Reply To: 25.5 May – Reflections

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Meghan Buurmans # Posted on January 5, 2016 at 01:17

My complementary assignment:

This is my complementary assignment for the 25th of May where I will expand upon some ideas that came to my mind when reading Erntsson and while looking at my classmates’ comments. I may have gotten a little sidetracked, but seeing as I did not attend the meeting, this was what got my attention and what made me want to explore these issues more.

In his thesis: In Rhizomia: Actors, networks and resilience in urban landscapes Ernston makes two points that I want to focus on. Several of my classmates have commented on these too and I will include my responses to their comments as well. The two points that I want to write about include the ‘value’ attached to nature and green spaces, both in an economical sense and the extra dimension Ernston adds to it. Additionally, I would like to comment on the social justice arguments involved in Ernston’s thesis.

Urban ecosystems and landscapes are an interesting aspect when studying nature. While people most commonly imagine nature to be an untouched or at least little touched space, urban ecosystems not only cannot avoid human interaction, they are very strongly shaped by it. Both trough daily human interactions they are shaped, but also by the decision making of humans. I find it very interesting that Ernston mentions this point as well, since I believe the power relations when it comes to nature and human interaction are often either forgotten or simply not considered as strongly. Besides the way this affects nature, the social justice aspect can be strongly applied here. The person or group that makes a decision on for example a park, riverside or any other natural spaces in the city will influence first of all who is allowed to this space. Even more important and less obvious though is to whom these spaces are catered. Are they attractive to people from different social or cultural background? Is it easy to access them, both practically, for example by means of public transport, but also mentally? Do people feel welcome and can they participate in these natural spaces turned social?

During one of my Cemus courses I worked as part of a group that explored and designed ‘’Natural Spaces in the City’’. A lot of what we came across there reminded me of Erntsson’s arguments. First of all, natural spaces are very beneficial to humans. Being out in the open in a green space is especially beneficial for those who generally do not have a lot of access to nature, those living in the city and especially those living in small apartment buildings in the city centers. In the end we concluded how important natural spaces in the city can be to promote social interaction in addition to teaching people about nature.

Both Ylva and Peter mention in their comments the issue of economizing natural spaces and expressing a value for it. I personally have never enjoyed expressing nature in economic value, as I believe there are so many more important things in nature, esthetics, learning value, and the effects nature has on people that can’t be calculated. However, I do believe both of them are making a fair point since it does work in many ways of giving nature more space and a more important position on the agenda of planners. However, I do believe that using economics to express nature should be a method and not a final answer. It can indeed attract attention for nature and teach people that nature has value to us beyond just looking pretty. However, I also firmly believe we need a shift in thinking whereby people can appreciate things even if they cannot put a price tag on it. Perhaps a way to do this however is to show to urban dwellers how important nature can be.

In an argument about natural spaces in the city you can of course not forget to mention the increasing part of the world population living in cities. More and more people will live in cities and perhaps ecosystem services will be the way to keep reminding people that not everything is or should be in our control or made by us. An example of this can be when we visited Granby farm, which not only gives people a green space to visits, but also teaches children about issues such as food production, which are quite crucial to everyone.

One issue that I would like to consider for further research here is the big difference between urban spaces. Stockholm and Uppsala are already quite different, but many other countries have different cities, both in size and set up. That also includes the many megacities that start appearing more and more, which will perhaps need a different approach. The question then remains whether these cities could apply similar methods, such as including communities or whether that might not be viable everywhere.