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Robert Gottlieb

Robert Gottlieb is Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban Environmental Studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is the author of Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change (2001), and Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City (2007), both published by the MIT Press, and other books.

Titles by This Author

In today’s food system, farm workers face difficult and hazardous conditions, low-income neighborhoods lack supermarkets but abound in fast-food restaurants and liquor stores, food products emphasize convenience rather than wholesomeness, and the international reach of American fast-food franchises has been a major contributor to an epidemic of “globesity.” To combat these inequities and excesses, a movement for food justice has emerged in recent years seeking to transform the food system from seed to table. In Food Justice, Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi tell the story of this emerging movement.

A food justice framework ensures that the benefits and risks of how food is grown and processed, transported, distributed, and consumed are shared equitably. Gottlieb and Joshi recount the history of food injustices and describe current efforts to change the system, including community gardens and farmer training in Holyoke, Massachusetts, youth empowerment through the Rethinkers in New Orleans, farm-to-school programs across the country, and the Los Angeles school system’s elimination of sugary soft drinks from its cafeterias. And they tell how food activism has succeeded at the highest level: advocates waged a grassroots campaign that convinced the Obama White House to plant a vegetable garden. The first comprehensive inquiry into this emerging movement, Food Justice addresses the increasing disconnect between food and culture that has resulted from our highly industrialized food system.

Nature and Community in the Global City

Los Angeles--the place without a sense of place, famous for sprawl and overdevelopment and defined by its car-clogged freeways--might seem inhospitable to ideas about connecting with nature and community. But in Reinventing Los Angeles, educator and activist Robert Gottlieb describes how imaginative and innovative social movements have coalesced around the issues of water development, cars and freeways, and land use, to create a more livable and sustainable city. Gottlieb traces the emergence of Los Angeles as a global city in the twentieth century and describes its continuing evolution today. He examines the powerful influences of immigration and economic globalization as they intersect with changes in the politics of water, transportation, and land use, and illustrates each of these core concerns with an account of grass roots and activist responses: efforts to reenvision the concrete-bound, fenced-off Los Angeles River as a natural resource; “Arroyofest,” the closing of the Pasadena Freeway for a Sunday of walking and bike riding; and immigrants’ initiatives to create urban gardens and connect with their countries of origin. Reinventing Los Angeles is a unique blend of personal narrative (Gottlieb himself participated in several of the grass roots actions described in the book) and historical and theoretical discussion. It provides a road map for a new environmentalism of everyday life, demonstrating the opportunities for renewal in a global city.Robert Gottlieb is Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is the author of Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change (MIT Press), Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, and other books.

Exploring New Pathways for Change

In Environmentalism Unbound, Robert Gottlieb proposes a new strategy for social and environmental change that involves reframing and linking the movements for environmental justice and pollution prevention. According to Gottlieb, the environmental movement's narrow conception of environment has isolated it from vital issues of everyday life, such as workplace safety, healthy communities, and food security, that are often viewed separately as industrial, community, or agricultural concerns. This fragmented approach prevents an awareness of how these issues are also environmental issues.

After tracing a history of environmental perspectives on land and resources, city and countryside, and work and industry, Gottlieb focuses on three compelling examples of this new approach to social and environmental change. The first involves a small industry (dry cleaning) and the debate over pollution prevention approaches; the second involves a set of products (janitorial cleaning supplies) that may be hazardous to workers; and the third explores the obstacles and opportunities presented by community or regional approaches to food supply in the face of an increasingly globalized food system.