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Environment, Climate Change, and Urban Planning

Session VII-20, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • The new vision for Istanbul is to make the city “green”. The Metropolitan Municipality places establishment and sustainable governance of urban forests, parks and green spaces among its prioritized actions; “green” future imaginations include lower carbon emission and increase in urban green. Nevertheless, creating “green” future(s) poses many challenges. Whereas the Metropolitan Municipality is governed by the opposition candidate, among 39 district municipalities, only 13 are governed by the opposition. As political polarization deepens in the country, opening and governance of urban parks become ways of exercising political power, and displaying agency and efficiency. Some of the “green” projects are contested by competing political actors, and others compromised for the sake of goals compatible with a particular vision of growth. Drawing on several months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted on Istanbul’s green spaces: their governance, social perceptions, and socio-ecological qualities, this paper examines selected green spaces of Istanbul as socio-natures and as spaces for political contestation and social and ecological struggle. The paper evolves in three sections. First, it scrutinizes the politics of Istanbul`s green spaces governance and their ontological and empirical premises. What concepts such as national (millet) and neighborhood (mahalle) gardens or urban (kent) ecosystems tell us about human-nonhuman relationalities and human hierarchies and imaginations of nature? What practices of environmental governance are envisioned when talking about “green spaces increase” and “construction”? If Istanbul`s future(s) is envisioned as “green”, to whom does it belong? Second, by reflecting on selected green spaces and their socio-ecological qualities, the paper examines practices of environmental governance and asks the following questions: Which practices are applied and preferred, and why? What is the role of aesthetics, affect, learned knowledge and communal belonging in shaping the ways in which humans perceive and engage with green spaces and nonhumans? Analysis of selected key terms such as wild (yaban), clean (temiz), controlled (kontrollu), and natural (doğal) and their use by different actors will facilitate addressing these questions. Finally, the paper critically inquires about the ideas of quantifiable progress and predictable future(s). I argue that the current politics of environmental governance with their premises of progress measured by the areal or numerical increase create instances when “green” spaces are not necessarily “green”. But what future(s) can emerge from the current politics and practices of environmental governance in Turkey? Is “green” future in Turkey more difficult to imagine, plan and create than elsewhere?
  • Across the Middle East, environmental mobilization has intensified in the recent decade reflecting the vulnerability of the region in regard to climate change and environmental degradation on the one hand, and the dynamics of structural factors and social activism on the other.The presentation intends to shed light on the key finding of the ongoing research project on the dynamics of environmental movement in the Middle East, focusing on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where social mobilization around some nature-related issues is on the rise along with a significant involvement of the younger generation. The materials from Iraqi Kurdistan will be compared with data gathered in the same framework in Kurdish inhabited areas of Turkey. It will focus on the discourses and practices of local activists to environmental challenges and, in particular, to water crisis, pollution as well as to deforestation problems. Based upon the fieldwork and qualitative data, it will present the landscape of social mobilization and the response of various groups, NGOs, and networks of individuals to the transformation of nature and to multiple environmental crises highlighting different strategies adopted by the activists depending on available resources, political situation and intended goals of their movements. Utilizing the conceptual tools from the social movement scholarship, this project utilizes, among others, the approaches which underline the role of agency, social practices and people’s imaginaries in the complex process of social change. The analysis of framing the activists use and their practices suggests a diversity of discourses and the interrelatedness of environmental and other socio-cultural and political issues. We argue that this environmental movement can, at least partially, be interpreted through decolonial and transnational perspectives and do not easily fit into common representations of environmental movements outside the global North.
  • In a time of unprecedented and interlinked challenges–mitigating climate change, building resiliency to its impacts, protecting biodiversity, and ensuring human well-being, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that climate change has led to widespread shrinking of the cryosphere. The dangers of climate change have been known since the 1980s, but a lack of societal awareness and political and economic investment has inhibited the necessary vigorous change. We are now at a crucial moment where, with every degree, a cascade of tipping points and a “hothouse Earth'' will become more probable. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted socio-economic systems and threatens the development gains of the past decades. Thus, it is imperative to undertake dynamic initiatives to promote effective partnerships and address interdependencies around climate mitigation, systems adaptation, healthy ecosystems, and community well-being, including sustainable water-energy-food (WEF) management. Sustainable development and human well-being require us to protect WEF resources. The WEF Nexus can help build mutually-beneficial partnerships, reduce trade-offs between sectors, and allow better coordination and informed decision-making. A pilot project in Morocco's Youssoufia Province demonstrates the benefits of decentralized renewable energy initiatives in developing nations
  • The Middle East faces a number of challenges today due to the effects of climate change: extreme heat, recurring droughts, water and soil salinization, air pollution, and more. Yet relatively little is known about how people in the region perceive the threat of climate change, or the factors associated with perceiving it as more or less of a threat. This study analyzes the findings from face-to-face surveys with more than 13,700 people in 12 Middle Eastern countries conducted by the Arab Barometer Project in 2018-2019. About 65 percent of people said that climate change is a somewhat serious or very serious problem today. Just 11 percent view it as not at all a problem. Middle Easterners are similar to people in other regions in the way that education, pro-democratic and progressive politics, internet use, certain types of media consumption, and strong national economies are positively linked to viewing climate change as a problem. Yet the Middle East breaks from other regions because people who are older, more religious, and reside outside urban areas tend to be more concerned about climate change compared to their counterparts. No discernible differences emerge according to gender or a person's economic situation. People in Lebanon are more likely to perceive climate change as a problem whereas Algerians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Yemenis, and particularly Kuwaitis are less likely to do so.