Category: Uncategorized
UEP Co-hosts Leaders for Land and Food Sovereignty from Brazil and Honduras
| May 16, 2016 | 12:33 pm | Uncategorized | No comments
From L-R: Jovanna Garcia Soto (Grassroots International), Yasmin Lopez (Via Campesina), Debora Nunes (MST), Lydia Simas (Grassroots International), Saulo Araujo (Why Hunger)

From L-R: Jovanna Garcia Soto (Grassroots International), Yasmin Lopez (Via Campesina), Debora Nunes (MST), Lydia Simas (Grassroots International), Saulo Araujo (Why Hunger)

On March 31, 2016, Tufts UEP co-hosted a dialogue with Debora Nunes Lino Da Silva, a leader with Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST), and Yasmin Lopez, a leader of the Women’s Regional Commission of La Vía Campesina–Central America, based in Honduras. More than 60 Tufts students and community members from Greater Boston attended this evening event at Tufts downtown campus, which was co-hosted by Grassroots International, Why Hunger, and Friends of MST. The evening began with a mistica (tribute and reflection) to Berta Caceres, a Honduran environmental and human rights activist who was assassinated in March.

Mystica tribute and reflection for Berta Caceres

Mystica tribute and reflection for Berta Caceres

With interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, Nunes and Lopez talked about their movement work in Brazil and Honduras. In Brazil, the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) has been reclaiming rural land and building communities based on cooperative and solidarity economics. Since 1984, they have settled more than 370,000 families on more than 7.5 million hectares of land, where they have built agricultural cooperatives, schools, and health care facilities. Their current struggles center around countering the efforts to take down the democratically elected government.

La Via Campesina is a global social movement led by landless peasants, small scale farmers, women, indigenous people, and migrant workers from around the world. Lopez spoke about how people are taking over land to implement small-scale sustainable agriculture to promote food sovereignty and social justice. In the dialogue, one attendee who now lives in the Boston area shared the story of how his friend, a fellow Brazilian immigrant, had gotten involved in one of MST’s land settlements before moving to the US. Though he had to leave Brazil, family members who remained are now settled on and farming the reclaimed land. This story highlighted one theme throughout the evening about the need for building solidarity and ties across global communities.

This event was also sponsored by Tufts ASE Diversity Fund, Tufts New Economy, Tufts Friedman School’s Agriculture, Food, and Environment Program, Tufts Latin American Studies, and Tufts Portuguese Program.

UEP Student Allie Platt Reflects on Thesis Research in India
| May 13, 2016 | 10:42 am | Uncategorized | No comments

Before beginning my degree at Tufts I spent seven months in India and Southeast Asia. I returned with looming questions about the cultural and economic differences that exist between the East and the West. However, through my UEP courses such as Economics, Food Justice, and Cities I was equipped with tools to process and cope with some of my traveling experiences. For example, terms such as the Gini Coefficient and Purchasing Power helped me to understand the contrast between the value of a rupee and a dollar, without feeling guilty for everything that I bought in the United States.

While studying at Tufts, I remained in contact with the management of the farm where I had volunteered (WWOOFed) on my travels. In January I returned to India to pursue an internship with their organization, TGGFCT, and conduct field work for my thesis research topic (A Sustainable Livelihood Assessment), in which I was able to put to practical use some of the tangible skills and concepts I have gained since starting my degree.

During my internship, I lived on a beautiful organic permaculture farm learning and participating in the harvest of ginger, black pepper, arecanut, and coffee. I was also able to work in their office location, helping to strategize the future charitable activities and economic development initiatives they were planning, particularly aimed to support women entrepreneurship. Some challenges I faced while working with the organization were mainly related to cultural differences. Due to heavily steeped cultural practices that stem from the caste system, it could often feel like there was a divide between members of the farm and the organization management. It is very common in India for those who fall lower on the hierarchical spectrum to eat after those above. Working with the TGGFCT, most of the time this took the form of agricultural workers, particularly the women, eating after everyone else. Women are also the only ones who do the dishes, as men will almost never do their own. This often times upset me, and I was motivated to question my supervisor about some of the everyday customs related to daily life on the farm and in the office. Before approaching him regarding some of these topics, I often thought of the negotiations course I took at UEP, knowing that I did not want to shy away from asking difficult questions while upholding a positive and respectful discourse. He always encouraged me to “push the boundaries” and ask workers to join our meals, however they almost always indicated that they felt uncomfortable with doing this.

I was struggling with the boundary between cultural differences and injustice in many instances, until I was joined by Varnika, a Natural Resource Management masters student from Delhi. Interning with Varnika was probably the most valuable and rewarding part of my experience with TGGFCT. Throughout the month we became quite close sharing a room and hundreds of stories about our strikingly different backgrounds and cultures and bonding over our similar values and interests. I was able to ask her some of the questions about India’s customs, their historical origins, and current repercussions for women in particular, from someone of a native (albeit still privileged) perspective – rather than my American influenced and biased opinions. While many of the practices that seem to be impractical from my perspective still exist on the farm, they far exceed what I know to be some of the harsh realities and lived experiences of many within India. It is changing bit by bit, and I have full faith that some of the questions and discussion that took place on the farm during my time there had an effect, and am even more convinced of the power and importance of cultural exchanges.

Scholars Strategy Network Podcast on Gentrification
| February 8, 2016 | 8:38 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The Scholars Strategy Network, a nonprofit outlet and venue for connecting scholars with policymakers based in Cambridge, MA, recently released a podcast on Gentrification. The podcast, from a series titled No Jargon, interviews university scholars on public policy, politics, and social issues. In this episode they talk to Jackelyn Hwang, a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University. Hwang’s 2014 study of gentrification in Chicago, Divergent Pathways of Gentrification: Racial Inequality and the Social Order of Renewal in Chicago Neighborhoods, brought out some interesting patterns not usually considered when dealing with changing city demographics.

The most striking outcome of her study is the way that racial dynamics can affect whether gentrification, and the level of investment associated with it, occurs at all. Using Google Street View, which Hwang claims is better for assessing gentrification than census data, they quantified gentrification in Chicago through the visible presence or absence of litter, graffiti, new construction, and a number of other variables. Comparing this with census data within the neighborhood, the study shows that gentrification is occurring most rapidly in diverse neighborhoods up to a point. Gentrifiers are attracted to diversity, but if a previously low-income community is greater than 35% black, gentrification does not occur. Accounting for crime, poverty and vacancy, this trend persisted across many Chicago neighborhoods and has fascinating implications for planners and policymakers.

The host suggests policymakers need to take two approaches to facilitating investment: one for gentrifying neighborhoods and one for persistently poor but not gentrifying neighborhoods. He calls it affirmative action for neighborhood investment. Hwang emphasizes the need to promote investment that protects current residents and prevents displacement. One example she cites from Philadelphia is the property tax cap. If you purchase a house in Philadelphia and own it for 10 or more years, and suddenly the surrounding real estate market booms, your property taxes don’t go up. This notably protects homeowners but not renters. A landlord could still benefit from lower tax rates but make more money when they perceive an increase in the market price for rent. Another approach, quickly laughed off by the host, is rent control.

More From the UEP 2015 Loj Trip!
| December 3, 2015 | 1:53 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

As reported previously, eighteen UEPers made the trek up to the White Mountains last month for some hiking, camping and chili eating. We got so many great photos out of it that we felt the need to share them!

UEP Loj Group!

UEP Loj Group!

Some nice passersby offered to take this photo of the whole group.

Stopping for Lunch

Stopping for Lunch

Stopping for Lunch

Stopping for Lunch

 

After a quick lunch, half of the group took it easy while the more adventurous half continued on to the summit of Cannon Mountain (almost).

Getting in Touch with Nature

Getting in Touch with Nature

 

 

 

 

The general consensus was that it was too cold to go for a swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We encountered this living birch tree which had been mostly uprooted. Despite the appearance of a shelter, we decided this was not a good solution to addressing housing shortages.

 

International student from Beijing, Yu “Frank” Xiang wrote about his experience at the Loj:

“On Saturday 11/7 and Sunday 11/8, I had experienced an unforgettable time with some fellows form UEP. We went to the White Mountains for hiking, and then stayed at the famous Tufts-owned Loj for a wonderful night. To me, it was a really exciting trip, and a good opportunity to immerse myself into the American students’ daily life. For example, we could share interesting things during the hiking, play games and exchange foods during the lunch break, and make a big dinner together at Loj. It was so interesting to hear other’s story and ideas, and to look at the funny items in the Loj, particularly the magnets on the refrigerator.  Generally, I liked the Loj trip very much, and hope more international students could join it next year!”

Loj Dinner

Loj Dinner

Reflections on the 2015 UEP Loj Trip: Lylee Rauch-Kacenski
| November 20, 2015 | 5:20 pm | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Prior to beginning my journey with UEP I had been living in a town of 2,030 in rural central Vermont. It took 10 minutes to walk through town, into the foothills of the Green Mountains, and quickly be engulfed in trees, pine needles underfoot, lost in thought. Since the start of school I have been absorbed in trying to keep on top of reading and research, discovering new passions within the field, and generally acclimating to an academic lifestyle.

On Saturday November 7th, 18 Tufts Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning students set out for a day of hiking and overnight at the Tufts Loj in New Hampshire. The drive to the White Mountains was a relaxing transition out of the city and into the weekend. The car ride provided a space to chat with classmates who are slowly becoming friends and compare notes about classes, assignments, research, and careers. It was at the beginning of our hike, bundled in layers of long underwear, hats and scarves, that I realized just how much I miss being in the woods. I couldn’t have articulated that I needed the space, solitude and silence that the trees and mountains provide: how the vast vistas beyond the peaks helped clear my mind and reset my core. Even while hiking with a group of people, I found the space to reconnect with a non-urban environment.

White Mountains and Lonesome Lake

White Mountains and Lonesome Lake

Between conversation with friends, picking up souvenirs of birch bark and crimson leaves, and traversing up steep passes, we slowly made our way to Lonesome Lake. Navigating our way over planks through bogs and marshes we finally arrived at the docks on the bank of the lake. There is nothing quite as satisfying as lunch after a long hike, and this day was no exception. I made the time to sit and sketch, a passion that I have ignored for the past 8 months. With rusty hand and no expectations- just the joy of being in the moment- I sketched the mountains and enjoyed bouncing in and out of conversation about yoga, food and traveling.

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake

Birchbark

Birchbark

Although the trip was short, it provided enough time to reconnect with art and trees and to make deeper connections with fellow students through hiking, cooking together, setting up an unfamiliar tent in the dark, camping, s’mores, bonfires and silly games. For me the overnight was a perfect balance to the seriousness and intensity of the first semester of school and the relaxed social atmosphere outside of the classroom to get to know my cohorts even better.

UEP Fall Colloquium: Lisa Freeman on Human and Animal Health
| September 30, 2015 | 2:52 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Starting things off for UEP’s Fall Colloquium series was Lisa Freeman, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and nutrition PhD at the Friedman School. She presented the basis for her research and work with One Health, which aims to bring about changes in veterinary medicine in line with 19th century German physician Rudolf Virchow’s belief that: “Between animal and human and medicine, there is no dividing line—nor should there be. The object is different, but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.

Freeman elaborated on the many components of One Health. Zoonotic infectious disease, transmittable between humans and animals, represents some of the most well known causes of death worldwide (rabies, ebola, salmonella, etc). According to Freeman, 20% of animals eating raw meat diets are exposed to salmonella, which can then be passed on to the dog’s owner.

There is also a focus on the effect of climate change on spread of animal borne disease. As temperatures rise, bacteria tend to proliferate while the natural range of disease-carrying animals can expand (e.g. deer ticks). Human health effects can even be felt as a result of increased arctic drilling and the subsequent effects on the surrounding wildlife.

The Cummings School puts on stress relief events for students around finals, with the next one scheduled for December 11 in Tisch Library from 4-6pm. Dogs will provide emotional support for stressed out students!

Colloquium takes place on Wednesdays from 12-1pm at the Crane Room in Paige Hall. The next colloquium will be October 16, featuring UEP’s Nathaniel Fink and Pat Kelsey discussing their experiences with cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. We hope to see you there.

Boston Drops Bid to Host 2024 Olympics
| July 28, 2015 | 2:06 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

“No benefit is so great that it is worth handing over the financial future of our City and our citizens were rightly hesitant to be supportive as a result,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement published by the Boston Globe. The mayor made the statement after refusing to sign a contract pledging public funds to cover Boston 2024 cost overruns.

The decision was celebrated by an opposition group, No Boston Olympics, which made the following statement in the Globe, “We are a city with an important past and a bright future. We got that way by thinking big, but also thinking smart. We need to move forward as a city, and today’s decision allows us to do that on our own terms, not the terms of the USOC or the IOC. We’re better off for having passed on Boston 2024.”

The bid experienced low levels of public support from the beginning, stemming from detail-sparse proposals and the release of information regarding huge paychecks made out to proponents and elected officials.

Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca believed that their second attempt at a proposal would win more support, as he said in the following statement: “We believe that the benefits of hosting the Games far outweigh the risks. With more time to engage in a discussion about Bid 2.0 – about its 8,000 new units of housing, tens of thousands of new jobs, and new tax revenues for the city – along with the appropriate review by Mayor Walsh, the Brattle Group, the Governor and Beacon Hill leadership, we think public support would grow in Boston and across the Commonwealth.”

Los Angeles, which hosted the games in 1984 and 1932, is the presumptive next choice for the US Olympic Committee.

Controversial New MBTA Plan from Governor Baker
| June 5, 2015 | 2:43 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The new governor has proposed a $82.7 million plan for upgrades to MBTA infrastructure and snow removal equipment, according to a recent article. The plan will be funded through a mix of federal dollars for capital investment and the MBTA’s own capital and operating funds. The plan proposes formalizing the use of prison labor to assist in snow removal, which the city used during this year’s particularly rough winter. Prisoners, making a few dollars a day, worked alongside union workers earning $30 per hour. This winter’s use of prison labor quickly stirred up controversy, though one could have possibly made the “desperate time/desperate measures” argument. Formalizing this unfair system takes it to the next level, so it will be interesting to see what the MassDOT Board thinks when it is officially presented with the plan on next week.

A recent op-ed by Shirley Leung in the Boston Globe has proposed increased reliance on privatization as a way to fix the MBTA’s woes. She sites the already privatized commuter rail and ferry functions as examples of ways for Boston to shed some of its admittedly costly functions. For example, a typical bus ride costs the MBTA $2.74 per passenger, while the new late-night bus service costs around $20 per passenger. Leung suggests outsourcing some late night and low-ridership services to Bridj, a relatively recent startup with a demand-based schedule. She also suggests cutting a deal with unions in order to quell fears of job losses.

In order for this to work, it would have to overcome what is known as the Pacheco Bill, created in 1993 to prevent then governor Bill Weld’s efforts at privatization. Governor Baker is working to “free the MBTA from the constraints of Pacheco.” The devastating effects of last winter have created widespread demand for something to be done about the MBTA’s aging infrastructure, but outsourcing work to cheap prison labor and inviting corrupt race-to-the-bottom contracting with private firms means the people of Boston need to keep a close eye on MBTA politics and how the city and state respond to their demands.

UEP 2015 Student Award Recipients
| May 29, 2015 | 2:20 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Another successful academic year has gone by, and the impressive work and research conducted by several UEP students hasbeen rewarded with recognition and awards.

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Kristin Haas, MA 2015, is the recipient of the Outstanding Academic Scholarship Award, given by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering. The award recognizes Kristin’s overall academic achievement, including course grades, paper quality, and thesis. Kristin defended her thesis “The Benefits, Drawbacks, and Limitations of Service Coordination Tools: Perspectives from Social Service Providers in Somerville, Massachusetts” in April.

 

 

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Rebecca Tumposky, MA 2015, was selected for the Robert M. Hollister Award for Community Service and Citizenship for her contribution to the greater community, outside of Tufts. Becca’s thesis was on “Educating Practical Visionaries at Tufts University: A Framework for Community-University Co-Learning.”

 

 

 

 

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Allentza Michel, MPP 2015, was named as the Association for Community Design’s inaugural ACD Fellow after serving as co-chair of the City of Boston’s Participatory Budgeting Project in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jonathan Diaz, MA 2016, received the Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service for his work with various Tufts organizations and community service work. This includes the Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program, for whose work Jonathan and others were chosen to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University and present on a new mentorship program for unaccompanied minors in the Somerville area. Jonathan has also volunteered with Environment America and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.

We hope that next year’s cohort will be as successful as this year’s, and we look forward to seeing all the award-worthy work that UEP produces this Summer.

Land, Wealth, and Community Control
| May 18, 2015 | 1:46 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

A Co-Learning Workshop on Race and Community Economies

Last Tuesday, an event co-sponsored by the Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop, the Center for Economic Democracy and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative convened nearly 70 people from local Boston communities, Tufts, and MIT for a chance to converse over breakfast and coffee, a tour of the Dudley Neighbors Inc. Community Land Trust and the Dudley Greenhouse.

Tour of Dudley Neighbors Inc.

Tour of Dudley Neighbors Inc.

The Dudley Greenhouse

The Dudley Greenhouse

The event was meant to bring together both academics and community practitioners in order to foster a better understanding of building community power, especially regarding land. Much of the day was spent learning about the community land trust model, something that DSNI has been practicing successfully for the last 30 years. In Roxbury and Dorchester, DSNI and Dudley Neighbors Inc. have provided affordable housing, open space, and urban agriculture opportunities for local residents and other nonprofits by leasing the land and overlying buildings, while owning the land in a long-term trust to preserve its affordability.

Lunch was provided by Roxbury’s own Haley House Bakery Cafe, after which was held a panel on the history of struggles for community control over land in Boston. Panelists included Diane Dujon, Chuck Turner, Suzanne Lee, Bob Haas, and Che Madyun.

Community Control over Land Panelists

Community Control over Land Panelists

The final events included educational workshops on community land trusts, run by Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop participants Penn Loh and myself, as well as Harry Smith, director of Dudley Neighbors Inc. Following that was a workshop on community finance strategies, facilitated by Aaron Tanaka and Jennifer Ly, of the Center for Community Economics.

The day was informative for all participants, and gave a much needed opportunity to for academics and urban planning students to come together with community partners to build solidarity in meeting shared goals. This combination of theory and practice can be seen in DSNI’s work with community land trusts and collaboration with Tufts UEP through the Practical Visionaries Workshop.