From: Maddie Perlman-Gabel, ENN contributing author
Published September 26, 2011 09:58 AM

Book Review: The Slums of Aspen

Aspen, Colorado; the city name evokes visions of pristine mountains, world class ski slopes, luxurious shopping, and some of the most expensive homes in the Unites States. Those who visit Aspen marvel at the natural beauty surrounding the city, which prides itself in what it considers environmentally progressive thinking. In December of 1999 Aspen's environmentally progressive thinking led to the creation of a resolution which limits immigration into the city of Aspen as a means to protect the environment from the damages of overpopulation. According to authors Lisa Sun-Hee Park and David Naguib Pellow, this environmental protection logic is not based in the pure love of protecting the environment, but instead in racism and nativist values.


Park and Pellow, sociology professors from the University of Minnesota, wrote "The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants Vs. The Environment in America's Eden" after almost a decade of research in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley (which includes Aspen). Park and Pellow explore the sentiments behind Aspen's anti-immigrant resolution and the resolution's impact on the immigrants who's labor make Aspen possible yet do not get to experience it. By interviewing immigrants, political and social leaders, and reviewing local archived papers for articles on immigrant labor, environmental policy, race, and economic development, Park and Pellow are able to contrast Aspen's reliance on immigrant labor with the city's strong sentiments towards reforming immigration policy .

Park and Pellow also explore the concept of environmental privilege, "the economic, political, and cultural power that some groups enjoy, which enables them exclusive access to coveted environmental amenities". Aspen, which has now become so elite that even millionaires have trouble affording property, may be considered an extreme case of environmental privilege but the inequalities faced in Aspen can be found anywhere. The poor are more likely to live in urban areas with limited access to nature and increased exposure to toxic and environmental hazards while at the same time are blamed for the destruction of the environment. Parks and Pellow feel that in order to protect the environment society needs to address environmental privilege and the inequalities associated with it.

I recommend "The Slums of Aspen" to anyone with a strong interest in environmental injustice and immigration policy. At times "The Slums of Aspen" can be very one sided so if you are someone who believes that immigration policy in the United States is too relaxed towards legal and illegal immigrants, this book may not be for you. But if you enjoy reading well researched literature that makes you question American policy and values you will consider "The Slums of Aspen" an enlightening read.

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