Humans are at the forefront of twenty-first-century urban discourse, from pedestrian-oriented development to anthropogenic-caused climate change, yet few urban practitioners are meaningfully investigating the city through bodily, sensory experience. In this chapter we outline a framework, under the banner of “sensual urbanism,” for twinning aesthetic or sensory-based scholarship with urban theory and praxis. Our sensory approach to urban practices springs from the assertion that the sensing body perceives with other bodies, objects, and environs. This aesthetic stance stems from recognition of the world as material, affective, and dynamic, and from recognition of the human as one type of body among others participating in that world at the level of sensate experience. Importantly, these aesthetic concepts shape ethical and practical imperatives toward sustainable urban communities and environments. Quotidian methodologies serve as guide in exploring the nuanced social and psychological effects of city environs through methods of careful observation and documentation of the infra-ordinary, techniques of art and enchantment to make the ordinary strange, and experiential modes of walking and mapping the city. These aesthetic modes of urban experimentation are increasingly being reoriented through the senses in generative ways. A survey of contemporary urban sensory practices reveals sensible solutions to the making of just, happy, and sustainable cities.
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Jennifer Kitson and Jonathan Bratt
Lisa Benton-Short, Melissa Keeley and Jennifer Rowland
In recent years, US cities have begun to develop sustainability plans. The approach, content, and foci of these plans vary dramatically, and no template or articulated best practices exist for the creation of these plans. Green spaces such as parks, trees, and urban gardens can play a central role in sustainable planning exercises and the inclusion and use of urban green space in municipal planning is one way for municipalities to address multiple environmental, economic, and social sustainability issues simultaneously. We have utilized content analysis and coding of 20 municipal sustainability plans to gain insight into how US cities conceptualize urban green space. The chapter will examine the ways in which green space is organized in sustainability plans, the language used to discuss green space, how cities value the benefits that green spaces provide, and how cities integrate issues of social equity in green space planning. We conclude that many plans value green space for primarily environmental benefits, while issues of economic and social benefits and the equity with which they are distributed are less articulated. The chapter will also highlight selected best practices as a way to guide more effective green space planning. Keywords: best practices in planning, green space, parks, street trees, sustainability plans, urban gardens
Kent E. Portney and Jeffrey M. Berry
In the face of more than 20 years of experience in the USA, cities continue to search for ways of dealing with the fact that sustainability and its pursuit, as a matter of local public policy, is often deeply contested. This chapter examines the role of local environmental groups in this contestation with a particular eye toward understanding the role of such groups in the context of the underlying political ideology of cities. Taking advantage of patterns across 50 of the largest cities in the USA, this chapter examines the roles of pro-sustainability groups both in terms of their co-production activities and their advocacy before city government, and makes inferences about the importance of such groups independent of how progressive or conservative the city is. Consistent with mainstream understandings of the role of groups, this chapter argues that local decisions to try to become more sustainable are shaped by the roles played by environmental groups. It concludes with the suggestion that the pursuit of sustainability policies and programs moving forward will depend in large part on the extent to which environmental groups are willing and able to engage in advocacy before city policy-makers.
Edited by Kevin Archer and Kris Bezdecny
Kris Bezdecny and Kevin Archer
In recent decades, individuals and organizations with an interest in arboriculture have adopted the “urban forest” as a holistic way of conceptualizing and managing the city’s woody vegetation. With increasing prevalence, individual trees are becoming parts of an urban forest whole providing measurable services and benefits authorities can use to make cities more liveable, sustainable, and globally competitive places. Liveability and sustainability are highly desirable goals, but the qualities urban forestry lends to the city’s trees and wooded areas can seem a world away from their ordinary rhythms and cultural lifeworlds. Developing a response to this dissonance, I will use this chapter to shine some light on the quotidian complexity of making and living with one reafforested space in the city of Brisbane, Australia. To do so, I use Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of assemblage to pry open the urban forest and grapple with the multiple ways of arranging and territorializing a place called Moorhen Flats Reserve. What emerges is a sense of the more-than-human actors, practices, and events involved in making Moorhen according to different political problems, issues and desires. Noting actual and potential points of disharmony emerging from the multiplicity of urban forest spaces, I suggest researchers could pay more attention to the lines of conflict and tension cutting across different regimes of making and living with the city’s trees.
This chapter examines the ways in which urban subjectivities emerge through environmental stewardship. Employing Michel Foucault’s notion of governmentality, it examines the fluidity of power relations as everyday citizens internalize, resist, negotiate with, or transcend expert scientific knowledge about urban environments while engaging in environmental stewardship practices. Drawing from research conducted in Philadelphia, PA, it focuses on participants in the city’s ecological restoration program, the tendency of environmental restoration to reinforce a division between natural lands and urban spaces, and the tendency of restoration participants to contest this division. Environmental stewardship, therefore, is theorized as a site of possibility in which performances in and about parks can disrupt or reinforce dominant discourses of urban environmentalism.
Kathryn Davidson and Brendan Gleeson
Urban sustainability has become an increasingly compelling issue for a human species that is now predominantly urban. Several contemporary influences are asserting the importance of urban action to achieve sustainability and improve species well-being generally: the new urban literature referenced as “urbanology”; powerful new urban coalitions like the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; and key international organizations, including the OECD, World Bank, and to a lesser extent UN-Habitat. From a critical social science perspective, it is apparent that, while avowing sustainability, these new urban assertions are freighted with, if not completely determined by, the assumptions and norms of neoliberalism, which progressive thought holds destructive to urban progress and well-being. We argue that these new and influential urban schemes and visions fail to comprehensively engage with the imperatives of critical social science, including debates about social equity, a failing human ecology and urban citizenship. The prospect of rapid continuing planetary urbanization, most of it irrevocably removed from the natural environment, suggests a need to rethink conventional approaches, institutional systems and the level of resources dedicated to human development in such crowded, dynamic spaces. Critical social science insists that these paradoxes and challenges are not merely systemic or technical but social in origin and solution. Moreover, we argue that the political questions that define socio-ecological trajectories require serious consideration. The human urban challenge raises the political ecology of change at the species level. Realization of sustainability requires a deep transformation of the structures underlying what is currently termed human progress. It is important therefore to critically appraise and challenge the new urban assertions that threaten to commit us to the disastrously failing path of neoliberalism.
Rafael E. Pizarro
Sustainable urbanism has become the byword for green cities on both sides of the Atlantic. Although in Europe and North America there is agreement that sustainable urbanism is about pedestrianism, bicyclism, compact urban form, medium to high densities, mass public transport, mixed land uses, among other such prescriptions, the approach to these aspects differ in both continents. This chapter compares the elements of sustainable urbanism on both sides of the Atlantic as specified in the academic and professional literature identifying commonalities and differences. It concludes with a proposal for a combined set of prescriptions that, with contextual changes, may lead to a more robust normative theory of sustainable cities.
Erik Swyngedouw and Maria Kaika
The chapter starts from the premise that it is vitally important to recognize that the rapid rate of planetary urbanization is the main driver of environmental change. Indeed, the “sustainability” of contemporary urban life (understood as the expanded reproduction of its socio-physical form and functions) is responsible for 80 percent of the world’s use of resources and most of the world’s waste. We wish to highlight how these urban origins are routinely ignored in urban theory and practice, and how feeble techno-managerial attempts to produce more “sustainable” forms of urban living are actually heightening the combined and uneven socio-ecological apocalypse that marks the contemporary dynamics of planetary urbanization. This chapter is, therefore, not so much concerned with the question of nature IN the city, as it is with the urbanization OF nature, understood as the process through which all forms of nature are socially mobilized, economically incorporated, and physically metabolized/transformed in order to support the urbanization process. First, we shall chart the strange history of how the relationship between cities and environments has been scripted and imagined over the last century or so. Second, we shall suggest how the environmental question entered urban theory and practice in the late twentieth century. And, finally, we shall explore how and why, despite our growing understanding of the relationship between environmental change and urbanization and a consensual focus on the need for “sustainable” urban development, the environmental conundrum and the pervasive problems it engenders do not show any sign of abating. We shall conclude by briefly charting some of the key intellectual and practical challenges ahead. Keywords: environmental politics; socio-ecological conflict urban political ecology; urban theory.