SITUATED ECOLOGIES gathers art, design and research collaborations to contest and democratise ecologies.

Listen to Henrik Ernstson’s key note at PSU in April: “Rethinking Urban Ecosystem Services” (Webinar)

You can now listen to Henrik Ernstson’s key note at the Portland State University in the beginning of April 2014. The so called Webinar is posted at the following link (try this link first, or else this link to get it started). The talk starts at 8:14 into the recording, after introductions.

Webinar H Ernstson on Critcal engagement with Ecosystem Services at PSU April 2014

Moving ecosystem services into critical enquiry

In this key note I was trying to respond to the PSU PhD students and IGERT fellows concern about how ecosystem services and its applications, often end up being used in quite uncritical and non-political ways and as such fails us in helping us to answer and research crucial questions. I had similar worries about ecosystem services when I was doing my PhD studies at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, including concerns about social-ecological systems and resilience theory. It was therefore a great privilege to be speaking to staff and students at PSU about these issues as they are working hard to develop crucial knowledge around sustainable development.

My talk was entitled Rethinking Urban Ecosystem Services: Theorizing the Ecology and Politics of Urbanization from Stockholm to Cape Town” and it tries to summarise how my own thinking developed since from the latter part of my PhD studies, from say 2006-7 until the publication in 2013 of two of my ‘ecosystem services’ articles. I start the talk by summarising what it will be about:

In conversation with the “organizing crew”, we decided that my task here in this talk is to provide material on how we can think and maybe re-think ecosystem services, based mainly on my own experience and trajectory. My talk will depart from the quite uncritical approach I was part of at Stockholm Resilience Centre from 2003-2008 where we used ecosystem services in relation to meta theories such as resilience theory and social-ecological systems theory (SES). I will then use my own experience on developing a more critical approach to urban ecology, which of course goes much wider than “ecosystem services” although that will remain my focus in this talk.

The talk was followed by great discussions. I am indebted to the PSU-IGERT students, in particular Erin Goodling for leading the “organizing crew” and to realise the full week at PSU in April. Erin will soon post at our SUPE Commentaries, and Anthony Levanda from PSU  has already done so. There is great vibrant community of critical scholars and students at PSU!



Erin Goodling

We extend a very warm thank you to Henrik for his time and insights he shared with us at Portland State University in April!

Feedback from participants following our week of lecture, seminars, workshops, and field trips included: “I appreciate Henrik’s focus on group inquiry rather than teaching something or arriving at a predetermined answer.” Another participant reflected, “[Pieterse’s] concept of incremental radicalism from Ernstson’s papers was particularly useful for me in terms of moving beyond radical/reformist dichotomies, understanding how change is made, and conceptualizing other types of agents outside of traditional Marxian conceptions (i.e working class).” And another mentioned, “Grounding Urban Natures is an awesome project and it was great to learn about how it came together. The narrative style of the chapters serves as an awesome example of how to tell the myriad stories of urban political ecologies.”

Amongst the many outcomes of this week, a few of us at PSU are starting to plug into the SUPE platform and drawing insights from it for our own work. We very much appreciate the welcoming space to do so, and the theoretical heavy-lifting that SUPE organizers have done far! Additionally, several of us are now working on a paper in which we seek to make sense of our own experience as critical urbanists studying in an IGERT program that is focused on ecosystem services, vis-à-vis the broader context within which ecosystem services has arisen as a framework, policymaking tool, and at-times nebulous concept. More to come.

Thanks again, Henrik! And to all SUPE-interested folks: don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are coming through Portland, Oregon (U.S.)!

Thank you so much guys! Your comment is warmly appreciated and I love to come again. Here I only want to emphasise Erin’s invitation to all “SUPE-interested folks” — if you have the chance, please visit the great students at Portland State University. /Henrik

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