Manifesto For Urban Political Ecology

Throughout this book, a series of common perspectives and approaches are presented. Although urban political ecology neither has, nor should have, a hermetic canon of enquiry, a number of central themes and perspectives are clearly discernible. We thought it would be useful to articulate these principles in sort of a ten-point "manifesto" for urban political ecology (see also Swyngedouw et al. 2002a,b). Although manifestos are not really fashionable these days, they nevertheless often serve both as a good starting point for debate, refinement, and transformation, and as a platform for further research.

1 Environmental and social changes co-determine each other. Processes of socio-

environmental metabolic circulation transform both social and physical environments and produce social and physical milieus (such as cities) with new and distinct qualities. In other words, environments are combined socio-physical constructions that are actively and historically produced, both in terms of social content and physical-environmental qualities. Whether we consider the making of urban parks, urban natural reserves, or skyscrapers, they each contain and express fused socio-physical processes that contain and embody particular metabolic and social relations.

2 There is nothing a-priori unnatural about produced environments like cities, genetically modified organisms, dammed rivers, or irrigated fields. Produced environments are specific historical results of socio-environmental processes. The urban world is a cyborg world, part natural/part social, part technical/part cultural, but with no clear boundaries, centres, or margins.

3 The type and character of physical and environmental change, and the resulting environmental conditions, are not independent from the specific historical social, cultural, political, or economic conditions and the institutions that accompany them. It is concrete historical-geographical analysis of the production of urban natures that provides insights in the uneven power relations through which urban "natures" become produced and that provides pointers for the transformation of these power relations.

4 All socio-spatial processes are invariably also predicated upon the circulation and metabolism of physical, chemical, or biological components. Non-human "actants" play an active role in mobilizing socio-natural circulatory and metabolic processes. It is these circulatory conduits that link often distant places and ecosystems together and permit relating local processes with wider socio-metabolic flows, networks, configurations, and dynamics.

5 Socio-environmental metabolisms produce a series of both enabling and disabling social and environmental conditions. These produced milieus often embody contradictory tendencies. While environmental (both social and physical) qualities may be enhanced in some places and for some humans and non-humans, they often lead to a deterioration of social, physical, and/or ecological conditions and qualities elsewhere.

6 Processes of metabolic change are never socially or ecologically neutral. This results in conditions under which particular trajectories of socio-environmental change undermine the stability or coherence of some social groups, places or ecologies, while their sustainability elsewhere might be enhanced. In sum, the political-ecological examination of the urbanization process reveals the inherently contradictory nature of the process of metabolic circulatory change and teases out the inevitable conflicts (or the displacements thereof) that infuse socio-environmental change.

7 Social power relations (whether material or discursive, economic, political, and/or cultural) through which metabolic circulatory processes take place are particularly important. It is these power geometries, the human and non-human actors, and the socio-natural networks carrying them that ultimately decide who will have access to or control over, and who will be excluded from access to or control over, resources or other components of the environment and who or what will be positively or negatively enrolled in such metabolic imbroglios. These power geometries, in turn, shape the particular social and political configurations and the environments in which we live. Henri Lefebvre's "Right to the City" also invariably implies a "Right to Metabolism".

8 Questions of socio-environmental sustainability are fundamentally political questions.

Political ecology attempts to tease out who (or what) gains from and who pays for, who benefits from and who suffers (and in what ways) from particular processes of metabolic circulatory change. It also seeks answers to questions about what or who needs to be sustained and how this can be maintained or achieved.

9 It is important to unravel the nature of the social relationships that unfold between individuals and social groups and how these, in turn, are mediated by and structured through processes of ecological change. In other words, environmental transformation is not independent from class, gender, ethnic, or other power struggles.

10 Socio-ecological "sustainability" can only be achieved by means of a democratically controlled and organized process of socio-environmental (re)construction. The political programme, then, of political ecology is to enhance the democratic content of socio-environmental construction by means of identifying the strategies through which a more equitable distribution of social power and a more inclusive mode of the production of nature can be achieved.

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