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Case Studies

- Istanbul:

Mobility vs. roots. Struggling to protect urban forests in Istanbul.

Istanbul today is a giant urban metabolism that lives on ever-interconnected flows, connections, people, spaces and matter. At the periphery of this urban metabolism, the northern forests of Istanbul are providing the much needed breath and ecosystem services. Or better said, the forest used to provide these services until it was sacrificed for the construction of a mega highway and mega airport. While urban green spaces provide ecological, economic and social benefits, they also function as shelters and meeting points in case of disasters. Coming together against this environmental injustice, Northern Forests Defense (NFD, Kuzey Ormanlari Savunmasi) today is the most visible and most active grassroots environmental movement in Turkey using direct action tactics. This in-depth case study delves into climate change response and alternatives put forth by NFD in the context of Istanbul’s climate change action plan in preparation, in trying to grasp their radical vision of L&D and climate adaptation.

- Malmö

The Contribution of Organized Rebellion to Adaptive Capacity: Mapping the interactions between grassroots climate activism and municipal climate action

The city of Malmö brands itself as a leader of urban sustainability and climate adaptation. However, its flagship policies and projects have been problematized for their top-down approach, for ignoring issues of scale and for the overt focus on attracting capital investments to the benefit of real estate development. Local and national civil society organizations increasingly criticize the purported “green” leadership of Malmö and of Sweden, while pushing for more ambitious climate mitigation & adaptation goals, and more concrete steps towards such objectives. By tackling this confrontation, and its potential to turn into cooperation, this case study investigates emerging and established grassroots climate movements in Sweden, focusing in particular on activist’s organizing and on local institutional response in the context of Malmö. The movements’ practices under investigation comprise direct action, civil disobedience, political lobbying and co-management of urban commons. The main question asks how the interaction, or the lack thereof, between the realms of policy making and of bottom-up activism is shaping the climate change mitigation & adaptation plans of Malmö. The attempt is to shed light on both the divergences and the potential for cooperation between the city administration and the social movements. Moreover, the project will explore an expanded notion of adaptation that considers rebellion and direct action organizing as fundamental building blocks of socially-rooted adaptive response and capacity.

- Naples:

Rebel city vs. Smart city. The case of Naples, Italy.

Naples has often been defined as a rebel city. A coalition of radical leftist parties and grassroots organizations, deeply involved with the anti-toxic struggles in the region, won the last two municipal elections. Nonetheless, the rebel city seems to stop at the gate of CC, leaving the way to the usual smart city framework in the meager public discourse on this topic. The rebel city and its ramified grassroots organizations remain invisible in the face of the CC challenges, both the present - extreme heat waves and wild fires – and the future - the 290 million dollars of damage due to CC quantified by the Basque Center for Climate Change. OCC! will search the causes of this gap, analyzing the divergence between more structured (mainstream) environmental NGOs as WWF and Legambiente engaged with the CC debates and the grassroots organizations which, while engaged in direct action aganist fossil fuel intese infrastructtures (as for instance the Trans Adriatic Pipeline), seem less receptive towards CC.

- New York:

Sandy vs. New York City.
OCC! will research the grassroots initiatives implemented to cope with the consequences of Hurricane Sandy in 2016. In particular, our team will study the Occupy Sandy movement, the LES Ready! Initiative, based in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, and the Harlem–based environmental justice organization WE ACT!. CS I will address the following questions: How can the many innovations of those movements be translated on a more permanent basis to communities in the future? To what extent have those initiatives been able to impact official planning documents issued by the city for disaster reconstruction and resiliency? How have the organization’s efforts to lobby for a just reconstruction fared in a city characterized by deepening patterns of spatial and social apartheid?

- Rio de Janeiro:

The case study focus on the community of Morro Babilônia, a small but traditional favelas in Rio de Janeiro, and how it has developed strategies and dynamics to respond to changes in its urban ecosystem. Located near one of the most coveted real state of the city, Copacabana, the community suffered from torrential rains and frequent landslides - which in 1994 caused the death of three residents. On that occasion, the community pressured the city hall to begin a reforestation project on the slopes of the hill to prevent erosion. The project changed the relationship of the community with its environment, and also remarkably changed the landscape from pasture areas to forested areas, with recovery of fauna and flora, in almost three decades. In particular, our study focuses on feelings of loss and damage due to climate issues. It also discusses the challenges of community building within a megacity with many critical issues, such as violence, gentrification and economic crisis.

- Stockholm:

Ecosystem services vs. urban commons? Lessons from Stockholm

In a 2008 article, Ernstson, Sörlin, and Elmqvist (2008) provided an innovative reading of the connections between more than 70 civil society organizations and the Stockholm National Urban Park, demonstrating that active use rather than “protection” was the key for a successful management of the park. This article constitutes the theoretical and methodological basis for our case study. OCC! will investigate the practices of diverse types of civil society organizations in their access, use, and vision of urban green areas and ecological resources testing their impact on the ability of those areas to perform what have been called ecosystem services. The case study will focus on the mobilization and co-production of knowledge by those organizations but also on the interaction between them and expertise knowledge (Ernstson & Sörlin 2013). The civic organizations under study in the Stockholm urban region include urban guerilla gardening groups, bee keeping organizations, allotment garden communities, and sharing economy communities.