Human-Environment Relationships: Environmental Culture in Chicago Public Housing
Slowiak, Christine A.
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The relationship between the Earth and humans is dynamic and dialectical, one that many scholars, including me, have theorized, constructed, and reconstructed. My personal background provides a subjective lens while exploring this relationship. I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois in the metropolitan area of Chicago that borders the city's West Side. Growing up, I was introduced to the North Side and downtown areas, but discouraged from the South and West Sides. My upbringing with the 'sides' of Chicago has provided me with a biased sense of the city. My following experiences in cities, especially Chicago, explain the significance of environmental philosophy, social constructs, injustices, and integration of nature in Chicago. My summer internship with a non-profit affordable housing organization allowed me to experience the sides of Chicago that I previously avoided and explore spatial forms and socioeconomic factors in Chicago. A summary and reflection on my internship illuminate political, economic and justice themes of Chicago's housing problems. I discuss the extent to which non-profit housing organizations like Heartland Housing and government organizations like the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) meet the basic needs of their residents and support the goals of their staff. The theoretical concepts of human distinctiveness and its role in agency and structure are important contributors to the relationship between people and their environments. Philosophical and poetic environmental literatures are the bookends of this paper that include basic qualities of human nature. In order to understand the extent to which integration of nature in built forms is executed, the human-nature relationship will be analyzed through an integration of Hays' theories of agency and structuralism. Residents and staff of housing programs have reproductive and transformative agency within housing structures in terms of their ability to change and the design of the city, use creative destruction, and influence inequities of nature. Environments such as wilderness, infrastructure, architecture, broader spatial forms, distancing, separating and othering will be explored in accounts of agency. I explore ideas like how Americans have controlled our environments via planning, commodified it through objectification and privatization, spatially perceived it, socially constructed it, and developed language of landscape, built and natural forms. My reflections on Chicago and absence of agency are what make this paper subjectively relevant. Throughout the summer, I sought to comparatively and contextually answer how certain Chicago neighborhoods have become disadvantaged and neglected in comparison to the city's affluent and privileged suburbs. I also questioned the extent to which my role as a Green Property Management Intern changed Heartland Alliance's housing developments, the lives of their residents and the objectives of their staff. I continuously contemplated how working in Chicago with its citizens changed my perspective of the city.Missing pages 20-21 and 56.