MARIANNE KRASNY: All right. Well, thank you for coming this morning. And I will say that, like our first speaker, Michael Handel-- and Kim Pratt asked me to come and do this presentation today. I really thought she was asking the wrong person. And I sort of sent them the names of lots of other people who I thought could do it better. And she said no, no. You're the right person. And actually I was really trying to get out of coming to work on Saturday, and he saw right through that.
But I still find our email conversation didn't really understand-- do I need to actually be over here? OK. I still didn't really understand very well what this was about and what were the connections. So I asked my department business administrator, and she felt like she was a real expert because her husband works right over here at the Johnson Art Museum.
And she said, oh, you're going to go talk to some architects. Well, they're all going to be wearing black. So I got here a little early, and she was right. Like, the first 10 people, I assume the most important ones, were all wearing black. In fact, Kevin couldn't find his jacket, he told me, because all the jackets lying on the seats were black. So I quickly changed all the background of my slides to black. So here we are.
What I'm going to do today is I'm going to talk a little bit about my background and why somebody who is a professor in the Department of Natural Resources does the kind of work I do in cities. And then I'm going to give you just four bullet points on how I think there is some overlap between what I do and what you do.
And I think we've seen some more overlap, and maybe you'll see it this morning. So I'd like you to, when I get to those four points, sort of think about them through the rest of the talk. And I'll give you some more detail about what I do and then finally we can come back to those points in the discussion or maybe there will be questions for other people.
So my job in the Department of Natural Resources is what we call 70% cooperative extension and 30% research. So I don't have any teaching responsibilities, and that's not that uncommon in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that people have this extension outreach as a major component of their positions. And actually, my extension part of my job is supposed to be developing programs, curriculum materials, workshops for educators who teach youth.
So these could be teachers, but mostly we work with after-school programs, community centers, a lot in the city, and summer camps, that kind of thing. And when I came, even though extension has a strong tradition of working with rural communities, I actually hadn't worked in extension. I had never been a 4H. 4H is the youth component of extension. I had never been in 4H. And so I looked at New York State, and I said most of the people work in cities. I'm going to work in cities.
And at the time, I was working in environmental sciences kind of environmental and natural resources issues broadly for these youth educators and waste management. So this was in the late '80s. Waste management was a really important issue, and that's what people were interested in. So I decided I'll do some low curriculum or programs on waste management. And I had heard that in New York City, there was a really interesting composting system in the community garden.
So I had never seen a community garden before, and this was in the-- actually, it was a little after I came. It was the late 1990s. I visited this garden. It's the Open Road Garden, yeah, Open Road, a community garden, and it's in the Lower East Side, what they call, I think, Alphabet City.
So when I went to the garden, there was this green house. I think it was not quite this green house. It was a sort of smaller version of it. And as you can see right here, there's a little bin. And so what the kids did that were-- I should say on one side of this garden was a school. So they were kids from the school, and they're working in this garden.
And they would take wheelbarrows, they would wheel down this little path here. They would go down a couple of blocks in Lower Manhattan, and they would go to this juice bar, and at the juice bar, they would fill up their wheelbarrow with some carrot pulp or orange peels or whatever. And then they would wheel it back, come back, go down that little path again into that greenhouse, and that little bin I showed you was their compost bin. So they're heating the greenhouse with their compost.
Now, this was a pretty interesting way to teach science. They're already doing science. And we can help with that with some of the materials from Cornell. But also another interesting thing about this garden was that there were some raised beds.
And I'm sorry I don't have a picture of Open Road Garden. But this is just another raised bed garden. This one's in The Bronx. And on the other side of the garden, opposite from the school, was a building that was being used as a mosque by Bangladeshi immigrants. And those immigrants, the men out there in their [INAUDIBLE], they were out there. And they had these raised-bed systems.
And they were planting, I'm sure, things that they brought with them from Bangladesh. So they were planting amaranth and pigeon peas. And that's kind of a common, this idea of legume grain intercroppings where the legume fixes nitrogen and so it contributes to the soil nutrients.
It's sort of a common practice in what you might call sustainable agriculture. And they also were planting flowering coriander, excuse me, that they felt was attracting the beneficial insects, and marigolds, that they felt was repelling the soil pests nematodes.
And so I thought, well, this is a really even cooler place to teach science, because there's a lot of practical local knowledge from people that are living right here in these communities that can be shared with the people. And we can develop some scientific knowledge sort of to complement that. And I worked for quite a while in this program called Garden Mosaics that really took advantage of these community gardening settings as a way to teach science in the cities.
And as part of this educational program, we visited a lot of gardens. This one's in The Bronx. And this one is a Hmong refugee garden in Sacramento. And by this point, I had hired a person, Keith Tidball, who I'll talk about a little bit later, who's a colleague of mine, to work on this community gardening education program.
And when we visit the gardens, we would hear a lot of stories from the people. And often the stories were of hardship and sort of using the garden as part of their resilience restoration process. And here's a really good example of this kind of sort of the garden is part of restoring oneself after hardship.
This is Bruce's Garden. It's near Inman Park in the northern area of Manhattan. It's actually in a little park called Isham Park. And you might have seen this story, because it was in The New York Times on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. So Bruce's Garden was started probably in the '70s or '80s when this area of Manhattan near-- it's near the cloisters, Inman Park-- there's a lot of crime and gangs.
And Bruce's father decided that he didn't want his kid, who was a teenager at the time, to get involved in all that. And so he involved these gangs in making this community garden here in Isham Park. And Bruce then became a police officer, and he was the first responder at 9/11. And the last time anybody has record of seeing him is helping somebody out of the Twin Towers.
And so obviously this was really a terrible loss for his father. And so after 9/11, his father was-- Bruce was also an only child-- his father was pretty much just staying inside his apartment and not going out. But the Netherlands actually sent some bulbs to New York City. And the way they tell in the story was they were left right on the corner.
And Jay Reynolds, who's Bruce's father, he eventually got up the courage and will to go outside and take these bulbs and plant them, thinking if he didn't do it, they would just rot. And so this is what Bruce's Garden looks like today. I was just there a couple of months ago. And it's a memorial now to Bruce. So you can see it's kind of-- well, it's part of two kind of resilience processes, one related to crime and the second related to the terrorist attacks and the loss of a loved one.
So this is my colleague, Keith Tidball, and after Hurricane Katrina, he was invited as part of a city and regional planning team that went down to New Orleans to develop plans for recovery. And he was head of the Green Team. So he was a PhD student at the time. So it was a student team that went down there. And he expected that, given what we'd seen about community gardens and resilience, that he would find a lot of people sort of gardening, sort of trying to express their will to recover.
And what he found instead, and maybe not so surprising given the sort of symbolic importance of live oaks and trees in general in New Orleans, is that there was a lot of community forestry activity. So again, it was kind of the same idea that people are coming together to do something around nature, sort of spontaneous. We would maybe call it self-organized but around a different resource.
So we have urban community forestry as an example. We have community gardens, as I've mentioned. And then we started seeing a lot of other iterations of this kind of practice. So this one is actually oyster gardening in New York City estuary. This is on the Bronx River. So these are young people in a community organization after school and summer program. And the little cage there is young oysters that they place in these artificial oyster reefs, and they place them down in the water. And the idea is that they're going to restore the oyster population in the city or in the New York City estuary. And then rooftop garden is another iteration that we've worked with.
So I asked my colleague at that time, my PhD student, Keith Tidball, if he would come in and, you know, we needed a term for all this community garden and urban community forestry, what could we call it? And so he came up with the term civic ecology. And we are referring to these practices of civic ecology practices, local environmental stewardship actions that are taken to enhance both the green infrastructure and then community well-being in cities and other human-dominated systems.
And we have a website if anybody wanted to see some of our publications and some of the activities that we're doing. We are teaching an online course on civic ecology, actually starting on this coming Monday. And my co-instructor, Phil Silva, is there in the back, who's now a PhD student in natural resources.
So that's the introduction. Why civic ecology at this drought symposium? And this is just-- when I asked Kevin, he said, well, we're going to understand how we can begin designing and supporting diverse ecosystems. I think the comment about people wear black might have been a little more helpful than this one. But anyway, I appreciate it.
And so there's just sort of four points I wanted to make. And that is that departments like ours, sort of our discipline of natural resources, we are using terms like coupled human natural systems-- that's an NSF program-- or social ecological systems a lot. So you might think of us, we're the natural resources department.
But our discipline is really very interdisciplinary now. And we have a number of environmental sociologists in our department. We have a guy who works on governance, Steve Wolf. So we really think about integrated systems. That's the discourse now that's used a lot.
Kevin talked a lot about top-down, bottom-up. And as I said, I think in some cases the kinds of projects that I look at, civic ecology practices, are what you might call self-organized or emergent. But these terms, I think, have been developed largely around natural systems. And we're applying them to social systems.
And you could call them social innovations, or as some of my colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Center have called them, social ecological innovations. So again, this idea that they're sort of spontaneous-- they're sort of do-it-yourself DIY stewardship innovations in cities, where you might not expect people doing these kinds of things, connecting with nature. And I think the question is, how do we then scale them out to policy innovations or do changes in policy?
And then finally, the role of the academic community and sustainability solutions. So what role does a faculty member like me play in my extension role of working with these different kinds of practices? So what I'm going to do now is go through-- this is the third part of my talk-- is go through a little bit more about civic ecology practices and how we theorize or conceptualize them. And this is from a paper that my colleague and Keith Tidball and I have in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
So we actually have 10 hypotheses. I'm going to go through quickly nine of these. So the first is that civic ecology practices often emerge when threats cause the system to reach a tipping point. And this is from the work of Buzz Holling. So a lot of these sort of social ecological systems people, they've taken concepts that were developed by ecosystems people like Buzz Holling, and they've tried to add on this social dimension for which we've been criticized. But that's what's happening.
So we can start here at the conservation phase. So this is what you might call a natural system. This is a forest system. So you know the climax, what used be called climax of a mature forest, or people consider it fairly stable, not a lot of rapid growth anymore. And then there's some kind of disturbance.
So here in the graphic is fire. But the original work that Buzz Holling did was with spruce budworm outbreak in Eastern Canada. And so whether it's fire or this, you can see a lot of dead trees. So you're going to open up essentially a lot of space like this. And then there's a period of reorganization and more rapid growth. So this is called the adaptive cycle. And I'm going to just apply it to urban systems or urban social ecological systems.
So you can imagine New York City up here. Then probably under Giuliani in the late 1990s, so a period where the economy was doing pretty well. Things might have been pretty stable. And then we have some kind of disturbance like 9/11 or in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, the flooding. And we also can imagine things like Detroit, where we have what we call slow burns, sort of slow decline in the Rust Belt cities. So slow economic decline.
But the same kind of process of opening up space and what's going to come in next? And we can think of these-- oops, I'm sorry, pressed the wrong button-- are these sort of tipping points. So for example, in New York after 9/11, I think there were a lot of questions like what's going to become of the community? And my husband was a wine importer at the time. A lot of the restaurants that he dealt with around the twin towers went out of business.
So there was this kind of vacant, you know, voids being created and certainly a lot of the media discourse around New Orleans was that it would never recover. So that creates then this opportunity for these civic ecology practices to come in and be part of the reorganization, both socially and environmentally. I keep pressing the wrong button, sorry. So just another example.
This is one of the living memorials, and the US Forest Service had a living memorial project. So not only Bruce's Garden, but there were about 500 living memorials around the country where people, more or less spontaneously, would plant things in existing parks or community gardens or median strips as a way of remembrance and recovery after the terrorist attacks.
So this is number two, hypothesis number two, incorporating social ecological memories in civic ecology practices fosters individual and community resilience. So social ecological memories are memories of cultivation practices essentially or they could be in indigenous communities, memories of how we hunt or how we fish. And I already talked about the Hmong gardener in Sacramento. But essentially, what she's planting you can see the foot-long beans are essentially and probably the cultivation practices that she's using could be called social ecological memories that she's brought with her from Southeast Asia.
This garden is in Philadelphia. And it's kind of neat because this is actually a mural, not part of the garden. So this is a community garden in the foreground. And a lot of the gardeners here are African-American. So their roots, their memories of cultivation practices would have come from rural agrarian societies in the southern US.
And this one's an interesting one on the bottom here. This one's from New Orleans. So when Keith Tidball went down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, he was talking to a lot of people in Tremé and sort of about recovery and the impacts. And they didn't just talk about Hurricane Katrina. They talked about highways. Interstate 10. That's right up here. And Interstate 10 used to be Claiborne Avenue. And Claiborne Avenue was lined with these live oak trees.
And so the people would remember how when it used to be Claiborne Avenue, they would go and they would stand under the shade of these trees, and it would be the place where they would socialize. So a place where members of the community would connect with each other. And after Hurricane Katrina, they did this mural project, I guess you would call it, on the concrete pillars here that are holding up the freeway. So you can see they've painted some live oaks, sort of a memory of what was there before the freeway.
And this one is about that sort of nature contact and the psychological and physical health impacts. So I don't know. This has been in the media a lot lately about how connecting to nature. If you look outside a hospital, and you can see green versus if you look outside and see a wall, that your recovery times are quicker.
This particular photograph is from the paper by Peter Kahn at the University of Washington. And he did a controlled study of office workers at the University of Washington. And there were three treatments. So this is one treatment, and they were looking at a plasma screen of what was going on outside. So essentially they put a camera outside the window, and it looked down at what you might see if you were looking outside, live streaming of what you'd see outside.
The second treatment was a blank wall, and the third treatment was actually looking out a window. And then he did these, I think, cognitive tests where people's heart rate would go up a bit. And he measured the time it took for their heart rates to go back to normal. So this is some kind of measure of your ability to deal with stress. And he found that the plasma screen actually was not significantly different from the blank wall but that people had shorter recovery times when they could actually see out the window.
And what we are looking at in the civic ecology lab is not just sort of looking out the window, but it's actually engaged in stewardship of nature. And so there's another literature, not very big, on stewardship of nature and some of the impacts or benefits of that.
OK. So this is one that I thought might have a bit more connection maybe with you. And that is about-- it's essentially about sense of place and how different places, different cities, are trying to recreate this sense of place or what we might call authenticity. This is an article that was just in The Atlantic online, their Sustainable Cities series. And it's about why is authenticity so central to urban culture? This is a slide from Brooklyn. I think it's called the Brooklyn Flea. So the article article is about how cities like Brooklyn are recreating flea markets and other things to give them some sort of an authentic sense of place.
So civic ecology practices often reflect place. This is again from New York City. I don't know how many of you read The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky's book, History on a Half Shell. He writes about how oysters were so plentiful in New York City in the early 1900s, that if you were going to go to New York City, you'd tell your friend I'm taking the train into New York. They'd say, well, enjoy the oysters. And you could go and get all the oysters you wanted for $0.06. So the oysters have declined. But more recently, as I mentioned on a previous slide, there are now these oyster restoration efforts around the New York City estuary.
I assume many of you have been to the High Line. So again, reflecting place, reflecting the trains that used to go through the meatpacking district in the Lower West Side. Is anybody not familiar with the High Line, the park? I guess it's gotten a lot of media publicity. And then I don't know how many of you have been to this site. Does anybody know where it is? Toronto, Brickworks Park. So Toronto, this is a site of a quarry in the city limits.
And if you've been to Toronto, you've see there's a lot of brick buildings. So essentially all the brick, the materials for the brick, and then the brick making took place at this particular site. It's no longer functional, but they've converted the old kills, the brickworks, into this social kind of meeting space. People have weddings there and so forth. And they've also done a lot of restoration of the natural features on this site. So you can see here containerized gardens. They've done this wetland restoration around here.
And then I just wanted to get back to community gardens, because community gardens, you can walk-- in Alphabet City, you can walk from, what is it, about-- how does it go? I think around-- anyways, you're walking towards the river, towards the FDR Drive, from a little bit more upscale neighborhood towards the east. And practically every block has a community garden, but each block, the community garden changes.
So this is one that's more closer to the river. It's in a Puerto Rican neighborhood. And you can see that they're recreating, illegally. I think they're condemning a lot of these buildings and trying to take them down, casitas. So when they were in Puerto Rico working on the farm, this would be the kind of building that they might go into the afternoon to take respite from the sun. Now they're used as places for people to hang out and play cards, barbecue, lots of social activities.
OK. So I talked about self-organization. But really a lot of these practices, even though they might be originally self-organized, that they have to-- if they're going to be around for very long and really increase their capacity, they're going to form partnerships with other community based and nonprofit organizations with government and universities. So the reason that I would say community gardens are self-organized in many cases, there's also city government community garden programs.
But many of the ones in New York City, they were founded in the 1970s when there were a lot of people leaving the city, kind of like Detroit today. And so there's a lot of vacant lots and people got really tired of crime and trash. And they just decided they're going to take over and squat on these spaces and create these community gardens.
But soon after this 1970s community gardening movement, the municipal government of New York formed this Green Thumb program, which helped to support the community gardens, for example, with fencing. They do courses. They'll help them get manure from the horse barns, for example, to improve their soils. And then in the late '90s when Giuliani was trying to develop a lot of these properties commercially, Bette Midler came in and the Trust for Public Land, and they purchased some of the properties and also helped people to form local land land trusts. So there's three land trusts in New York City that are helping to provide more permanent land tenure for the community gardens.
Just another example from the sustainable South Bronx. So we have a lot of these little community based organizations that are doing all these activities. But they are all really networked. And in particular right now, their networked by this one, the Bronx River Alliance, who is kind of a what we might call scale crossing broker to bring these organizations together and coordinate their efforts with city government.
And then this one, you guys, do you know where this is? Anybody been here? Looks like the High Line, right? So this is actually Queens Way in Queens. And I think it's around three miles long. It's longer than the High Line, and it's also an elevated railroad track, although it's not-- sometimes there's berms. So here, you can see it's on top of buildings, but sometimes it's just on berms, so just piled up lawn or piled up dirt. And this is just a visualization of what they're trying to do.
So if you're thinking about the role of an academic, I visited Queens Way and some of the community activists that are trying to get this project started last year. They just got in December a sizable grant from the city to do a feasibility study for actually developing this as a High-Line-type park. And they would love to coordinate with people at Cornell. They're really trying to expand their networks so that they can have more impact and hopefully be successful in their vision.
OK. So this is number six. Citizen engagement and monitoring of civic ecology practices enables ongoing adaptation based on information about outcomes. This is something that Phil Silva, who I mentioned earlier, is working on. And it's actually not really true. I mean, not very many of these organizations are doing any monitoring.
I think it's partly because they're often community based, very small. They don't really have the capacity. I think that's again somewhere where a place like, say, my department can come in, because we have some of these skills to help them to monitor both social and ecological or environmental impacts. But also I think the DIY technologies and monitoring, like the public lab for open technology and science, these are going to really maybe increase the capacity of these organizations, make monitoring much more accessible to them.
And this one is about learning, where I started off with these programs. This is Willie Morgan. He has a garden in Harlem. And he's growing cotton. So if you ask Willie why he is growing cotton, he'll tell you it's because he wants the children in the community to understand a little bit about their roots and where their ancestors came from.
And then number eight. So I'm moving a little bit more towards hypothesized larger roles that these practices can play, because you can see they're very small. Community garden is really, in a sense, insignificant in itself, it's such a small piece of land in one neighborhood. So one of the things that Keith's looking at quite a bit is this idea of vicious cycles. We talked about New Orleans a little bit. So an urban community, highways built, natural capital eroded. They lost their trees. Decreases the ecosystem services, and then the depletion of social capital, when people no longer have the trees to go and hang out around.
And then the idea that these practices that we're talking about could actually help in the conversion of these cycles to a more virtuous cycle. So here we have an urban community. We have this one group of youth along the Bronx River doing a bioswale garden.
So they are increasing natural capital. This is actually what the garden looked like after it was finished. So they're filtering runoff from an industrial facility so that it no longer goes into the Bronx River, hopefully. And then the idea that social capital is created when people come together to be engaged in these practices.
And then this is the last one I'm going to cover. And this one, I have to give you a few definitions. So if you'll bear with me. In the definition, I'm going to be talking about a social ecological system resilience and sort of how does it relate to sustainability, because we hear a lot more about sustainability but a little bit less about social ecology systems resilience. There's the Resilience Alliance out of Stockholm and the Stockholm Resilience Center.
And a lot of this work-- they are kind of a hub of this kind of thinking, but it's really an international hub. So they talk about how managing complex co-evolving social ecological systems for sustainability requires the ability to cope with, adapt to, and shape change without losing options for future development. And here's where resilience comes in. It requires resilience, which is really the capacity to buffer perturbations or buffer disturbances to self-organize, to learn, and to adapt.
And so there's really two parts of resilience. And if we go back to the adaptive cycle, there's kind of this ability to adapt. So to change as you get ongoing small changes, but then if you cross that tipping point that I mentioned, and you're in this period of reorganization, it's also the ability to transform and to reorganize. So when massive transformation occurs, resilient systems and experience and the diversity of options needed for renewal and redevelopment and sustainable systems need to be resilient.
I'm just going to go quickly through an argument of how civic ecology practices might contribute to resilient social ecological systems. Brian Walker from Australia and Carl Folkie who-- Folkie is really sort of the head of all this resilience thinking at the Stockholm Resilience Center. They talk about attributes of systems that are resilient. And this includes things like cultural and biological diversity, social capital, self-organization, polycentric governance, ecosystem services, and learning. And then not surprisingly, I'm going to make the case or try to make the case that civic ecology practices might contribute to these attributes of resilient systems.
So we've talked about-- this is I think the third slide I have of what my colleagues disparagingly call my Laotian grandmother and what does she have to do with natural resources? But you can see that in this garden in Sacramento, she and her fellow gardeners are planting a wide diversity of cucurbits, of gourds and squashes, also beans. They also have some sustainable practices here. Seed saving. You might call that part of diversity. And as well as they represent some cultural diversity in Sacramento.
This is a garden in New York City, and this is pretty common that people will gather together to have meetings and do some kinds of decision making. They have to decide on what kinds of chemicals, if any, for example, are they going to allow in the garden. Who's going to take care of weeding. And through doing so, I think you could claim that they're creating some social capital, building social organization, building social connections and trust, and they're also demonstrating associational involvement. So these are all components of Robert Putnam's definition of social capital.
We talked about self-organization. And I'd make the case that they're also part of what Elinor Ostrom has called a polycentric governance system. So these are small community based organizations. In some ways they're training grounds often for new immigrants to learn some of the skills to function in civil society. But as I mentioned earlier, they're also networked with larger NGOs or non-profits with government, with universities. And together, they are creating a governance system that offers some alternative to top-down formal government.
And then finally, ecosystem services and social learning. And this is the slide I showed before, just that they have young people and other community members engaged in creating green infrastructure that produces ecosystem services.
So I just wanted to mention that I've talked about civic ecology practices, but when I asked Keith to come up with a name for all these things that we were looking at, he chose a term with the word ecology on purpose, because we're not just looking at the practices. I think I probably demonstrated that. We're also looking at how they interact with other aspects of the system-- social ecological systems in which they are transpiring. So that's why we use the term civic ecology to more broadly talk about our field of scholarship.
So I wanted to thank two of my graduate students, Keith Tidball on your right and Alex [INAUDIBLE] on the left. Alex has conducted a lot of the research and taken a lot of those photos of young people in The Bronx and elsewhere engaged in civic ecology practices.
And again, I should also, now that Phil Silva is a new student in our lab, add him because he's really working on some of these monitoring and DIY monitoring practices and how they might be incorporated into the civic ecology practices. So I'm ready for the discussion. I'm not sure how the timing is, but I'm sure people are ready for the discussion also besides me. So I think the other speakers now can come up.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Marianne Krasny, professor and chair in the department of natural resources at Cornell, gives a presentation at the 2013 Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on Sustainable Design, "Design for Biodiversity: Architectural Responses to Urban Ecology," February 2, 2013.
The symposium was organized jointly by the Cornell University Department of Architecture and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics.