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Sustainable urban development: DePaul University experts discuss environment, economy and social justice

DePaul Urban Garden
Students Audric Figueroa and Mae Einbinder pick vegetables for the DePaul Urban Garden farm stand during the summer of 2014. DePaul faculty experts in sustainable urban development are available to discuss topics including food access, bike sharing and transit-oriented real estate development. (Photo by Jamie Moncrief)
CHICAGO — What makes a city sustainable? DePaul University faculty experts in the Sustainable Urban Development program are available to discuss how the next generation is learning to build cities that balance environmental, economic and social justice concerns. Leading up to Earth Week, DePaul experts are available to provide commentary about what’s next in food access and community gardens; car and bike sharing; gentrification; going green in the suburbs; and transit-oriented development.

Experts available for news interviews include:

Howard Rosing, executive director of the Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies. Rosing is a cultural anthropologist and expert on urban food access and food justice movements. “Over half the planet is living in an urban setting, and we have a struggling food economy here in Chicago,” Rosing said. He studies what inspires people to create community gardens in economically stressed areas and has found it isn’t only about hunger. “Often, people enter growing spaces like gardens with the intention of meeting their neighbors or engaging their children in something positive. Understanding the social qualities that drive people together to grow food can help us define policies that make communities healthier,” he said. Rosing is working with students and other community groups to map gardens and farms in Chicagoland and to measure the nutrient yields of these urban crops. Rosing can be reached at or 773-325-7463.

Euan Hague, professor, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. A geographer focused on issues of gentrification and social justice, Hague has done long-term research on changes in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen. Hague teaches geographers not to privilege environmental concerns over economic or social justice issues and to take a macro view of how to make cities sustainable. “People seem to think unequivocally that another urban farm or another greenspace is the right thing to do. Geographers want to think about it more carefully, to zoom out and ask ‘does it really make sense to do that here?’ Sometimes the best thing for a site might be a factory or housing,” he said. Hague and his students plan to examine the results of participatory budgeting in Rogers Park this spring. Hague can be reached at or 773-325-7890.

Joseph Schwieterman, professor and director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, School of Public Service. A leading transportation expert, Schwieterman can discuss emerging trends in car-free living, ride sharing, electric cars and housing within walking distance of mass transit. “There’s surging ridership on transit systems around the country as young people adopt more sustainable lifestyles,” said Schwieterman. Travelers are becoming more socially conscious on longer trips as well, buying carbon offsets for air travel or opting for express intercity bus travel, explained Schwieterman “A small but growing number of travelers are even measuring their environmental impact using sophisticated personal technology and taking that into account when making decisions,” he said. Schwieterman can be reached at or 312-362-5158.

Hugh Bartling, associate professor, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Bartling is a public policy expert in bike sharing, green building and suburban land use. “Soon, bike sharing systems will be a common part of the public transport infrastructure in cities throughout North America. The main issue is how to roll out a system that’s functional but also equitable,” Bartling said. He is working on a book about sustainability in the suburbs and said that while Northern Illinois suffers from a lack of regional planning, the real estate market’s revival has suburbanites looking at car-free living. “There has been a real push for more transit-oriented development in the suburbs around the rail lines, and we’re seeing more high-density development,” Bartling says. He can also discuss upcoming United Nations climate talks and their local implications. Bartling can be reached at or 773-325-4960.

Alec Brownlow, associate professor, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Brownlow is a geographer and an expert on urban political ecology with a focus on issues of race, gender and access to urban amenities including parks and forests. “Too often, the beneficiaries of urbanization are always the same,” said Brownlow. Social justice needs to carry the same weight as environmental and economic concerns when building sustainable cities, he said. One place where that may be happening is Detroit, where there has been “a serious economic implosion and people are redefining for themselves what the city will look like,” he said. Brownlow also studies urban crime and how cities hide crime and market representations of safety. Brownlow can be reached at or 773-325-7876.


Media Contact:
Kristin Claes Mathews