Humans and the environment

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This Thursday 4/3 we discussed human–environment interaction and the new approach of viewing the city as an Ecosystem.

The seminar discussed Wolch’s reading and animal rights to have a space in the city. The introduction of the Copenhagen case (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140326-lions-copenhagen-zoo-killing-animals-world-science/#close-modal) led us to discuss how humans, as dominant specie, have shaped today’s environment.

Human developments have led to create a fragmented environment. On one side, there are human settlements with little space for natural space. On the other side, there exist these wild environments where other species are allowed to live. An interesting example arose that broke this fragmented scheme; for example, when coyotes irrupt in cities. In this case, what can we do? Do we have to create space for these species? Should we incorporate these animals into the urban environment?  The problem is the mismatch between human and animal environments. Along time, humans have created dense “concrete” cities which are not equivalent to natural animal environment. Considering these facts, how can we make the city suitable for animals? Should we incorporate all of them? Or should we select only a few? Related to this last question, we discussed rights among animals.  In this part of the discussion, we agreed that humans treat animals according to its existence condition. For instance, we value more species which are near to extinctions.

At the middle of our seminar, Charisma brought equity into the discussion. We were asked how to incorporate animals’ rights into Justainability. Under these circumstances the problem becomes more complicated because we already have a “human equity” problem, so how we can consider animal issues as a topic equally or more important than the human problem?

We also discussed the role of industrialization in the creation of this fragmented environment. In the past, human used to produce their own food on a small local scale. However, as a consequence of industrialization, the scheme changed. In urban areas, the spread of land use regulations curtailed the ability of households to devote land for farming.  Additionally, the economic effects of industrialization made local farming less attractive for people. At the present time, to buy food in the market is cheaper and less time consuming than to produce it at home. Consequently, the expansion of human developments have slowly pushed natural environments out of the city, exacerbating the differences between the social and the resources system. The question that arose here was, if centered and industrialized food supply chains are more sustainable than local individual farm production.

At this point the dialogue shifted to Pickett et al reading. Here, we discussed authors attempt to create a framework to incorporate humans in natural ecosystems in order to fill the existing gap between social and natural components. We finished our discussion reviewing the human ecosystem model (Pag 190), concluding that this model fails to capture the complexity of human-environment relations, but it was a good first attempt to frame the social and resources system.

Considering Thursday’s discussion:

  • How can we reduce the gap between human and natural environments?
  • How can we make our urban areas more suitable for animals?
  • Do animals have the right to be included in the equity discussion?
  • Do you know any inspiring example of animals’ inclusion in urban planning?
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