The book, published by MIT Press in their series on Urban and Industrial Environments in August 2019, was made Open Access through the MIT Press Library Award on 7 October 2019 and explores case studies from cities on five continents demonstrating the advantages of thinking comparatively about urban environments.
The global discourse around urban ecology tends to homogenize and universalize, relying on such terms as “smart cities,” “eco-cities,” and “resilience,” and proposing a “science of cities” based largely on information from the Global North. Grounding Urban Natures makes the case for the importance of place and time in understanding urban environments. Rather than imposing a unified framework on the ecology of cities, the contributors use a variety of approaches across a range of of locales and timespans to examine how urban natures are part of—and are shaped by—cities and urbanization. Grounding Urban Natures offers case studies from cities on five continents that demonstrate the advantages of thinking comparatively about urban environments.
“The book provides well-written chapters on urban natures, their social lives, their vibrant matters, and their politics across a varied geography, from the global South to North,” explains Ernstson. “Bringing together ethnography and environmental history in a comparative gesture, the chapters are great to teach from as students can trust experienced scholars to unpack the multiplicity of urban nature in narrative form free from laborious jargon.”
The contributors consider the diversity of urban natures, analyzing urban ecologies that range from the coastal delta of New Orleans to real estate practices of the urban poor in Lagos. They examine the effect of popular movements on the meanings of urban nature in cities including San Francisco, Delhi, and Berlin. Finally, they explore abstract urban planning models and their global mobility, examining real-world applications in such cities as Cape Town, Baltimore, and the Chinese “eco-city” Yixing.
Contributors Martín Ávila, Amita Baviskar, Jia-Ching Chen, Henrik Ernstson, James Evans, Lisa M. Hoffman, Jens Lachmund, Joshua Lewis, Lindsay Sawyer, Sverker Sörlin, Anne Whiston Spirn, Lance van Sittert, Richard A. Walker