SITUATED ECOLOGIES is a platform for research projects and activities that relate to situated and contested ecologies, in particular when viewed through the processes of urbanisation.

AAG 2013 :: Great work by WOK-UE project in April!

Our project Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies had several presentations and sessions at AAG 2103.

Our project Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies had several presentations and sessions at AAG 2103.

The AAG 2013 was a great conference. Huge as always—we heard that some 7000 geographers were walking around in the big downtown LA hotels were the conference was held in April this year.

In our research team on the ‘Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies’ we had a great presence.

We had in total 5 paper presentations, organized one special session and were invited to two different panels. The following summarizes our efforts:

1. Mary Lawhon presented a theoretical paper on “Provincializing Urban Political Ecology—Towards a Situated UPE through African Urbanism” that is co-authored by Henrik Ernstson and John Silver.
2. Marnie Graham presented on her case study on Macassar Dunes in Cape Town.
3. Joshua Lewis presented on his study in New Orleans in a special session on New Orleans post-Katrina.
Jane Battersby presented on her great work at the Philippi Horticulture Area in Cape Town.
5. Henrik Ernstson presented on a first synthesis paper of the four case studies we have been working on in Cape Town—Cecilia Forrest (with Jessica Rattle), Bottom Road & Princess Vlei (Henrik Ernstson), Philippi Horticulture Area (Jane Battersby), and Macassar Dunes (Marnie Graham).

Apart from this:
6. Jane Battersby and Henrik Ernstson organised a special session covering two slots on “Articulating Values in Urban Green Spaces” with great presentations from different scholars and research teams and with case studies from North America, Europe and Africa.
7. Mary Lawhon and Henrik Ernstson were invited as panelists, together with Garth Myers, to round off a great full day or “Postcolonial Urbanisms”.
8. Henrik Ernstson was also invited as panelist on the first days session on “Environmental Governance & Ecosystem Services”.

We also had several of our colleagues at ACC that was presenting: With Edgar Pieterse making great talks that were really talked about, and Anna Taylor on her work from Cape Town. More information on our abstracts and special sessions follow below:

WOK-UE presentation abstracts

Mapping and counter-mapping: Asserting values in the Philippi Horticultural Area, Cape Town, South Africa 

Jane Battersby, Dr – University of Cape Town

Abstract: The Philippi Horticultural Area, a 2600ha agricultural area within the City of Cape Town, is a highly contested space. The City currently has a housing backlog of some 400 000 dwelling units, and it has been argued by developers and the City’s housing department that this land should be given over for housing and other urban uses. This view is supported by some of the farmers and other Provincial and City government departments. There are, however, other departments and groups of farmers who wish to protect the area for agriculture. Debates about the future of the Philippi Horticultural Area have been played out through a series of meetings and reports depending on maps to make truth claims about the Area. This paper presents an analysis of the ways in which values and ideological framings are presented and reinforced through these supposedly neutral mapping exercises. The paper therefore engages the power bases of these multiple ways of knowing that exist in a single site and the connections and dissonances between different actors through the reading of these practices of mapping. Was part of the Paper Session: Articulating Value in Urban Green Space

(Re)Negotiating Nature on the Geographic Urban Fringe

Marnie Graham – Macquarie University & Stockholm University
Abstract: Post-apartheid Cape Town remains one of the most highly segregated cities in the world. Vast formal and informal settlement on the urban fringe is a hugely pressing issue facing local government in terms of spatial planning and in the provision of housing, amenities and services. Given Cape Town is nestled amidst an incredibly biodiverse geography the provision of urban green space is in particular a highly contested political arena, as different kinds of development vie for the use of urban space. This paper examines Macassar Dunes, a highly biodiverse coastal conservation area located on the geographic city fringe. Macassar Dunes is surrounded by apartheid-planned township areas of Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain and Macassar, and also by more recent yet vast informal settlement by settlers from the rural Eastern Cape. Efforts by local government to include local communities from diverse racial, socio-economic and political backgrounds in the management of the conservation area have proven challenging (and yet also rewarding), given the ways that some local communities conceive of, use and understand the Dunes challenge and confront those more conventional and elitist associations of nature reserves as sites of conservation, leisure, and ‘nature experience’. Examination of community-based conservation initiatives at Macassar Dunes has indicated the Capetonian urban fringe is a site of sharing and re-negotiation around the meanings and uses of ‘nature’ as it is understood in this dynamic fringe context. Concomitantly, the Dunes have become a site for re-negotiation of post-apartheid identities and for the sharing of histories, heritages and cultures. Was part of the Paper Session: Political ecology across the rural-urban divide III: Rural-urban linkages 

Bracing Achilles’ Heel: The Retrofitting and Transformation of New Orleans’ Inner Harbor Complex

Joshua A Lewis* – Stockholm University; Tulane UniversityAbstract: The major navigation canals serving the Port of New Orleans, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and Mississippi River Gulf Outlet have garnered significant attention by residents, engineers, lawyers and policymakers since Hurricane Katrina. Local residents and the environmental community have contested the various components of this “Inner Harbor Complex” for over fifty years, and Katrina triggered the most significant retrofitting and reordering of the network of canals since their completion. Widely regarded by citizens and civil engineers as the “Achilles’ heel” of the New Orleans hurricane protection system, establishing the role of these channels in the levee failures and historical ecological collapse of the city’s eastern wetlands has become a major point of legal, political, and scientific interest. This paper provides some brief historical background on the major features of this infrastructural network, and then goes on to summarize the material and political interventions in the operation and maintenance of the Inner Harbor that have been undertaken by port authorities and engineers since Katrina. In particular I focus on community organizations and environmental civil society in their efforts to counter balance the economic development interests aligned with the Port of New Orleans. I conclude by offering some speculations on the future of the Inner Harbor as it undergoes a continued economic and material transformation in response to changing priorities of flood control, coastal restoration, and maritime development. Was part of the Paper Session: Speculations on Post-Katrina Geographies

Provincialising Urban Political Ecology: Expanding UPE through African Urbanism

Mary Lawhon* – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Henrik Ernstson – Stockholm University & University of Cape Town
Suraya Fazel-Ellahi – University of Manchester
Jonathan Silver – Durham UniversityAbstract: Urban political ecology has provided a critical lens on the sociomaterial construction of urban environments and contestation over power and urban resources. We review the broad field of political ecology, including studies in the global North and South, urban and rural, and using Marxist/structuralist and post-colonial/poststructural theory. We suggest UPE typically begins with a structural theory of power, then examines particular artefacts to provide a critique of society. Using theoretical and empirical work from African urbanism, we begin suggesting what a provincialized, expanded UPE might entail: starting with the everyday, examining diffuse power, and opening the scope for radical incrementalism. Such insights from African cities are one means through which to expand UPE. Rooting research in a broader definition of political ecology which includes post-structuralist and post-colonial theory and starts from theory and empirics in cities of the South can provide new theory

and grounds for radical change. Was part of the Paper Session: Urban Political Ecology Redux I 

Reworking urban natures through empirical case studies in Cape Town: Contestations through alien trees, indigenous shrubs, wetlands and vegetables

Henrik Ernstson, PhD* – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Jane Battersby, PhD – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Marnie Graham – Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University
Mary Lawhon, PhD – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Joshua Lewis – Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University
Jessica Rattle – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Sverker Sörlin, Professor – Environmental Humanities Lab, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) StockholmAbstract: Formed by apartheid planning and contemporary struggles over land and livelihoods, Capetonian urban natures are also reworked through global discourses of environmental knowing like sustainability, resilience, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and food security. These global concepts have ‘landed’ in contemporary contestations over land to legitimize certain demands and ways of knowing, while silencing others. With competing theories and perspectives on urban nature, this paper argues for the need of close empirical studies from different world regions to contribute to theoretical debates on how urban natures are reworked in-place. We report on comparative findings from four case studies in Cape Town: (i) contestation between conservation managers and citizens in a wealthy suburb around “alien” trees; (ii) how marginalized groups from an apartheid township have used wetlands and ecological rehabilitation to mobilize environmental protection and articulate memories of oppression; (iii) how land for urban farming have been situated between food security and housing developments; (iv) and the contested understandings of ‘co-management’ at a nature reserve bordering slum dwellings. Departing from postcolonial and comparative urbanism (Robinson, McFarlane), we unpack the multiple meanings of urban nature, and the actors and discourses involved. The comparison demonstrates the variability of locally crafted ways of knowing urban natures that are performed through socio-historically specific processes. We also note how the case studies allows for examination of how global ways of environmental knowing enters local debates and are negotiated through local practices. The studies are part of a project including studies in New Orleans and Stockholm. Was part of the Paper Session: Reworking Urban Nature: Tensions and Synergies in the Greening of Cities I

Panel  and Paper Sessions organized by WOK-UE or in which members from WOK-UE participated in:

5429 Post-colonial Urbanisms: African connections and innovations III: A Discussion

Sponsorship(s): Africa Specialty Group, Political Geography Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group

Organizer(s):  Léonie Newhouse – University of Washington Jesse McClelland – University of Washington
Chair(s): Jesse McClelland – University of Washington
Panelist(s): Martin J. Murray – Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Mary Lawhon – University of Pretoria, Pretoria; Henrik Ernstson* – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town & Stockholm University (* Replacing Edgar Pieterse)
Discussant(s): Garth Myers – Trinity CollegeSession Description: Research on urbanism resituates classic, ongoing geographic interests in the materiality and social reproduction of cities and within a domain that emphasizes questions of political agency, social cohesion and marginality, and the changing forms, scales, and capacities of governance. Building on the research presented in the associated paper sessions on African urbanisms, we conclude with a panel discussion to synthesize key themes, draw global and theoretical comparisons, and consider future directions in research.

Paper Session:

1608 Articulating Value in Urban Green Space 2
Tuesday, 4/9/2013, from 4:40 PM – 6:20 PM in San Bernardino, Westin, Lobby Level
Organizer(s): Jane Battersby – University of Cape Town; Henrik Ernstson – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Chair(s): Henrik Ernstson – African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

Session Description: The use and management of urban green space is a site of contestation between actor groups in many cities. At the heart of these contestations, and as entry points for analysis, are often differing articulations of the value of these sites. However, the skills, tools, expertise and discursive strategies necessary to articulate what is of value are unevenly distributed, which influences decisions regarding use and management, and the (bio)physical shaping of the urban landscape. This session gathers papers which focus on detailed case studies on the ways in which meaning, identity and value is created in and through urban green space, with the intention of developing a discussion on how and why particular articulations have political resonance. The session aims to provoke a discussion of how such empirical accounts—when brought together—can work to challenge the many academic and policy-driven normative projects on ‘what to do with the urban’ related to calls for sustainability and resiliency. The papers represent a range of theoretical perspectives, such as political ecology, cultural geography, urban ecology, cultural studies, critical urban theory, urban geography, planning, and social movement studies, and purposefully includes papers with empirical material from the global south and the global north.

2.40 PM Author(s): Alice Oldfield* – University of St Andrews

Title: Recollection. Nostalgia and the value of a community park: a comparative case study from Leeds, England

Abstract: Public parks are longstanding features of urban neighbourhoods in the UK. While widely acknowledged as valuable community facilities, discussions of these arenas frequently tie their importance to aspects of their use, with emphasis commonly placed on the benefits of recreation in these spaces.  Local parks, however, also constitute part of the residential environment and their value thus extends beyond these functional elements. While some attention has been paid to the broader importance of large-scale public parks, few have constructed detailed accounts of the value of more local spaces and the extent to which different forms of value apply at this smaller scale remains unclear. Drawing on a mixed-method comparative case study in Leeds, England, this paper highlights a temporal inconsistency in accounts of the value of community parks. Despite their durability, importance derived from past experience in these spaces has often been neglected and their symbolic value has been relatively underexplored. Engaging with a framework of value derived in landscape economics, this paper identifies both nostalgia and recollection value, stressing that a local park not only constitutes part of collective culture but also actively engages an individual’s memories. The paper stresses that these underexplored aspects constitute key facets of the value of these community green spaces, noting that these elements are likely to become only more significant with ageing populations across Europe and an emphasis on enabling people to ‘age in place’.

3:00 PM Author(s): Matthew Bissen* – The Graduate Center – (CUNY)
Title: The Bronx river—a social watershed: a study into the community efforts to re-imagine and tratnsform the Bronx River
Abstract: Does our neighborhood deserve a river greenway or an interstate highway? This is the question currently being debated, analyzed and mobilized around in the south Bronx. The Bronx River, in New York City, has been shaped, through history, by various claims to what the value of this river is to the community, the city, and the region. This transformation has resulted in a watershed that contains flows embedded with colonial trade economies, mid-century industrialization, modern transportation infrastructure, and contemporary urban revitalization. Each of these phases projected a particular value upon the river and watershed. The value of which has again come under question through a coalition of community activist. This particular question around the Bronx River is critical because it is centered around the value of the river as a greenway, in the context of various local actor’s ability to establish their right to the city, to gain environmental justice, and through appropriation of space. This debate was instigated by the political mobilization of an alliance of six community groups around the effort to remove the 1950’s era Sheridian Expressway from the river and, establish a profoundly new relationship between the community and the river..
This paper examines the strategies used by this community coalition in their continuing efforts to remove the expressway. How they articulate the meaning and value of urban green space through specific political and social positions to imagine a particular watershed. A watershed that is a value to the community as an urban greenway.Author(s): Olivier NINOT* – CNRS -UMR8586

Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch, Pr – University Joseph Fourier, Genoble
Emma Thébault, student – University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Title: Watch this space:peeking at potential cities through holes in the urban fabric
Abstract: Radical approaches in the social sciences have often taken a stance, theoretically or empirically, in favor of absence, blanks, and otherwise silenced voices. We would like to argue that extending this way of thinking to space can be extremely rewarding: many cities are punctured by “holes” in the urban fabric, open or otherwise vacant spaces. These vacant spaces might be physically empty, but are also often void of recognized and stable uses or significations. Indeed, empty spaces are incorporated in various, through contradictory ways, within discourses about the sustainable city and appear as blank canvasses, over which city dwellers, urban planners and municipal authorities project their desires for better cities. Especially in cities of the South, they form a “slippery landscape” of fluid, opportunistic appropriations (Simone, 2011). This contribution will base its discussion of vacant spaces on the case of Cape Town (South Africa). The city is fragmented by physical boundaries, but also by man-made buffer zones. More specifically, the border between the formerly White-only city center, and the Cape Flats where ‘Coloureds’ and African people were relegated, is dotted by empty spaces. Today, they offer prime real estate and/or precious opportunities for developing a still highly unequal metropolis. At the same time, diverse Capetonian groups highlight their ecological value, use them to claim their right to the city, bring to the fore indigenous heritage or try out alternative lifestyles. Indefinite spaces are hotly contested and the sites of some of the most intense public debate.Author(s): Meredith Whitten* – London School of Economics and Political Science

Title: Institutional influences on urban green space: a case study from One London Borough
Abstract: Using the London borough of Islington as a case study, I illustrate that a complex web of relationships, history, power and values, manifested in local institutions, shapes how local authorities provide urban green space. This then drives the extent to which urban green space remains an enduring part of life in London, as it has been since the Victorian era, when the green “lungs of London” helped combat health and social problems stemming from increasing urban density and industrial growth. Today, London promotes urban green spaces as essential to the city’s economic, environmental and social success. Yet, London also wrestles with a housing crisis, as housing stock has not kept pace with burgeoning population growth. Thus, each of London’s 33 boroughs interprets, develops and implements policies that simultaneously call for a compact, economically competitive city and a green, environmentally sustainable city. The tension that results between dense residential development and urban green space is particularly evident in Inner London, where demand for compact development is more acute and variations in green spaces exist across boroughs. These variations stem from local decision-making processes heavily influenced by institutions embodying local values, cultures and priorities. Thus, differences in local values result in differences in the quantity, quality, accessibility and management of urban green spaces across London’s boroughs. This does not mean that some boroughs do not value green space, but rather boroughs prioritise it differently given varying settings and contexts. Ultimately, my research will include additional London case studies.Author(s): Jane Battersby, Dr* – University of Cape Town

Title: Mapping and counter-mappping: asserting values in the Philippi Horticulatural Area, Cape Town, South Africa
Abstract: The Philippi Horticultural Area, a 2600ha agricultural area within the City of Cape Town, is a highly contested space. The City currently has a housing backlog of some 400 000 dwelling units, and it has been argued by developers and the City’s housing department that this land should be given over for housing and other urban uses. This view is supported by some of the farmers and other Provincial and City government departments. There are, however, other departments and groups of farmers who wish to protect the area for agriculture. Debates about the future of the Philippi Horticultural Area have been played out through a series of meetings and reports depending on maps to make truth claims about the Area. This paper presents an analysis of the ways in which values and ideological framings are presented and reinforced through these supposedly neutral mapping exercises. The paper therefore engages the power bases of these multiple ways of knowing that exist in a single site and the connections and dissonances between different actors through the reading of these practices of mapping. 

Author(s): Karl Grossner, PhD* – Stanford University; Elijah Meeks – Stanford University; Jon Christensen – University of California, Los Angeles
Title: Naturehoods: Measuring city nature at neighborhood scale
Abstract: Many measures of US cities have been shown to scale with population size — from GDP, to crime, to patents issued per capita. A notable exception is the area dedicated to parks and open space. For example, park acreage per 1000 residents in 36 large US cities ranges from 3 (Fresno) to 132 (Jacksonville). Evaluations of urban residents’ access to nature have most often focused on parks and designated open space areas, however in such studies much of the experience of “naturalness” available to city dwellers is not accounted for. Arguably, our sense of living in a natural setting also depends upon the extent of the public landscaping we encounter and the greenery in back yards. Measures of urban nature are also commonly made at the scale of entire cities, when in fact we live on blocks, in neighborhoods, and in transit to workplaces. In an ongoing study, we have used USGS 30m NLCD satellite imagery for both greenness and impervious surfaces to measure average distance to “park-level greenness” and to “park-level unpavedness” for 3000 US neighborhoods. We have joined these with park acreage and park access measures provided by others, to characterize and classify “naturehoods.” In this paper, we describe the significant variation in these measures within and between large US cities, and present results of hierarchical and k-means clustering to identify similar neighborhoods. We also report on surprisingly low levels of correlation between neighborhood greenness and several demographic variables.Author(s): Karen E Smith, Professor of History* – Emporia State Univ

Title: Park Story: inscribing sentiment on an alien landscape
Abstract: This illustrated presentation raises questions about the relationship of engineered landscapes to natural ecosystems.  It tells the story of William Allen White, nationally respected journalist and editor of the Emporia, Kansas “Gazette,” who, in 1926, donated land to build a park in honor of his young daughter, who had died in a riding accident. Influenced by Olmstead’s original vision of a city park as a place for quiet communion with nature, White was eager to bring culture and sophistication to Emporia.  He directed the design of “Peter Pan Park” so that it would look like New York’s Central Park, with arched bridges, sculptured terrain, a lake, rose gardens, and an amphitheater. Motor traffic in the park was forbidden, as were ball fields and concession stands.  White loved the park, walked the pathways, and attended Shakespeare in the amphitheater.  The park, however, lay in the floodplain of the Cottonwood River.  The prairie ecosystem rebelled against the imposition of alien landscaping. Violent storms repeatedly flooded the southern half of the park, flowers withered in the Kansas heat, ice destroyed stone picnic benches.  White died seventy years ago. Since then, city officials have gradually transformed his original vision through a series of compromises with the prairie, replacing flowerbeds, paths, and bridges with playgrounds and ball fields that can be abandoned temporarily when the park floods.  Forced to accept nature’s limitations, they created a new park aesthetic, neither sentimental nor visionary—but pacified and practical.Author(s): Heather A Sander* – University of Iowa, Chang Zhao – University of Iowa

Title: Variation in cultural ecosystem service values in an urban environment
Abstract: Ecosystem services provide benefits to humans and are thus economically valuable.  Numerous studies have estimated economic values for these amenities; however their estimated values vary greatly with the location on which a study focuses.  Patterns in this variation are difficult to analyze as existing studies use of a variety of measures for quantifying ecosystem services.  Thus, comparing values estimated in different studies is difficult and our understanding of these values and of the manner in which they vary is limited.  The present study seeks to identify how the values of ecosystem services vary across an urban-to-rural gradient.  We estimate economic values for three cultural ecosystem services, access to open space, aesthetic quality, and tree cover, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area of Minnesota, USA using two methods for constructing hedonic price models. First, we estimate a hedonic pricing model using spatially-simultaneous autoregressive modeling and use it to estimate the mean values of our focal ecosystem services as they accrue to the owners of single-family homes in the study area.  Second, we utilize geographically-weighted regression to identify patterns in the economic values of the three amenities and the factors underlying them.  This presentation details these results as well as their applicability to planning and policy making aimed at protecting ecosystem services.Author(s): Lisa Benton-Short* – The George Washington University

Title: Someday in a park with George: or how I helped organize an ideas competition for the Washington Monument Grounds in Washington DC
Abstract: In 2010, I along with colleagues in history, architecture, and landscape design organized a competition to focus on re-imagining the Washington Monument and its grounds.  The competition was based on a provocative premise:  that the Washington Monument Grounds had never been completed.   The Washington Monument is the defining feature of the Washington, D.C. skyline and the centerpiece of the nation’s most symbolic public open space.  But at ground level the vast expanse surrounding the obelisk remains, remarkably, unfinished.  We saw this as an opportunity to elicit thoughtful and visionary ideas . The purpose of the Competition was to encourage Americans of all ages to develop innovative and creative ideas for making the Washington Monument Grounds more welcoming, educational and effectively used by the public.  The National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds represents an important effort to reclaim the Mall for the public, one worthy of further discussion.   The paper will contextualize the competition within the premise that the 21st Century Washington Monument Grounds remains unfinished and underutilized.  While we might like to think of the Mall as an immutable embodiment of the nation’s highest democratic ideals, in fact its history has been a complex story of action, inaction and plans never built.  What if it were true that the Washington Monument and its ground were never finished?  Would we have an obligation to revisit this part of the Mall?  If so, what could it look like?  This paper will also share some of the winning design entries.