24.3 Urban Ecology

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March 25, 2015 at 12:12 #17058
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Hello everyone,

First of all, we are sorry for being so late to send you this info but we hope all of you will still be able to attend.

For the Urban Ecology workshop on 24.3 from 13-17 we are organizing a small excursion and outdoors activity.
We will begin the workshop by visiting the 4H farm in Gränby.
We will meet at 13:00 outside Gränby Centrum,
find the coordinates here: https://www.google.se/maps/place/Gr%C3%A4nby+Centrum/@59.8775354,17.6700418,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x4371bdf10f921959

The workshop will involve mostly lots of walking and being outside so be sure to wear appropriate and comfortable clothes and shoes.

In preparation for the workshop we are asking everyone to read the attached text by Jonathan Metzger. In his text Metzger writes about how non-human life might be seen in our ideas of urban space. During the workshop we will try to keep Metzeger’s text in mind when we make observations and we will try to relate our discussions to the text.

We hope to see everyone at the workshop, please let us know if you will not be able to make it. If you have any trouble finding us please call Lauri at 0760864329.

All the best,
Ghide and Lauri

March 25, 2015 at 12:21 #17059
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Ylvas reflection: https://docs.google.com/document/d/134Heqh4o-E8K16UUGiVSOmp9C7sxzh9qd7oEOJzAPAE/edit?usp=sharing

March 25, 2015 at 16:11 #17062
Camilla W

Camilla’s reflection (sorry, I can’t figure out how to upload this or link)

Reflection from 24/3
Camilla Winqvist

I believe that it was a fun and different kind of workshop yesterday. I did have the text by Metzger in mind when we walked around the 4H farm, and the discussion we had at the farm was thought provoking and interesting.

I like 4H farms, I used to go to summer camp on a 4H farm when I was little and I also worked at one a couple of years ago. I have, of course, reflected earlier about the purpose of the 4H farms – both in theory and in practice. When I was a kid, I just appreciated the cute, furry animals. When I worked at one as a guide, I guided school classes and taught them about the different animals and the focus of the guide manuscript was on the purpose of the animals for the human population.
We touched on the subject of animals as “goods” for humans yesterday at the workshop, and “product” animals such as cows, sheep and chickens seem to be the most popular to have at 4H farms.

Some of the animals though, like rabbits and goats are not (at least in Sweden) directly associated with animal products such as meat.
The pygmy goats that are so popular at 4H farms are actually used as “product animals” in other parts of the world, for example in Northern Africa. Many populations around the world are eating rabbits but here in Sweden it is not very common in modern day society.
Therefore, the rabbits and the pygmy goats are primarily at the 4H farms to be cute and to be petted by little kids.

It shows that animals that are perceived as rural animals used for meat and/or milk in other parts of the world have been turned into fluffy urbanized animals in Sweden. The dichotomy that Metzger speaks of in his text, about rural-urban and wild-domesticated animals is not really fixed, it is always in motion. Another example of how the perception of animal can radically change through both time and space is the guinea pig. Used primarily for its cheap meat amongst the native population in the Andes, it is in modern day Western societies mostly kept as pets or laboratory animals.

An interesting aspect of how perceptions of the “purpose” of an animal changes is that in our globalized world, different perceptions can exist at the same time. When we disagree about the purpose of an animal it is quite easy to condemn other societies on their handling of animals that we ourselves do not perceive as product animals.

March 25, 2015 at 22:09 #17063
Lauri Jokinen

My reflection: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_Ov-LBskA12xKop47_0cJms3o5GFqvHGIxhbOgtlirc/edit?usp=sharing


March 26, 2015 at 17:22 #17081
Camilla W

Comment on Lauri’s text from Camilla

Lauri, first of all – thank you (and Ghide of course!) for organizing the workshop! I thought it was a very nice workshop and I especially enjoyed our discussion at the farm. I am sorry that the second part did not happen as you had planned.
I agree with your thoughts that the bigger animals are being chased away from the inner city, in Stockholm they shoot rabbits as well – and they are actually orginally domesticated rabbits that people have just released into the city. It is interesting to see how they only have a place if the place is confined, as in the 4H farm, but not when they are wild and untamed. Perhaps we only seek some kind of control, and are disturbed by not being in charge for once?
I also liked your notion of the animals being perceived as being out of place when they are in the big city, it reminded me of Mary Douglas’ matter-out-of-place theory.


March 27, 2015 at 10:30 #17115

Ghide Habtetsion Gebremichael
Reflection of Current debates 4th seminar (Workshop)
Urban Ecology
Uppsala University, 24 March 2015

My reflection rested on the idea of Jonathan Metzger [ from the Division of Urban and Regional Studies, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden] which [he] titled as ‘the city is not a Menschenpark: rethinking the tragedy of the urban commons beyond the human/non-human divide’. Basically his article was tried to draw a clear understating with the questions of ‘how can we understand the urban commons beyond a taken-for-granted ontological divide between humans and non-humans, nature and culture? How can we learn to recognize the deep entanglements in urban areas between those things we normally categorize under these labels in the complex and constantly evolving milieus we describe as ‘urban’?

Thus, with the above question in our mind, we made our excursion to the ‘Gränby Centrum’ in the outskirt of Uppsala where different animals are kept and portrayed in their natural state. The places were designed in a way that different domesticated animals are kept in cages and give an open access for anybody who wants to watch them while they are doing their daily activities. In the small area [park], it was clearly manifested the domination of human being on the other part of nature (specially animals) and alienation of human kind from nature as being seeing themselves as supernatural. However in some sense it is seeing, as they [human being] are practiced their nostalgic idea by making some little commons like making animal zoo, botanical garden and keeping a lot of pets on their houses. We also observed that the built environment designed only for the sake of imaging nature in its natural phenomena. Interesting here is, this captivation also attracted some other animals and plants. For example we observed birds, rabbits and other small organisms like flies come in to being with the animals already on the cages.

But as we traveled towards the center of the city, the presences of animals and plants and commons were decreased significantly. However, our imagination continued on how much small organisms like bacteria, birds, pets [like dogs and cats] and plants are still parts and parcel of the urban area and urban population. As Jonathan Metzger argued in his article, ‘we [human beings] are also not only built from our tiny cells but also from numerous bacteria and other small organism which constitute our body. Thus, this interpretation will lead us to support the argument of Metzger ‘we can’t alienate ourselves from nature rather we are pretty much cemented with nature’. In this sense, urban planning needs a lot of care in to consideration and give enough space for other organisms. I totally agree with his article of saying the tragedy of commons and commers too. We discussed also about special studies should need to include other organisms [other than human] in urban space. It was very common specially these days that people know animals only on TV show though they eat their meat and drinks their milk.

March 27, 2015 at 10:31 #17116
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Comment by Ylva Lundkvist Fridh on reflection by Camilla Winqvist 24.3 Current debates

Hi Camilla!

It is interesting to hear that you have such a strong personal relation to 4H farms and your analysis connected to it. You have some extra insight to how 4H present their purpose.

It is true what you say about how the role of an animal, from production entity to house pet – from wild to domesticated and then wild again, can change over time and space. And we do not seem to realise it. It occurs to me that maybe we tend to think of rabbits and goats as more “cute” just because we usually do not see them as dead muscles (meat) in supermarkets. Maybe we would think of rabbits as less cute and pigs as more cozy if our food traditions were different in this part of the world?

At the farm you also reflected on the sorts of insects and other wild animals that live in symbiotic relation to the 4H farms. That was an interesting observation to me. The boarders are not at all as obvious as we try to make them.

March 31, 2015 at 10:16 #17159
Henrik S

My reflection https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OhNhX3CfXK_r3zW8zmnKxz6BmT-AOQ5DzosF0CUQzHI/edit?usp=sharing

March 31, 2015 at 10:43 #17164
Henrik S

Comment on Ylva’s reflection

Hej, Ylva!

The idea to include non-human life in the governing of the commons is a very ecological idea, perhaps very good, but I agree that Metzeger does not operationalise how this would happen. However, I think it may be possible to consider the animals, such as horses, birds, smaller mammals etc. and their needs in an urban common. That may be, as I see it, a inclusion of non-human life and an acknowledgement that humans are not alone, not separated from nature and other animals.

Regarding the urban area I think it is simply impossible for non-human life to live harminiously, save perhaps domesticated pets (but even that can be argued against). But I think that in green urban areas, such as park landscapes, it is important to include non-human life in planning and governance, take their needs into consideration. And I hope that future urban planning and architecture will be more ecological (or green) and plants and fauna play a vital part in the urban ecosystem.

  • This reply was modified 8 years, 8 months ago by Henrik S.
December 3, 2015 at 12:23 #17607
Sanna Karlsson

(I did not find “Age of Ecology” and therefore posted my reflection on that topic here.)

Joachim Radkau has written the book ”The Age of Ecology – A Global History”. I did not attend the seminar, but have read the discussions from my fellow students on the subject. I found many of the ideas interesting, varied in topics from Radkau´s book and his seminar. I will reflect on Radkau´s work and the discussions of my fellow students.

Radkau is talking about the origins of environmentalism and mentions Rachel Carson, who more or less started the environmental movement back in the 1960´s. I have myself read Carson´s work and also have heard comments on it by toxicologcal researchers here in Uppsala. What I find interesting about this piece of work, is how the people of her time did not take her seriously at the beginning. Although, she pointed toward the harsh reality of toxic substances being used as e.g. pesticides worldwide, and the damage it causes. Later though, Carson was praised for have brought this to light and also started the environmental movement in the 60´s. I think clear voices like hers has to be heard today, when the damage of our modern way of living is even greater on the environment. However, what we can learn is that we might be not be liked by everyone, just as Carson. But I believe the difficult part today is to understanding how we should solve the big issues. I did not find Radkau giving a direct answer on this, probably because it is very hard to do so.

One thing Radkau did bring up was ”think global, act local.” I consider this to be a very interesting statement. It tells us that acting global can be a difficult task, but that acting local and yet taking into account what consequences it can have globally can be of importance. As citizens, acting locally is mostly what we are capable of. This was my first reaction, but then one of my fellow students suggested the term ”think local, act local” (I´m not sure if he got this from Radkau) and explained that we were possibly are not able after many, many years of thinking and acting locally, all of a sudden would be able to manage thinking globally. I must say this is indeed interesting.

As I dwell on environmentalism, I realize I can not solve the world problem concerning it. I can only live one day at a time, doing what I´m doing. The question I have is, how well can I act locally? There are ways in which we can affect climate change etcetera, for example by buying organic foods. Another is to separate at source when it comes to household waste. One of my favorite topics is on toxicology. Here we can learn as individuals to buy containers for food made of glass instead of plastics, use coconut oil on our bodies instead of lotions made of chemicals. We could also try to engage politically and try to affect desicions to a more environmentally friendly direction. However. If we then live on as most people and fly to Thailand for vacation, have we not possibly undone all the ”good” choices for the environment by flying the airplane?

So, somehow I believe that trying to live environmentally friendly, is very hard. We can as individuals only add small bits to the picture. I find it very complicated. I more believe in top down politics concerning this, where bigger decisions are made in global institutions and organizations, so that the decisions can benefit on larger scales and help more people to make good choices. For example, that fuel for the airplane was cleaner somehow.

This leads me to another topic. Morals. I think that the reality of people and morals are of great importance when talking about climate change and environmentalism. Radkau says the hinderance in changing the climate change for the better is poverty, but I would like to pose that it might even more so be morals. I know this is not perhaps what is often talked about in the academic world, especially when considering environmentalism. What I´m talking about is good and evil. I do not believe that all people are good. Because of evil motives, no matter how much money one may have, it will not solve the climate crisis, because those people will use it for selfish motives. That is I believe the real issue and not poverty by itself.

That being said, I do believe that much money in good peoples´ hands can do much good for the environment! However, if we do not protect it, people with selfish and evil motives might go ahead and destroy it all, if not damaging more than it. My opinion is therefore that truly solving the climate change can not be only by encouraging people to do good for the environment, but to combat evil in peoples lives. I now tend to get off topic, but I believe these aspects of how humans are made and work are of much greater value to take into account than any environmental demonstration that can be made. How do we combat evil? I believe by loving people. Love can change the heart of a murderer. I truly believe this is the way, rather than suggesting an evil doer to ”please, think of the environment.” That person might not even think good of himself. If we are not loved, and love ourselves, we ache, and I believe are not able to love – do good to – the environment.

Here I want to add that I truly get excited when it comes to do all that one can to change the climate crises, when it comes to theories and methods, organic farming, you name it. We need to know how to act and what we can do. Therefore the moral aspect does not take away the action aspect of the climate change, but in order to solve the crisis, I believe we need both.
To conclude, we also know that not all evildoer are changeable no matter how much love we give them, but I believe at least more than we think of.

January 5, 2016 at 01:15 #17621
Meghan Buurmans

My very late reflection 🙂

Reflection Urban Ecology

There are a number of issues that were raised or that I noticed while we were on the farm in Granby. I partially want to reflect on the division between nature and human and connect that to the division between urban and rural. Additionally, I would like to consider some ethical viewpoints.

Automatically in academia we seem to try to create groups, categories and opposites. In our field, that is mostly the human versus nature of course, although we’ve discussed before whether there is such a distinction and if so, where is the border. Additionally, and especially when it comes to planning and related fields, the urban versus the rural is important. An easy connection can be made to see the urban as human made and the rural areas as much more natural or part of nature. However, there are some issues with these categories. As we discussed, there is wild and nature in the city and that many farms for example are created and adapted by humans. I personally believe the distinction between both opposites is useless and is not one or the other. Especially in the case of rural and urban, there are many border areas, of which the clearest example is of course the edge of a city, where the distinction becomes blurry. I am guilty of using the distinction between nature and human myself, but here too I believe in blurred areas and perhaps a line with many possible combinations, instead of one or the other. I think the problem here lies with the ease of talking using these terms. Without using these distinctions, topics such as the Granby farm become much harder to discuss. Perhaps the best way is to not judge people to strongly and have their arguments be limited to literacy discussions, but instead use these terms as arbitrary means of helping us.

I think the Granby farm is a good example of the blurriness between human and nature and between urban and rural. These animals are not human obviously, but we discussed that they would not survive without humans or in the wild, so they can’t really be considered part of the pure untamed nature. What I found interesting in our discussion was the mention of the purpose of the farm. Firstly, does it even matter what the farm’s purpose is if people use it for their own ideas? Secondly, it was mentioned by some that the farm is meant to show children where our food comes from, among other things. I find that a bit hard to believe, both because in my experience, people are usually careful with children. They might know that meat comes from animals that are killed, but that is not the same as seeing and hearing this while petting a goat. The farm also used the nuclear family, explaining that there was a mama and a papa and a child chicken or pig. To me it more likely that children learn about animals they might not see otherwise in a place like this. What is ethical or what we should do is of course a whole different question, to which I do not have the answer!

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