Sunday, September 2, 2007

Reflection #3: Chapter 7 (Green Urbanism) and Chapter 2 (Nature in the City)

Chapter 7 of Green Urbanism; Learning from European Cities echoed a number of ideas that we, as a class, have explored in the last week. In this chapter, the author suggests that, although built urban environments have in the past been set in contrast to the natural ecological environment, cities can be reenvisioned such that the natural and the built not only peacefully coexist but also the built mirrors systems found in nature. As the title suggests, the author uses examples from European cities in order to prove that these types of sustainable relationships are not only feasible, but they are being created across the globe. The simplicity of the ideas and real examples that the author provides begs the question “why can’t we?”. This chapter provided examples of practical application in which European cities were able to incorporate green space within the city center as well as between centers. Also, by greening structures of the built environment, these cities were able to create a connection between the built and natural environment. In the chapter, the author provided examples of simple things that European cities were doing to make their cities more sustainable, including planting more trees, planting rooftop gardens, planting balcony gardens, creating green walls with ivy and evergreen, creating ecobridges, and nestboxes. Beyond the greening of urban structures in the built environment, the author highlighted the practice of European cities that incorporate small ecological spaces in their built environments. These include city farms, ecological parks, community gardens and green schools with green play areas.

The most relevant point that stood out in the reading was the commitment that these city governments had to creating more sustainable cities. In these examples taken from European cities, local political leaders were exercising good government and enforcing ecofriendly policy. Furthermore, these cities furthered their commitments to the natural environment by preserving and protecting green space. In some examples, these city governments were requiring residents to plant rooftop gardens. This article really highlighted the importance of good local government and political leaders, which ties into the idea of locality introduced in chapter 2 of Nature in the City. In this chapter, Desfor and Keil outline how dynamic the local state truly is. The authors define the local state as the political space which encompasses the municipal government and they argue that this space is where policy making concerning the urban environment should take place. The reality is that Americas largely live in urban environments where environmental concerns are real and city residents are really affected by these environmental issues. As a result, cities are the most ideal places to address these issues. Furthermore, the authors argue that citizens should look to municipal and local state governments in order to find solutions to their environmental problems.

The most practical application of these two readings is to seek reform within local government. Citizens should demand that their representatives in local government be committed to protecting and preserving the city’s ecological assets and well as ensuring that the city is a sustainable system that incorporates nature into the built environment.

A number of critical concerns and questions arose while I was reading for Tuesday’s discussion. While reading Chapter of Nature in the City, I did not understand the connection that the author was making between the local state as a medium for urban environmental policy making and globalization. It seems to me that the authors were trying to argue that the local state was the ideal place to discuss one’s relationship to nature, because of globalization, which to me makes no sense. The local state is important in the discussion concerning urban environmental policy making and the relationship between nature, citizens and the built environment simply because it’s local and closest to those who are most affected by these relationships and policy making.

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