Jul 20, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

Sociologist Points Out Loophole in New Green Developments

Mar 12, 2019 10:57 AM EDT

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(Photo : Michael Gaida)

Every time a big company comes to a town, it promises sustainability, eco-friendly infrastructure, and more jobs for the locality. This usually gets the signatures on the permits the shovels to break ground. The big problem, however, is what the new building would herald at the moment it completes its construction and opens for operation.

In 2009, Amazon decided to move into Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. The company's goal for low carbon emission jived in with the neighborhood's effort. It was an ideal scenario until the company opened up and their tech workers arrived. The population noticeably grew and the neighborhood footprint edged in closer and closer to the public transit.

This is called "carbon gentrification" according to the University of Pennsylvania sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen and his colleagues. The sudden rise in the population inevitably raised greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of energy and other resources which was the exact opposite of the green goals that the company and the locale were going for.

According to the statements given by Cohen and his colleagues in a news report, the unfortunate trend was not exactly unique, and that more such instances would probably happen in other places. These instances call of a more detailed method of research and approachThe thickening residential density near transit stations has called for carbon emission. However, the climate-friendly lifestyle that Amazon hoped for could be neglected since the locale was not ready for the housing boom. Cohen has also emphasized that more affluent people are pouring into the city. These new wealthier residents pose higher carbon emissions to the environment, thereby canceling out the low carbon emissions done by those consuming fewer resources.

The sociologist points out that there is still a solution which requires massive investments and affordable housing. This will lessen the possibility for residents to be displaced. 

Cohen is currently leading the Pennsylvania project called the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative where they study and analyze neighborhood-level carbon footprints. It is expected to yield results after a year's work. Through this project, the root causes of climate change will be identified, as well as humanity's vulnerabilities from it. The project will also include reports in the effects of green spaces.

Cohen is hoping to provoke high tech development and the companies behind it. Environmental benefits were promised but these high-tech developments are not delivering any of the advantages they have guaranteed. The sociologist further pointed out that their report will contain evidence to support his theories and that the public should be made aware of these results.

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