The Metro-Boston Area
This paper is mainly aimed at studying the Metro-Boston area. It will discuss the area from two perspectives. The first one is from the perspective of an urban technology. In this context, urban-ecology is used in reference to the study of the ecosystems, especially humans, living in cities an urbanizing landscape (Alberti, 2008). This is an upcoming interdisciplinary field. It is targeted at understanding the way in which people and ecological processes may co-exist within the human-dominated systems. In this study, I will try to establish the way in which the urban-ecology has helped societies in Boston so as to become more sustainable. I will mainly emphasize on the analysis of the people in the city and their relationship with the nature of the city.
Secondly, I will also view the Metro-Boston area from the environmental racism perspective. In this regard, environmental racism is defined as the practice of intentionally or unintentionally targeting the minority communities or excluding minority groups from private as well as public boards, regulatory bodies and commissions (Westra & Lawson, 2001). I will also look at how the minority groups are discriminated in different ways within the various Boston neighborhoods. In order to ensure that my objective is achieved, I visited various neighborhoods including Charlestown, Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester. During the period of my visit, I took photos of different features in these neighborhoods. I will discuss these areas according to the features captured in the photos.
Personal Sociological Experience
The Dorchester neighborhood has undergone lots of social transformations. Looking at the current demographic composition of the area, one can acknowledge the efforts of various humanitarian groups in fighting against racism. The issue of racial discrimination in my neighborhood can be dated back to the days when I was still a child. In fact, my childhood memories about my neighborhood are mainly based on the discriminations, which existed between the various groups of people that occupied the region.
During the early 1990s, the Dorchester area was predominantly occupied by the white people. These people lived a lifestyle that was completely different from that of the other population, especially the blacks and Latinos. There were several places that the blacks would never even try visiting. These included public and private properties. Considering their lifestyles, it was as though the two groups of people lived in different geographical locations with different environmental settings, yet they were all residents of the Dorchester neighborhood.
There was a high level of discrimination within the education sector when I was growing up. Some schools were just meant for the white population only. In fact, during those days, the blacks were not allowed to acquire education. I remember, the word ‘nigger’ was quite common to the few blacks who managed to attend school together with the white population. No one cared about knowing blacks by their names. In case we happened to share classes with the blacks, they were only a handful and could occupy the sets at the backs. There was no particular time when these two groups would share anything, including playing together. I recall a day when a black student was sent away from a game simply because he was black. There were no chances of the two groups playing together for any reason. The white students made friends with their fellow whites. However, the blacks were not allowed to develop friendships even amongst themselves.
Environmental racism was quite common in employment. Almost all the whites in the Dorchester neighborhood comprised of working class. They were great friends and closely related. They must have been working at almost the same places as far as I can recall. This is because they used to hang out together and also lived close to one another. Besides, I could see them pack up in buses together headed to south Boston. Alternatively, I could see the whites taking trains headed to the same routes. On the other hand, most of the blacks were jobless. However, a few of them were hired to work in some areas, especially the tasks that appeared to be tough and dangerous. Due to the unemployment of the black population, a majority of them would only get opportunities for manual labor. They earned very low wages and the ones who managed to acquire employment would hardly get promotions.
Discrimination spread across to even the mortgage-lending sector. Several complaints were made by the blacks and Latinos concerning the kind of treatment that they were accorded by the lending organizations. This implied that these people could not easily be given loans. Thus, it was challenging for them to change their living standards. They stayed in poor quality houses, with a simple lifestyle. However, the whites who occupied the largest share of the population could easily be given loans and mortgage facilities. They were able to furnish their homes and live in decently designed homes.
Racism was quite dominant in the politics and leadership of the larger Boston area. There was no single black in any leadership position, whether elective or not. These were reserved for the whites only. In a nut shell, there was racial discrimination in several aspects as I grew up. Despite the racial equality that is currently evident in Boston, the past memories of social injuries in many neighborhoods of Metro-Boston are still very fresh in the minds of most people, especially the minority groups.
In this section, I have discussed my results from the neighborhoods that I visited. I have included some of the photos that I took during the visit to the various locations in the area. I have discussed the areas from the perspectives of urban ecology as well as environmental racism.
The Roxbury Neighborhood
The Roxbury neighborhood covers a rural area. The town was once a farming hub (Sammarco & Rosenberg, 2007). Currently, this neighborhood serves as the heart of culture among black people in Boston region. However, it is undergoing Renaissance, especially within the housing sector. Compared to the modern society that is dominated by a hurry up mentality, the topographical nature of the Roxbury neighborhood requires a slow pace in the way people conduct their daily activities. The rural character of the town is displayed in every corner and also upon every gentle sloping mountain. As revealed in the photo that I took, the main street of this community is a combination of the historic homes framed with towering trees.
During my visit to the Grand George, I learned that it is a mix of both business and residential properties. The area has scattering working farms, which occupy most parts of the community outskirts. The town has a pleasant blend of unique history and gorgeous setting that attracts not just the residents but also outsiders. This has elevated the town to a tourist destination. Some of the activities of entertainment in the town include skating, golf, skiing and hiking. All these are sources of recreation and entertainment.
Environmental conservation is an essential issue concerning all residents of the Roxbury town. I managed to meet some community members involved in the environmental cleaning activity as illustrated in the picture below. Such activities have always made sure that there is good relationship between the community and the environment. The community activities have also helped in bringing the citizens together, thereby encouraging unity and a feeling of oneness among the people.
Environmental racism is not much of a problem in Roxbury currently. The area was initially occupied by mainly black populations. This was because of the rugged and sloppy nature of the region. However, this area is presently inhabited by people of different racial backgrounds and social status (Sammarco & Rosenberg, 2007). There are very few cases of environmental racism in the town. Housing is among the industries where evidences of racism are shown. The whites always feel that they belong to the highest class. Thus, they live in houses close to the areas that are easily accessible. These are houses that are decent and expensive. However, there are efforts of restructuring the houses in town so as to create better and cheap houses that would be affordable to a larger percentage of the population (Sammarco & Rosenberg, 2007). The photo below shows some of the houses in the area.
Roxbury has a lower unemployment rate compared to other parts of the Metro-Boston areas. Most of the people within the tourism sector and the neighboring industries are employed.
The Mattapan neighborhood was initially part of the Dorchester neighborhood.
The picture in the photograph above is a railroad in Mattapan town. The Matta-hunt tribe, a Native American tribe during the early 1600s was the original occupants of the town. The Irish settled in Mattapan in the 19th century, while the Jewish community rose in the 20th century. The neighborhood is presently occupied by African Americans and immigrants from the Caribbean. Other inhabitants of Mattapan are also Jewish Americans and Haitians (O’Conner, 1988).
Some of the infrastructure presently found in Mattapan is the Olmsted green, the Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mattapan library. The Olmsted green is a combination of infrastructure that includes houses, apartments and nursing facilities. The Wildlife Sanctuary is a tourist attraction while the state-of-the-art library is used for the promotion of education in the area. Development projects have recently begun emerging in Mattapan to encounter the poverty levels in the town. A non-profit organization called the Mattapan Community Development Corporation undertakes the role of improving the social economic conditions of the people working and living in the town (O’Conner, 1988). A corporation that started in 1996 had the mission of enhancing the housing and economic infrastructure of the area. The Mattapan Community Health Center is another outcome of the development plan.
Mattapan’s education system is advanced. Some of the primary and secondary schools in the area are the Ellison Early Educational School, the James, Chittick, Charles H Taylor and Mattahun schools. The Mattapan library caters for the educational needs of the residents of the town and is run by the Boston Public Library. The postal service in Mattapan is operated by the United States Postal service. The rail line is the key transport system in Mattapan. The MBTA commuter rail at Morton Street is preserved to serve the downtown of Mattapan and its environs.
The residents of Mattapan are very social and care about the welfare of one another. The people have come up with associations to enable them share ideas and unite towards the development of the city. Some of the renowned organizations include the Colorado Street Neighborhood Association, the Rexford Street Neighborhood association and the West Seldon & Vicinity Neighborhood association. They take part in recreational activities together and have organized sports days for boosting their unions. There are several assisted living communities in Mattapan town. They are communities that live independently and include senior apartments and retirement homes. The town assisted living community provides care to the elderly people and those with terminal health conditions. It offers food, medication and transport facilities.
Mattapan has various health institutions offering excellent health services. The MCHC is the main health center in the town. The Mattapan community health center is a state of the art health facility that offers medical care to patients and is committed to the long term wellbeing of the community. The health institution provides dental services, family medicine services, women health and public health programs.
The picture of the train on railroad illustrates just how much the town depends on rail transport. The railroads in Mattapan are highly advanced and state-of-the-art with the best technology to ensure excellent service to the people. Although there have been cases of environmental racism in the neighborhood, such cases are uncommon. This is attributed to the fact that the area is dominated by black population.
The Charleston Neighborhood
Charleston is another neighborhood in Boston, which is located north of the Boston downtown. It lies between the Mystic River and the river Charleston southern part of Charlestown known as the city square. Some of the government features that were initiated in the Charlestown include the Massachesetts Department of Correction, which was closed in 1955. The US Postal Service also operates in the area. The St.Mary’s church is considered to be one of the greatest among the churches in Charlestown (Peace & Peace, 1985).
Charlestown also has a good education system, which is made up of public and private schools. Some of the public schools include Harvard Elementary school, Warren Prescott School and Charlestown High School. One of the private schools include Holden Schhol. Some of the colleges and universitie based in Charlestown consist of MGH Institute and the Bunker Hill Community College. The Boston Public Library provides better educational background that complements the schools and universities.
Charlestown is a commercial and industrial city. The success of the town as a commercial center has been attributed to the good transportation structure that is enjoyed by the twon (Cherleston: Economy, 2009). The Kanawha Valley is the center of transport infrastructure. It utilises waterways for the trabsportation of goods to the Gulf of Mexico through the river Ohio and river Mississippi. The presences of three interstate highways that converge in downtown Charlestown offer an extra transportation link in the town. The presence of Kanawha vallety and the good transport system has made Charlestown to perform quite well in retail trade, finance industry, art and culture, banking industry and the chemical industry.
The key industries that enhnace the economy of the neighborhood are automotive industry, telecommunication sector, healthcare industry, retail industry and trade industry. Some of the legendary industries that are located in Charlestown include the Union Carbide Corporation, FMC, Monsato, Clearon Corp and EI du Point de Nemours. Union Carbide has its headquarters in southern Charlestown (Charlestown: Economy, 2009). These companies use the locals for labor. The Kanawha Valley uses one third of the population in the steel fabrication, glass making and energy divisions.
Some of the programs that are currently being undertaken in Charlestown include the BIDCO Program and the WVEDA. The Business and Industrial Development Corporation (BIDCO) serves the Metropilitan Charleston. It provides various servies, like training of workers, professional economic development as well as engineering services. The West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA) provides low interest funding for building, equipment and land acquisition. Besides, it also offers insurance and capital access program. The local government also has a workforce program, which provides at least ten jobs or $2000 for every employee. There are also vocational technical school and career center to encourage training (Peace & Peace, 1985).
The Charleston area is already developed because of the presence of proper transport infrastructure, good communication systems and good healthcare facilities. The completed projects in the area were the 240,000 square foot clay center, opened in 2003. The Avampto Discovery Museum and the Electric Sky Center is also among the projects that bwere commissioned in Charleston. This fracility offers planetarium and laser shows as well as a variety of gift shops.
From the photo above, it is clearly revealed that the twon enjoys a good transport infrastructure. The picture is of the wide road system that has enabled the town to advance economically.
A comparison of Mattapan, Roxbury and Charleston gives some key diversities among the towns. While Mattapan and Roxbury towns are still undergoing development, Charleston is already developed. The development projects in Charleston were already done commissioned over a decade ago while Mattapan still has several development projects underway. However, housing is still a major challenge among the residents of Roxbury town.
The transport system in Charleston town is more developed compared to that of Mattapan. The presence of the Kanawha valley in Charleston provides water transport to the town, thereby making it a key commercial hub. The availability of proper roads and rail system also ensures an enhnaced economic status of Charlestown. The transport is generally much developed and more convenient between these two towns. However, the Roxbury town still lags behind with regards to infrastructure. The means of transport in this area is quite slow because of the rugged nature of the area. It is also evident that the local government in Charlestown has done much towards making sure that the citizens are employed, unlike in Mattapan where a large population of the residents are poverty stricken.
The technology has always been on the rise to offer proper solutions to the problems faced by humans. One of the problems is the rapid population increase, which causes strain on the available limited resources. With improved technology, people have come up with new measures for survival in different environmental settings, while still trying to ensure conservation.
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