This book is the latest from one of the foremost thinkers on environmental justice – the idea that environmental benefits and dis-benefits are not evenly distributed through society, to the disadvantage of those at the bottom of the social pyramid. It touches on a number of key themes that really excite the team at Johns Associates, particularly food, the design of the places we live, and delivery through spatial planning policy.
Although the American context, and fairly academic style mean that at times a degree of determination is needed to draw the key messages from this book, it is worth the investment.
The first chapter acts as a social geography warm-up. As Michael Palin reminded us in his Guardian article, the holistic view of the geographer provides the key to the problems of the inter-related world we now live in. Agyeman introduces some useful frameworks that help explain our everyday observations and aspirations for society: graphs linking income inequality and life expectancy, community engagement, human need and satisfaction and development of society to post-materialism. By linking this to space and place, it becomes firmly a geographical issue.
In his examination of space and place, Agyeman shows through theory and case study how careful design contributes to environmental, health, equality, climate change and fiscal benefits.
Agyeman aspires to the creation of spaces that are inclusive, positive and overall liveable, including, in his final chapter, a consideration of cultural inclusivity. This is part of the same strand of thinking that has brought us shared spaces where vehicles show respect to other users through sub-conscious cues rather than physical or signed enforcement.
This is the same thinking that lies behind Johns Associates vision of “For People, Places and Planet”. We seek to incorporate design excellence at every stage of every project to unlock the maximum value for our clients and other stakeholders, including the environment.