The Social and Health Inequities between Water, Sanitation, and People

Entire Collage

As part of my History and Theory course, we were tasked to create a visual project based on what we chose to focus on at the beginning of the semester. After toiling with many ideas, I decided I wanted to make a collage of photos pasted on canvas portraits that I had lying around for almost a year. Below I included the books and websites I used to find my pictures- there’s even an entire digital format with all photographs of the book How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis! If you hadn’t read it or at least looked at some of the photographs, do so- you’ll be able to see social mindfulness and visual ethnography at its beginnings and documentation of what it was really like to live during the industrialized period. Two other great books to learn about sanitation and clean water history and cultural implications of dirt history are Filth: Dirt, Disgust, And Modern Life and The Sanitary City.

My intention was to show a contrast of present times with the historical beginnings of sanitation methods involving water and clean cities, along with how human interactions with each other and their environments are dependent on the level of sanitation and access to clean water. The contrast of present day color photos with black and white photos from the past are selectively pieced so that black and white historical photos are in the background, though still always present in today’s times of color photos. Many of the photos show humans reliance on water and sanitation for many purposes, such as for drinking, sewer and waste removal, employment, cleanliness, and enjoyment. We see that humans’ struggles, resilience and forms of success through ingenuity with cleaning water and cities is an issue that is present over time, though manifests and changes according to trends and locations around the world and is often done with the aid of planners. Ultimately, lack of clean water and sanitation is a social inequity that leads to health decline in the environments and its people throughout history, and we see that this dynamic though may seem resolved, still needs much work to be done today in order to reach global, social and health equality.

*If you would like more information about where I got my photos from, and what sources I use, please ask. Also, this looked much better when it was hung up on the wall as part of the gallery walk through, but I forgot to take a picture…Each canvas has its own photo as well as the collective piece in one photo.


Top Left Corner20141209_231746

Bottom Left Corner20141209_231723

Bibliography of Pictures

Cohen, W. (2005). Filth: Dirt Disgust and Modern Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

How The Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis. (2012, July 12). Retrieved November 5, 2014, from

Hoy, S. (1995). Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Happiness. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kostigen, T. (2008, July 10). The World’s Largest Dump: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from

Melosi, M. (2008). The Sanitary City (Abridged ed.). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Parker, L. (2014, July 15). First of Its Kind Map Reveals Extent of Ocean Plastic. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from


A spark that lights the candle.

This post serves to be not only my first ever post to my first ever blog, but also attempts to explain just what this blog is meant for and why I am starting it. As a new regional planner in graduate school, I have quite a varied background. In undergrad I varied my studies between social justice, policy, anthropology, environmental sciences, and community organizing. Since leaving undergrad, I have seen my roll in social scenarios to usually serve as a connector, either of networking people to other important people or to resources and information that I find worth sharing. I’m a person that believes that everything is connected in some sort of fashion, ultimately why I have chosen planning as the field I not only want to study but pursue in my professional career.

Since I am almost finished with my first semester of grad school, I needed an outlet where I could start posting the interesting tidbits of information I am finding- along with the numerous amounts of papers, websites, blogs, images, maps, etc. that I not only find interesting but also relevant to planners and those with a planning mindset. I’ve always enjoyed my somehow endowed role as a connector, and so I want to share what I have learned with others, in hopes that my blog can be a resource with a set of tools that can arm every planner’s “knowledge toolbox”. The mindfulness is relative in that it will be my conscious duty to make sure that what I do post is current, relevant (no posts on recipes-that’s for another blog), and that anything posted as “historical” is also accurate.

On the topic of mindfulness, I also have been incorporating the practice of mindfulness in my daily life…baby steps. Many studies have said that over time, Mindfulness Practice can help reduce the body’s reaction to stress triggers while also helping with focus and memory of daily tasks. This is a journey I started a while ago, but now full swing into grad school I find becomes more useful and enjoyable to explore each day. Often times when beginning something new that requires being “in the moment” like in mindfulness practice, yoga, or even writing this blog post, it is usually difficult to get started. Getting in the zone, or “in the moment” takes time and lots of practice, and so one has to get comfortable with being uncomfortable- a phrase I heard back in my undergrad years that has stuck with me. This uncomfortable state of unfamiliarity when starting something new or what we have decided is “hard” can be unsettling and is often the source for why many of us procrastinate and doubt our abilities.

I was reminded of this message this past weekend while at a symposium discussing the relevance of constructing a community design center in Holyoke, MA. In a series of presentations given by local community members and college professors, a lot was discussed without much resolution- just a greater understanding of what to consider was the major takeaway. One Anthropology professor at UMass Amherst, Jonathan Sosa, was giving a presentation on the necessary use of ethnographical social mapping when considering how to work within a community. I hadn’t considered using ethnography as a way to socially map a city, especially in the planning field; needless to say since my roots are in Anthropology this resonated with me and I am excited to make this a part of my engagement strategies with communities in future planning practices.

Holyoke has a strained history with the local colleges, as many have used the struggling city more like a testing lab for surveys of project ideas without often much community participation or real implementation. Sosa mentioned that in any sort of work that involves collaboration with disadvantaged population groups, there can be a tension that is felt but unspoken. Planners, social workers, and other community workers can often be seen as know-alls and experts, and often carry some degree of higher education. He discussed that it is important to recognize and be aware of your privileges when entering any social situation, and to use the uncomfortable feelings in a productive manner to reach greater understanding about yourself and the other group you may be interacting with. He coined it “productive discomfort”.

I left there charged to engage deeper with this “productive discomfort” more in my daily life. I also left feeling extremely motivated to finally start this blog since I felt that I finally had the right title that would serve best to articulate what in fact this blog would be dedicated to. I hope you are inspired after this post in some way- whether that is to consider sipping your coffee mindfully, listening to someone else mindfully, or the fact that there will be significant content on here that you are excited to read!