Chicago’s Pilsen: An environmentally conscious community

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By Christina E. Rodriguez
Extra News

CHICAGO — Two years ago, the City of Chicago Department of Environment commissioned its fourth community study in the Pilsen neighborhood. Lead by a team which included anthropologists from The Field Museum’s division of Environment, Culture and Conservation, staff from the Chicago Cultural Alliance and staff from Casa Michoacán, a community organization in Pilsen, this project was geared toward effectively engaging diverse communities during the implementation of the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan.

In order to know how to engage specific cultural communities in the Action Plan, the team was sent to gather information about the geographical and ethnic community encompassed. In turn, the city would use the collected information to obtain knowledge of what is already being done environmentally in the communities versus what can be implemented, hence saving resources and encouraging positive environmental behavior.

The bottom-up study found Pilsen was already engaging in environmentally friendly practices without help from the city. Many residents were biking instead of driving and conscious of water conservation, gardening and electricity use. Residents sat outside on porches and sidewalks and were concerned about having a safe and comfortable place to live.

The 25-page report gives a thorough rundown of the project and community overview; a brief about stakeholders, partners and relationship-building; awareness of climate change; community concerns; environmentally friendly practices; communication, and models for community engagement.

Ranging from residents, business owners, civil leaders and leaders of community organizations, the results and analysis are based on the engagement of approximately 210 people who participated in semi-structured interviews, focus groups, surveys and storytelling.

Lead ethnographer of the Pilsen study, Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, 36, who is now an assistant professor in anthropology at Loyola University Chicago, was hired by the Chicago Cultural Alliance for the project. When presented with the idea, Gomberg-Muñoz felt that …

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