CfP POLLEN18: Green cities for whom? Interrogating dominant configurations of greening, governance and inequality

POLLEN18: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities

20-22 June 2018, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, Norway

CfP: Green cities for whom? Interrogating dominant configurations of greening, governance and inequality

Organisers: Panagiota Kotsila and Melissa García-Lamarca (both at the Barcelona Laboratory for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Green infrastructure (GI), ecosystem services, nature based solutions (NBS): these are a few of the most prominent policy and planning discourses used in relation to the urban environment, commonly framed as win-win approaches in and for cities around the world. At the same time, a growing body of research has started to uncover the role that urban sustainability can play in gentrification and displacement (Dooling 2009; Quastel 2009; Checker, 2011; Anguelovski et al. 2017), begging the question of who benefits from more green and sustainable cities. Furthermore, scholars cautioning against nature valuation, greenwashing, ecomodernisation, the financialization of nature, green grabbing, and the concept of the green economy in general in the context of neoliberalism are not lacking in political ecology (Heynen & Robbins, 2005; Pepper, 1998, Castree 2008, Heynen et al. 2006, Fairhead et al. 2012; Sullivan 2013, Knuth 2016).

In this session, we aim to deepen and expand these explorations to also critically interrogate the political ecology of ecosystem services, GI and NBS, the latter in particular having emerged as a new concept heavily supported by the European Commission as a means of using nature to increase growth and address sustainability challenges. While there have been a number of studies drawing attention to GI disservices (Haase et al. 2017), the novelty and abstractness of the NBS concept in particular results in a relative scarcity of critical studies around it. At the same time, the contradictions and challenges of NBS for sustainable and just urban planning (Nesshöver et al. 2017, Kabisch et al. 2016) are echoed in considerations of ecosystem services and GI. These underline (i) internal contradictions about which societal goals are being addressed, (ii) the potential domination of certain imaginaries of nature in implementing ecosystem services, GI and/or NBS and (iii) the tensions and trade-offs that are not accounted for when seeking combined ecological, economic and social benefits.

Informed by this literature, we here wish to question aspects of justice, governance and participation in the design and execution of projects that are positively branded as “smart”, “resilient,” “innovative” and “green”. More concretely, we are interested in studies showing whose concerns and voices are included, and what kind of human or non-human (in)visibilities are being created in these processes of negotiating nature in the city.

At the same time, we are interested in the co-production of ecosystem services by human action and social struggles (Depietri et al.2016), and the multiplicity of ways in which urban nature has been mobilised by or has inspired movements of socio-political and cultural change in order to create more equitable, heathy, and green urban societies.

With the aim of generating an interactive discussion, the session will take the format of a round table discussion, kicked off by 5 minute presentations (3 slides maximum) based on papers previously circulated to roundtable members that theoretically and/or empirically explore one or more of the following issues:

       Governance, participation and socioenvironmental justice in nature based solutions

       Green grassroots initiatives, politicized green/natural spaces in the city from a historical and contemporary point of view

       Innovative methodological approaches to understand greening, governance and inequality

       Acceptable, marketed, and contested vision of Nature in the city

We welcome contributions from diverse disciplines, perspectives and theoretical frameworks. Those interested, please send an abstract (approx. 250 words) to and by 1 December, 2017. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 10 December, 2017.


Castree, N. 2008. “Neoliberalising nature: the logics of deregulation and reregulation.”  Environment and planning A 40 (1):131-152.

Depietri, Y., Kallis, G., Baró, F., & Cattaneo, C. 2016. The urban political ecology of ecosystem services: The case of Barcelona. Ecological Economics, 125, 83–100.

Haase, D., Kabisch, S., Haase, A., Andersson, E., Banzhaf, E., Baró, F., … Kabisch, N. 2017. Greening cities–To be socially inclusive? About the alleged paradox of society and ecology in cities. Habitat International, 64, 41–48.

Kabisch, N., Frantzeskaki, N., Pauleit, S., Naumann, S., Davis, M., Artmann, M., Haase, D., Knapp, S., Korn, H., Stadler, J., Zaunberger, K., Bonn, A. 2016. Nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation in urban areas: Perspectives on indicators, knowledge gaps, barriers, and opportunities for action Ecology and Society, Vol. 21(2):39.  

Nesshöver, C., Assmuth,T., Irvine,K.N., Rusch,G.M., Waylen, K.A. Delbaere, B., Haase, D., Jones-Walters, L., Keune,H., Kovacs,E., Krauze,K., Külvik,M., Rey,F., van Dijk,J., Vistad,O.I., Wilkinson, M.E. Wittmer,H. 2017. The science, policy and practice of nature-based solutions An interdisciplinary perspective, Science of The Total Environment, Vol.579-1,pp: 1215-1227

Heynen, N., & Robbins, P. 2005. The neoliberalization of nature: Governance, privatization, enclosure and valuation. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 16(1), 5–8.

Heynen, N., Kaika, M. and Swyngedouw, E.. 2006. In the nature of cities: urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism. Vol. 3: Taylor & Francis US.

Knuth, S. 2016. “Seeing Green in San Francisco: City as Resource Frontier.”  Antipode 48 (3):626-644.

Pepper, D. 1998. Sustainable development and ecological modernization: A radical homocentric perspective. Sustainable Development, 6(1), 1–7.

Sullivan, Sian. 2013. “Banking nature? The spectacular financialisation of environmental conservation.”  Antipode 45 (1):198-217.

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