Julian Agyeman Ph.D. FRSA FRGS is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. He is the originator of the increasingly influential concept of just sustainabilities, the intentional integration of social justice and environmental sustainability defined as:
the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now, and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.
Born and trained in the UK, he has a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Botany (University of Durham), a master’s in Conservation Policy (Middlesex University), and a doctorate in Urban Studies (University of London). He identifies himself as a critical urban planning and environmental social science scholar.
His combined science and social science background, together with extensive experience in local government, consulting, working for, and board-level advising of NGOs and community-based organizations, helps frame his perspectives, research and writing. This enables him to thrive at the borders and intersections of a wide range of disciplines, knowledges and methodologies which he uses in creative and original ways.
He centers his research on critical explorations of the complex and embodied relations between humans and the urban environment, whether mediated by governments or social movement organizations, and their effects on public policy and planning processes and outcomes, particularly in relation to notions of justice and equity.
He believes that what our cities can become (sustainable, smart, sharing and resilient) and who is allowed to belong in them (recognition of difference, diversity, and a right to the city) are fundamentally and inextricably interlinked. We must therefore act on both belonging and becoming, together, using just sustainabilities as the anchor, or face deepening spatial and social inequities and inequalities.
His key research contributions are in:
just sustainabilities in policy, planning and practice;
environmental and food justice;
planning in, and for Sharing Cities;
planning in, and for intercultural cities.
Worldwide, he is recognized as a public intellectual, an innovator and thought leader. His Google Scholar citations highlight the (academic) impacts of his work which have placed him in the top 20 most highly cited urban planning academics in North America. His wide-ranging and influential publications include Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? (2002). It is the single most highly cited journal article by an urban planning academic in North America. In addition to its theoretical contributions, Mind the Gap continues to have great practical impact around the world, influencing think-tanks and government policy in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, France, Ireland, as well as within the European Commission and the United Nations (UNEP and FAO), among others.
He is the author or editor of 12 books, including Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (MIT Press, 2003), Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice (NYU Press, 2005), The New Countryside?: Ethnicity, Nation and Exclusion in Contemporary Rural Britain (Bristol University Press/Policy Press, 2006), Environmental Justice and Sustainability in the Former Soviet Union (MIT Press, 2009), Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada (UBC Press, 2010), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability (MIT Press, 2011), Environmental Inequalities Beyond Borders: Local Perspectives on Global Injustices (MIT Press, 2011), Introducing Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice (Zed Books, 2013), Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices, and Possibilities (Routledge, 2014) and Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities (MIT Press, 2015), one of Nature’s Top 20 Books of 2015 and Food Trucks, Cultural Identity, and Social Justice: From Loncheras to Lobsta Love (MIT Press, 2017). His latest book is The Immigrant-Food Nexus: Borders, Labor, and Identity in North America (MIT Press 2020).
He was co-founder in 1996, and is now Editor-in-Chief of Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. He is Series Editor of Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice published by Zed Books and Co-Editor of the Routledge Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City Series. He is also Contributing Editor to Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development and a member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Environmental Education.
Julian is a Founding Senior Advisor/Thought Leader at PlacemakingX and sits on the Academic Board of The Centre for the Future of Places (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden), the Board of Directors of EcoDistricts (Portland, OR, USA) and is co-chair of the Advisory Board of Shareable (San Francisco, USA). He is also on the Advisory Boards of Biophilic Cities (University of Virginia), Participatory City (London, UK), Urban Sharing (Lund, Sweden) and Sharecity (Dublin, Ireland).
Julian was co-founder in 1988, and chair until 1994, of the Black Environment Network (BEN), the first environmental justice-based organization of its kind in Britain. In 1996, he was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA) in the UK, a network of people dedicated to enriching society and shaping the future through ideas and action, and in 2016 he became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS), the learned society and professional body advancing geography and supporting geographers. In 2018, he was awarded the Athena City Accolade by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, for his “outstanding contribution to the field of social justice and ecological sustainability, environmental policy and planning“.
He has held Visiting Professorships at the University of South Australia, Adelaide (2008-13); Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK (2010-14); the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (April-May 2011); the Walker Ames Visiting Professorship, University of Washington, Seattle (Feb-March 2017) and at McGill University, Montréal (2017-18). He held a Visiting Fellowship at The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, hosted by the University of Victoria, BC (April-May 2011). He was Senior Scholar at The Center for Humans and Nature, Chicago (2013-16) and was a Fellow of the McConnell Foundation Cities for People program in Montréal, Canada (2017-18).