Creek

Judging from this historically conditioned local position, where legacies of racism, poverty, and the disproportionate distribution of risk are forefront to perceptions of the environment and interpretations of environmental change, pronouncements by restoration advocates of "helping the [Cobbs Creek] community to understand the ecological importance of what they have [through participating in restoration activities]" appear, at best, naïve and misinformed or, at worst, patronizing, unsympathetic, and uninterested.5 Uninformed, acontextual, and socially, locally ahistorical ambitions of restoration to some "native" landscape type, and of an environmental education intended to reproduce this normative vision, are no more likely to succeed in producing locally informed and ecologically-conscious citizens in Cobbs Creek as they are to influence the racist politics or erase the racist legacies that constitute contemporary geographies of fear and exclusion (cf. Light forthcoming; Merchant 1986). Similar lessons were learned the hard way in Chicago, when ecologically minded and socially apolitical restoration interests were confronted (and eventually thwarted) by a determined local resistance embracing a very different, locally-informed and conditioned environmental imaginary (see Gobster and Hull 2000).

Despite their differences, however, overlaps between the two narratives are apparent; entrepreneurial and inherited narratives of nature are both products of and responses to earlier industrial fragmentations, both social and ecological. As I hope I have demonstrated in this chapter, however, these fragmentations are historically and discursively inseparable, paralleling one another as they did over the course of Philadelphia's developmental history; fragmentations of the one (e.g., natural landscapes) were often used to maintain, justify, and reproduce fragmentations of the other (e.g., social divisions). These inherited social and ecological divisions continue to splinter and separate urban society and ecologies (Solecki and Welch 1995).

However, the implications of decades of park neglect are no more simply ecological than they are merely social, and restoration or other eco-modernization efforts that emphasize ecological changes at the expense of their social corollaries, or that advance narratives of nature that are (socially, politically) ahistorical and thus locally meaningless or unachievable will, at best, provoke local resentment and resistance or, at worst, fail entirely, as was the case in Chicago. Alternatively, projects or programmes of, for instance, community development that fail to incorporate local ecologies and environmental histories into their relative agendas may facilitate further changes to the local environment that reproduce the kind of fractured social ecologies we see in West Philadelphia. Nonetheless, in Cobbs Creek there does appear to be an opportunity to reconcile, or articulate, entrepreneurial and inherited narratives of nature, if only partially or peripherally. Despite their differences—political, social, or otherwise—there are, nonetheless, similarities that may be the seed for further dialogue and negotiation. First, each advances a vision of controlled nature that is, in principle (if not in spirit), a response to the legacies and inequities (social, environmental, or otherwise) of industrial fragmentation. Each is prescriptive in that they advance normative ecologies whose relative success will be judged by the removal of "out of place" elements in the natural landscape—i.e., weeds. At first sight, these seem to constitute a node of discursive and political overlap and articulation around which the manipulation of local ecologies may be a means for both entrepreneurial and locally relevant ends. Unfortunately, there is little in the neoliberal literature, nor in the case study discussed here, indicating the likelihood or possibility of political and discursive agreement; the economic demands and social intolerances that underscore and advance current discourses and programs of neoliberal urbanization—including eco-modernization (Keil and Desfor 2003)—seem to hold little promise that such thoughtful and socially encompassing discussion will occur. Rather, evidence suggests that, in all likelihood, a complex, fragmented assemblage of local, historically specific environmental narratives—including those in Cobbs Creek—is beginning to emerge to contest or encourage not only the narrative of restored, entrepreneurial nature currently flowing from the Master Restoration Plan of the regional place-makers but, as well, to contest, encourage, or compete with one another for the rights and resources to advance or manage for their own colloquial visions of Fairmount Park's normative ecology. How and where the chips fall and the identity, power, and membership of new environmental coalitions remain to be seen; however, in Philadelphia, as (perhaps) in most of the post-industrial cities of the north, the inherited social and environmental fragmentations of the industrial past are the stock of the new fragmentations of neoliberalism and creative destruction.

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