City in a Garden: Environmental Transformations and Racial Justice in Twentieth-Century Austin, Texas

City in a Garden: Environmental Transformations and Racial Justice in Twentieth-Century Austin, Texas

City in a Garden: Environmental Transformations and Racial Justice in Twentieth-Century Austin, Texas

City in a Garden: Environmental Transformations and Racial Justice in Twentieth-Century Austin, Texas

Synopsis

The natural beauty of Austin, Texas, has always been central to the city's identity. From the beginning, city leaders, residents, planners, and employers consistently imagined Austin as a natural place, highlighting the region's environmental attributes as they marketed the city and planned for its growth. Yet, as Austin modernized and attracted an educated and skilled labor force, the demand to preserve its natural spaces was used to justify economic and racial segregation. This effort to create and maintain a "city in a garden" perpetuated uneven social and economic power relationships throughout the twentieth century.

In telling Austin's story, Andrew M. Busch invites readers to consider the wider implications of environmentally friendly urban development. While Austin's mainstream environmental record is impressive, its minority groups continue to live on the economic, social, and geographic margins of the city. By demonstrating how the city's midcentury modernization and progressive movement sustained racial oppression, restriction, and uneven development in the decades that followed, Busch reveals the darker ramifications of Austin's green growth.

Excerpt

In the “new economy” we have to make sure we do not create unintended
results.

—Austin mayor Kirk Watson, quoted in Rosenblum, “Mayor Offers Strategy”

In the twenty-first century, Austin, Texas, has become a model of dynamic, sustainable urban development. While most American cities declined under the weight of the Great Recession, Austin flourished. a litany of sources, such as Forbes, Time, and cbs, called the city a boomtown and named it the top metropolitan region for economic growth and small businesses in 2011. Demographically, Austin grew by over 30 percent from 2000 to 2013; in 2013 it was the fastest growing of the fifty largest U.S. cities. Forbes replicated the distinction in 2016. While some of this growth is due to the continued ascension of Texas and the Sunbelt more broadly, Austin’s core strategy reflects a set of principles that are much different from those of its regional neighbors. in Austin, environmental sustainability and a “green” urban planning philosophy are linked to quality of life and economic growth, part of the “new economy” that assumes that people and businesses factor general well-being into locational choices.

Along with its economic resiliency, Austin has recently been praised for its creativity, forward-thinking urban planning, and sustainability. the city council plans to be carbon neutral by 2020, and city-run Austin Energy is the nation’s leading seller of renewable energy. Austin Energy also offers generous rebates for rainwater collection, green insulation, low-flow toilets, solar panels, and many other environmentally friendly, though often costly, upgrades. Austin is among the nation’s leaders in park space and urban trails, one of the top twenty-five Solar American Cities according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and renowned as one of the fifteen greenest cities in the world. the American Planning Association gave Imagine Austin, the city’s newest comprehensive plan that emphasizes New Urbanism concepts and green development, its Sustainable Plan Award for 2014. National publications laud Austin as a “clean . . .

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