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Andre Sorensen

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Urban ecology and urban political ecology
Urban ecology basics
Ecology OF cities, not IN cities. It is a new approach
Old approach is going to somewhere undisturbed and study
The study of relations of living organisms to each other and
Ecosystem studies flows within particular ecosystems, of nutrients,
energy, waste, and the subsystems that structure those flows
Cities are a special kind of ecosystem that human have created
What is the overall structure of urban ecology?
Closed and open loops
Natural systems are stable
There is no waste in natural ecosystems
Cities are not closed loops
Cities import material from long distances
Cities export garbage and waste
Waste disposal solutions involve finding better waste sinks, not
Industrial ecology seeks to close loops, using industrial waste for other
On global scale, all loops are closed
Cities extended their chain (input and output) on a global scale
Landfills are extremely toxic, they are extremely expensive to make,
recycling becomes more popular
Raw material are becoming more expensive, motivation to recycle
People look for ways to close the loops
Cities as flows
Key works on urban ecology, studies cities as flows (of people, energy,
goods, etc)
Most important flow is energy
Transformation of energy sources are much different today compared
with the past
Cities depend on large amount of high grade energy
Change from animal and human power to hydro land fossil fuels
Energy prices have been declining relative to income
Peak oil is the decline of oil. Since 1970, the oil reserves found are
getting smaller. The production cost of drilling will be extremely high.
Not that oil is going to run out, but rather the price will skyrocket.
It is impossible to run North America on other fuels, because we are
dependent on cheap petroleum
Flows of energy
Huge inputs of fossil fuels make contemporary cities possible
Energy use per capital accelerated dramatically in 20th century
Creates pollution, global warming
Cities are also places of potential efficiencies in energy use
Ways to reduce huge amount of energy is public transit, cogeneration,
district heating
What is cogeneration? It is the generation of electricity at small scale,
producing heat. The idea is to use the waste heat to heat houses,
hospitals, etc. the heat is 40% of the energy released
Not realistic in North America because it is not worth investing in
Using electricity to heat is extremely wasteful
Flows of food
Food come from all around the world
Enormous diversity, 1000s of different produces
Processing industries
Distribution, retailing
Need to keep fresh, wastage
Huge amount of energy is needed at each stage
Why choose local food?
Fresher, save energy, lessen congestion, reduce emission, security of
supply, increase high intensity agriculture, good for the local
Ecological footprint analysis
Wackernagel and Rees measured everything in terms of land area
Imagine a city enclosed in a dome. How big would the dome be, to allow
it to be sustainable?
Measures all inputs into the city
Energy, food, wood, cement, glass, etc
There is about 1.5 ha of productive land per capita in the world.
Canada and U.S have a higher per capita footprint compared to the
rest of the world
Cities as biotic systems
Some urban ecologists study cities as biotic systems
Examine how cities create new ecological niches for certain species
Some species live in cities better than elsewhere. Such as raccoons and
Invasive species are in large part a product of urban monocultures,
globalization, materials and product flows
Urban monocultures allowed those species to strive, without predators
Urban political ecology
Another interpretation, takes into account social and economic power
Power is inscribed in the urban landscape in many ways
‘Cities are the medium and outcome of power Kong
The city itself communicate its relationships with power
Buildings communicate social power and values, who is important, who
has money, etc.
Modes of power
Power entails the ability to intervene in events so as to alter the
Power can be allocative control over material (facilities) or
authoritative (activities)
Public and private actors routinely exercise both modes of power
Welfare, public services, law public
Hiring for jobs, supplying real estate, entry to private properties,
enforcing job rules private
Exercise of power in ways that is not noticed, but rather simply
accepted as the way things are. Example as putting dog poop in a bag
Does not need explicit use of force to achieve domination
The need to find a job, do not be a racist, are hegemony rules
Cities are powerful as message partly because the message is implicit,
not explicit
Cultural landscape
Primary example of cultural landscape is the city
We implicitly learn by just experiencing in the city