GEOG 294: Urban Ecology, Communities, Politics and Sustainability

Course Sylabus

Across the globe, urbanization is increasing at an unprecedented rate. For the first time in history there are now more people living in cities than in rural areas. This shift raises urgent questions about urban environmental processes: How do cities function as ecological systems? What makes cities sustainable and resilient? How are urban dwellers implicated in the environmental processes around them? What methods, practices and forms of knowledge are involved in the recent “greening” of cities? Who has the power and right to decide what an ecological city should look like?

This course provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of urban ecology. The class is divided into three main sections, each of which are designed to stimulate a distinct set of questions about the greening of cities. In the first section, we will examine urban ecological systems and explore how different human and non-human processes and flows interact in an urban environment. How are weeds, sewage, birds, asphalt, and steel brought together in cities and what types of tools do we need for understanding urban life broadly conceived? Second, we will study efforts to shape the ecological habits of urban citizens. As cities become more sustainable, how is the role of citizens as consumers, neighbors, workers, and homeowners being reimagined? What spaces of participation come to matter in a green city? Finally, we will look at different ways of planning and governing green cities. What does it mean to be sustainable or resilient? What are the opportunities and challenges of programs such as Transition Towns and LEED Certification? Throughout the course, we will critically interrogate recent literature that, in various ways, raises questions about the future of green cities. We will then apply these perspectives to specific case studies in the urban environment. A central objective of this course is to connect scholarly perspectives to real-life problems and solutions with the goal of becoming more thoughtful and informed urban citizen.

Katie Pratt, Visiting Instructor

One of the videos from the spring urban ecology class was featured on MN2020 on May 17.