Theses Master's

From Belonging to Being and Becoming: how urban planning can bridge the gap between immigration and a Just Transition, one recipe at a time

De Castro, Rozette

There is no denying that we are already experiencing the adverse effects of climate change. From Hurricane Ian’s destruction in Florida to the wildfires that are becoming an annual phenomenon in Northern California. Yet, what is often not mentioned in climate change narratives is also the loss of traditions, cultures and language as climate change worsens in our lifetime. There are already people that are mass migrating due to the loss of their homes, and as people adapt in new countries, planning can be used in a way to help naturally integrate immigrants and non-immigrants within their communities. Julian Agyeman has coined the term Just Sustainabilities, a theory that talks about the many ways that urban planners can use food, space, and place as a tool to help naturally integrate immigrants and non-immigrants within their communities, while also leading us to a future that is sustainable and just. Through the lens of this theory, I will highlight how food, particularly community gardens can be used by cities to promote belonging and community integration for immigrant communities that already live within these city spaces. And how food can be a catalyst to helping communities preserve culture, tradition, and language.

Currently, there are articles that address ways to grow food more sustainably and equitably, which is called “Regenerative Farming”. For the problem of food insecurity due to climate change, activists are proposing a community-based solution, which is community gardens. Having community gardens in the urban environment has shown to be highly beneficial to a community’s mental, physical health and overall wellbeing.

Green spaces (like community gardens) and the value they bring in cities is not a new concept in urban planning. We understand that green spaces can serve as places where city residents can come together and build community with one another. There are urban planning theorists like Jane Jacobs who advocated for urban spaces like Washington Square Park and have written a lot about how people and not corporations are what keeps a city healthy and full of life. And Julian Agyeman that emphasizes the importance of creating just cities where multiculturalism is celebrated and valued.

Immigration policy and planning remains to be an issue around economic feasibility. We forget that at its core, immigration is a human issue- we forget that immigrants are just people like you and I that are trying to adapt in a new place. People should not be penalized for wanting to secure a better life for themselves and their families. Our cities will continue to grow and will continue to represent multiple cultures from all over the world, whether by force or voluntary. And therefore, it is about time that we as urban planners plan for cities that centers on the preservation and celebration of multiculturalism and community integration through the use of community gardens.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Sarmiento, Hugo
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 9, 2023