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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spectacle in the New Green City


Nation-states have been criticized for their collective failure to aggressively combat climate change. Amid the foot-dragging, many cities have styled themselves as climate insurgents, ‘taking the lead’ through bold, creative efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Emerging from these efforts have been high-profile, highly symbolic projects: the green roof atop Chicago’s city hall, New York City’s MillionTreesNYC program, and San Francisco’s network of parks reclaimed from parking spaces (called ‘parklets’). This paper argues that such projects represent a new “mobilization of the spectacle”—a reflection of a popular desire to reimagine the city, but produced on the terms of (and even on behalf of) market forces and neoliberal reason. With the parklets of San Francisco serving as a case study, this paper attempts to reveal the influence of the neoliberal economic order in the production of the green urban spectacle.

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