Jonah White

Jonah  White
  • Ph.D.
  • Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences
  • Geography Building
  • 673 Auditorium Road, Room 116
  • East Lansing, MI 48824


Urban Development and Sustainability; Gentrification and Neighborhood Change; Social and Environmental Justice


My research interests rest in several intersecting areas of emphasis, including urban geography and sustainability, gentrification and environmental justice, and politics of urban development and social justice. Currently, more than half of the world’s population, and about 85% of the United States population, live in an urban setting and these numbers are expected to increase in the upcoming decades. Issues surrounding environmental, economic, and social sustainability (e.g. pollution creation and management, housing stock and affordability, consumption patterns, community identity, and cohesion) will become even larger concerns as more people reside in urban areas. In the context of these broad trends, I am interested in the disproportionate exposure of marginalized groups to sources of pollution. While numerous cities are deindustrializing and attempting to clean up and wash away their industrial past, research shows that remaining pollution sources cluster together in socially vulnerable communities with large proportions of poor and minority populations. Meanwhile, areas within cities that have been cleaned up can become loci of capital reinvestment and redevelopment efforts aimed at attracting middle- and upper-class groups. This complicated dynamic of environmental gentrification can arise as cities create these post-industrial landscapes but one of the inherent problems is who benefits from cleanup efforts and sustainability initiatives. Finally, city efforts to rebrand themselves as “sustainable” are fundamentally policy driven, and competing interests, visions, and ideologies are prevalent. Part of this competition stems from unequal political capital among stakeholders and the ability to participate in the decision-making process. Therefore, as city officials and policymakers draft sustainable development plans and policies, they often do not include the groups of people who may benefit most from these initiatives. By combining these research threads, I hope to uncover new and innovative approaches to urban (re)development that fosters more livable and truly sustainable cities for all residents.