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July 1, 2022

The Civics Of Urban Nature: Enacting Hybrid Landscapes.

Karvonen, Andrew; Yocom, Ken. (2011). The Civics Of Urban Nature: Enacting Hybrid Landscapes. Environment & Planning A, 43(6), 1305 – 1322.

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Urban nature is typically managed through top-down, bureaucratic, and expert-driven approaches that tend to rationalize and simplify the interactions between humans and their surroundings. In the last few decades, there has been a significant push in cultural geography and the design disciplines to develop a relational ontology of urban nature, a perspective that emphasizes the hybrid connections between humans and nonhumans, built and unbuilt, social and natural. This perspective offers new and exciting ways of conceptualizing urban nature but it has not produced alternatives to conventional governance. In other words, thinking differently about urban nature has yet to produce different ways of interacting with it. In this paper we argue that civic environmentalism can enact a relational ontology by engaging urban residents in processes of democratic deliberation and action in the reworking of urban nature. We illustrate this approach with a case study of a community-led project to construct a pedestrian trail along an urban creek in Seattle, Washington. The example demonstrates how the concept of civic environmentalism embraces a relational perspective of urban nature, while also producing generative forms of political action.


Cities & Towns; Ontology; Deliberation; Environmentalism; Trails; Rivers; Washington (state); Seattle (wash.)