The Slums of Aspen

Immigrants vs. the Environment in America’s Eden

284 pages

5 halftones

July, 2013

ISBN: 9781479834761



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Lisa Sun-Hee Park is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Consuming Citizenship: Children of Asian Immigrant Entrepreneurs and the co-author, with David Pellow, of The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. the Environment in America's Eden and Silicon Valley of Dreams: Immigrant Labor, Environmental Injustice, and the High Tech Global Economy, also available from NYU Press.

All books by Lisa Sun-Hee Park

David N. Pellow is the Dehlsen Chair of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His teaching and research focus on environmental and ecological justice in the U.S. and globally.

All books by David N. Pellow

Winner, Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award, presented by the Environment & Technology section of the American Sociological Association
Environmentalism usually calls to mind images of peace and serenity, a oneness with nature, and a shared sense of responsibility. But one town in Colorado, under the guise of environmental protection, passed a resolution limiting immigration, bolstering the privilege of the wealthy and scapegoating Latin American newcomers for the area’s current and future ecological problems. This might have escaped attention save for the fact that this wasn’t some rinky-dink backwater. It was Aspen, Colorado, playground of the rich and famous and the West’s most elite ski town.
Tracking the lives of immigrant laborers through several years of exhaustive fieldwork and archival digging, The Slums of Aspen tells a story that brings together some of the most pressing social problems of the day: environmental crises, immigration, and social inequality. Park and Pellow demonstrate how these issues are intertwined in the everyday experiences of people who work and live in this wealthy tourist community.
Offering a new understanding of a little known class of the super-elite, of low-wage immigrants (mostly from Latin America) who have become the foundation for service and leisure in this famous resort, and of the recent history of the ski industry, Park and Pellow expose the ways in which Colorado boosters have reshaped the landscape and altered ecosystems in pursuit of profit and pleasure. Of even greater urgency, they frame how environmental degradation and immigration reform have become inextricably linked in many regions of the American West, a dynamic that interferes with the efforts of valorous environmental causes, often turning away from conservation and toward insidious racial privilege.


  • “As the limits to growth discourse gains currency, Park and Pellow’s groundbreaking book is a must-read. Tracing the nativism that has bedeviled the environmental movement for decades, they tell the fascinating story of eco-conscious, upscale Aspen, which was gripped by anti-immigrant fervor in the name of 'saving the planet.' A great addition for courses on environment, race, class, social activism and contemporary problems.”

    —Juliet Schor, Boston College, and author of The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need

  • “Two barrels of leftist buckshot, aimed at America's ruling class.”

    —Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and Whiteout: Lost in Aspen

  • “A brilliant, darkly funny expose of Aspen, the ruling classes' green utopia, and the invisible, scorned immigrant labor that makes it all possible.”

    —Mike Davis, author of Magical Urbanism and No One is Illegal

  • “As Lisa Sun-Hee Park and David Naguib Pellow make clear, we can’t tackle today’s environmental problems without simultaneously solving social ones. The Slums of Aspen is a must read for all of us who want not just a green and healthy economy, but also a fair and just one.”

    —Annie Leonard, Author and Host, The Story of Stuff

  • "A pair of sociologists, in their new book, paint a damning picture of the stark inequalities between local immigrant laborers and Aspen vacationers and the wealthy homeowners they serve."

    —Andrew Travers, Aspen Daily News

  • "Park and Pellow offer a blistering critique of environmental privilege and immigrant discrimination within the Rocky Mountains' elite playground of Aspen, Colorado...their argument effectively extends well beyond Aspen's ski slopes and elite shopping streets."

    —M.M. Gunter Jr., Choice

  • "Documents, observation, and interview material over a number of years combine to give a full picture of the situation...the book's rich background of Aspen and the whole state's history is nicely provided, and the interesting flow of history and people's everday lives make Slums of Aspen very accessible."

    American Journal of Sociology

  • "The authors...make a convincing and highly disturbing case about how some of the nation's most prominent promoters of sustainability depend on the labor of immigrants to enjoy privileged lives amidst a lovely environment."

    In These Times

  • "[Park and Pellow] provide an impactful account of a wealthy Colorado community's attempt to limit the number of immigrants in their neighborhoods and their reasoning for doing so: environmental protection."

    The National Memo

  • “It’s the perfect text to look at the intersection between social and environmental issues.”

    —Marci Krivonen, Aspen Public Radio

  • "The Slums of Aspen touches a wide variety of important topics both inside and outside the subdiscipline of environmental sociology. It takes long-lasting debates about population growth and examines them anew. It should be of interest to scholars in social movements, race, labor studies, political sociology, leisure studies, to name a few. Its main strength is that it engages so many different, and new areas, of environmental justice, and most importantly, provides a big step forward toward understanding the causes and consequences of environmental privilege, as well as the struggles by some to oppose its racially motivated 'green' politics."

    —Justin Farrell, Mobilization