper diets in lower income communities, increasing diet-related diseases such as high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and high-blood pressure. By having a significantly higher exposure to the marketing tactics by companies, Hispanic and Black children continue to face diet-related disparities among communities of color; one of the many ways that technology, such as broadcasting networks and market research data, can greatly impact quality of life. It is evident then, that the implications of Environmental racism is still very much abundant in not only geographical land use but in many (if not all) socio-political structures, but hey, maybe this is just food for thought.