Visualizing Sustainability in Los Angeles


In this photo essay, I present and caption three images that are meaningful to the sustainability experts in this study.  

Begey, Melissa, 2018. “Visualizing Sustainabillity in Los Angeles” In “Designing a Livable (Mega)City for All: An Ethnographic Exploration of Sustainability Expertise in Los Angeles.In California at Risk, a class project for “Ethnographic Methods,” Anthropology 215a University of California Irvine, Fall 2018.

View essay


This image represents page 10 in the City of LA’s Sustainable City pLAn 2nd Annual Report 2016-2017. It directly follows two pages documenting “the people behind the plan” - LA’s Departmental Chief Sustainability Officers and the Mayor’s Sustainability Team. On this page, an image of two pages found later in the document is used to tell the viewer/reader “how to read the report.” I chose this image because it signifies the role of the expert in guiding the work and understanding of sustainability. Unlike most images that one encounters, this one is direct: the viewer is socialized as to how the image should and can be read. There is little room for interpretation --or deviance-- by the non-expert in this light.  


N.A. 2017. "Sustainable City pLAn 2nd Annual Report 2016-2017." Mayor's Fund For Los Angeles, December 9, 2018.

(Who is) Thriving in a Hotter LA?

This image is an advertisement for a talk in which “experts in energy, environmental science, law and urban planning will address the challenges of creating sustainable and resilient megacities.” This talk was affiliated with the Global Climate Action Summit and part of UCLA’s Sustainability Grand Challenge. I chose this image because of its description of LA as a ‘megacity’ positioned in a space in which it can be both a leader and learner of sustainability. Moreover, I was drawn to this image for two reasons (1) the use and role of branding logos at the bottom of the image to represent key stakeholders in this project of making LA thrive, and (2) the image of Echo Park Lake overlooking the DTLA skyline - areas in which intense gentrification has been guised under claims of “revitalization.”


Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment. 2018. "Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles: Can L.A. Model Sustainability for the World’s Megacities, and What Can It Learn From Others?" UCLA Law, December 9, 2018.

Beyond Sustainability: A Net-Positive LA

This image is an infographic from the firm SOM and was described as intending to “[advance] SOM's global thinking about the city of the future.” Here, Los Angeles serves as a case-study for this interdisciplinary design firm with a goal of moving beyond a “sustainability framework” to one that is “net positive.” The color-coding of this infographic signifies the nine design principles SOM proposes in approaching this work. At the bottom lies a ‘timeline’ of LA representing 150 years -- 1900 to what would (will) be 2050. In this, the question seemingly becomes: what will  a ‘regenerated’ LA look like in 2050? This infographic is informative in that it describes the firm’s 9 general design principles for a net positive city. At the same time, it maps (literally) these principles onto the black and white, and importantly blank, graphic rendition of DTLA. By such, it seems to indicate action points, while also leaving room for opportunity, or perhaps the unknown. How does SOM’s understanding of the history of LA provide a framework for their rendition of the city’s future?


Hand, Gunnar Hauser, Roger Weber, and Nathan Bluestone. 2016. “RegenLA: Los Angeles Beyond Sustainability.” SKIDMORE, OWINGS & MERRILL LLP, December 9, 2018.


All rights reserved.


Created date

December 9, 2018

Group Audience