25.5 May – Reflections

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May 25, 2015 at 10:14 #17503

Actors, networks and resilience in urban landscapes

May 25, 2015 at 15:09 #17508

Reflections on Actors, Networks and Resilience in Urban Landscapes

Finding out how urban ecosystems generate ecosystem services for urban people is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, especially with the global urbanization trend continuing. As is finding out which actors in the urban environment gets to enjoy the benefits of ecosystem services.

The term ecosystem service is I believe somewhat problematic. The term is, as we discussed at the seminar, a buzzword that is widely used in many different settings today. This may of course cloud how different people perceive its meaning and use. Also, as Ernstson mentions, the term points to the field of economics and perhaps attempts to economize nature. However, I believe that it is in many ways a necessary collaboration between these fields. The price (or value) of ecosystem services is steadily increasing and it is important that governance are aware of this in order to prevent environmental justice and inequality issues. As we discussed at the seminar urban areas with good access to nature is coming at a premium today. In earlier decades Sweden, as a welfare state, made a point to build affordable urban housing with good access to nature. As cities are growing in population, and expanding geographically outward, there is a larger incentive to award these areas to those who can afford to pay a premium. This puts extra pressure on governance to make decisions that works proactively for the common good. If urban areas are to remain heterogenic, and cater for all, it is important that urban ecosystem planning is done in a enlightened, transparent and collaborative way. I agree with Ernstson who argues that governance would benefit from having a deeper engagement with urban political ecology and critical geography.

Ernstson´s thesis argues that natural resource management is not just about knowledge but also about values. Values certainly influences land use and management prioritization and the strategies proposed by Ernstson I believe are helpful to improve urban ecosystems management. His suggested framework for how to analyse issues of power and equity in relation to natural resource management is also necessary if we are to utilize urban ecosystems in a way that promotes are common good.

May 26, 2015 at 13:08 #17510
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Ylvas reflection: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FBLiqVIdvOipeAJrv1LLVqBP9b1-dYumZdy350wHCfE/edit?usp=sharing

May 27, 2015 at 09:01 #17511

Comments on Ylva´s reflections

As you point out Ernstson has shown that people with access to social network also yield more power. I therefore think it is an important reflection that potential democratic problems is likely to arise as social networks influence ecosystem services management for the common good. Indeed the benefit of ecosystem services very for people and it is vital that those managing the system accommodate for all.

You also reflect on the changing values of city planners during the last decades. As a long time urban dweller in Stockholm I find it impossible to ignore that the central city areas no longer accommodates for all. Wealthy building entrepreneurs are awarded rights to build larger and more extensively were possible, which obviously affects urban green areas and the benefits of ecosystem services. I believe Ernstson, though critiquing the use of the term ecosystem services for it, show that economics and ecology need to go hand in hand. You´re reflection points to a multiple use of the terminology, something I fear may be ambiguous for the future study of ecosystem services.

May 27, 2015 at 11:49 #17515
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Since obviously only Peter and I have posted any reflections I will give my feedback to Peter.

May 27, 2015 at 12:11 #17516
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Ylvas comment on Peters reflection:

I can see from your reflection that Ernstsons papers have led your and my thoughts in similar directions. Maybe because both of us are schooled as economic historians and are interested in environmental history. I think that bridging over the economic and environmental schools of thought will be one big challenge in our thesis work. Of course, the environmental economic term ecosystem services plays an important role in this work. It is good that the term is discussed within different fields. For us as “environmental economic historians” we will have to integrate the understanding of how social values play a role in setting prices of and politically prioritizing about ecosystem services – it is not just the instrumental tool that some conventional economists might wish that ecosystem services should be.

May 28, 2015 at 10:00 #17522
Miguel Núñez

This reflection mentioned any of the methodologies used by Henrik Ernston et al (2008) in his doctoral dissertation called Actors, Networks and Resilience in Urban Landscapes, with special focus on the paper Weaving protecting stories: connective practices to articulate holistic values in Stockholm National Urban Park. The actor-network theory, the social movement theory and the social-network analyses are skills used by the author to explain a successful experience in the social shaping of ecological values which finally were recognized by the National Urban Park Law in 1995 creating the Stockholm National Park.

According with H. Ernston through linking green areas and the mobilization of social actors was built a public recognition of the social capital of the artifacts produced by activists, artists and Scientifics such as maps, paintings and reports which supported the final approbation of the above mentioned law in the Swedish Parliament. Likewise, the concepts built by the core and periphery social actors regarding to the ecological, historical and national values of the Park were legal basis for the municipal authorities in the management of this protected area from the construction of infrastructure.

The protective story as the author called to this social process began because in 1991 an agreement between the Swedish government and major investors was signed for the construction of infrastructure in locations of the current Park. As response, 22 environmental defenders organizations combined their efforts in The Alliance of the Ecopark to lobbied policy-makers and by this way preventing the exploitation of the place. The keen behaviors of social actors, and deciding factors to influence the values incorporated in the National Urban Park Law, included as the author points out the access to social arenas, the artifacts linked, their social networks position and capabilities of activists. (p. 109)

Reflection and questions from the Global South

A strong democracy with participative mechanisms open to the public, the existence of a scientific an academic tradition, a culture of dialogue and no confrontation and the high respect to the free of association would seem as the values to support successes experiences of social movement in the governance of the social commons. This social process of constitution of a National Park in Sweden where the people’s voice and knowledge is valued rather than the economic values of competition and urban growing, there is a great example about the effectiveness of the democracy.

On the other hand, as it was discussed in the meeting of “Current debates” at Blasenhus on 25th may: Who are the final users of the Stockholm National Park? Who of them has free access to the park in which parts of the year? Who has limited rights in the enjoying of the park because their lacks of social, economic or symbolic capital? Are the social actors that shaped the National Urban Park Swedish Law part of elite?

January 5, 2016 at 01:17 #17623
Meghan Buurmans

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.

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