The Sustainable City: Lessons from the Field

Deadline: January 15, 2020
Contact: Deborah Mutnick, Professor of English, Long Island University Brooklyn
Email: deborah.mutnick@liu.edu
Phone: 7184881110

Editors: Margaret Cuonzo (Philosophy), Carole Griffiths (Biology), Tim Leslie (Biology), Deborah Mutnick (English), Jay Shuttleworth (Education), Long Island University Brooklyn

Contacts: Deborah Mutnick – deborah.mutnick@liu.edu; Carole Griffiths – carole.griffiths@liu.edu

Project Description

Arguably, the three major crises of our time—the epoch of the Anthropocene—are climate change, biodiversity loss, and social inequality. Closely related global phenomena, these crises are occurring locally with devastating consequences for increasingly large numbers of the world’s population. Like many other educators, we have come to see our role in researching, analyzing, and teaching these interrelated topics, irrespective of disciplinary identity or specific expertise, as paramount. Given the accelerated pace of urbanization in all parts of the world, we are especially concerned about their dynamics in urban spaces. Although each of us has been actively engaged in research and teaching that relate in some ways to the specific questions of urban environmental justice that are the focus of this proposed volume, we started working together to develop our analysis programmatically in 2017 when we received a Humanities Connections Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Campus-Community Urban Sustainability Program (CUSP). This 3-year, NEH-funded program has allowed us to develop four related undergraduate courses on urban sustainability across the disciplines in biology, education, English, and philosophy as well as to partner with community organizations and nonprofits to sponsor public events on these issues.

Even as we were launching the program in 2017, our commitment to producing and disseminating knowledge of the causes, effects, and solutions to these crises was reinforced by alarming international and national reports on existing and future effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, and gross social inequality. While these occur in all environments—rural, urban, suburban, advanced and developing countries—our focus is on urban spaces like Brooklyn, the location of our university, and a microcosm of many of the issues at the heart of the scholarly, educational, and political work we see as imperative. It is from a deep and growing belief that we must all turn our attention now to these issues, particularly in relation to their impact on a rapidly urbanizing world, that we are proposing this edited volume. Shaped by our own positions as researchers and teachers across the disciplines in an urban university in one of the most diverse, precarious, coastal cities of the world, we believe that educators and researchers have a crucial role to play in understanding these pressing problems, analyzing their root causes, helping to solve them, and integrating them into teaching across levels, disciplines, and communities.

In sum, we start with the following premises: 1) these issues call all of us to act decisively and to act NOW; 2) unprecedented environmental despoliation and extreme social inequality are inextricably related and must be dealt with in relation to one another; 3) addressing the unique sustainability challenges faced by cities is required as more than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas; 4) the nature of the problems requires transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and community-engaged approaches; and 5) as educators, we can play a vital role in researching, analyzing, and teaching about these complex, diffuse, and “troublesome” concepts (Meyer and Land).

The proposed book will be divided into three parts:

Part 1: The City as Ecosystem

Invited contributions will relate to climate change and biodiversity loss. Possible topics include but are not limited to:
• building ecological resilience in coastal cities in an era of climate change
• habitat fragmentation and urban evolutionary ecology
• mitigating heat islands
• advances in urban biodiversity conservation for various groups (e.g., pollinators);
• globalization and invasive species management
• natural and human histories of cities that illuminate contemporary problems (e.g., indigenous histories, urban species, architectural, engineering, urban planning histories, cultural histories)
• philosophical, literary, sociological, and critical perspectives on urban ecosystems

Part 2: The Right to the City

Invited contributions will relate to economic/social inequality and human health and well-being in cities. Possible topics include but are not limited to:
• disproportionate impact of pollution, climate change, and related environmental disasters on communities of color and the poor
• gentrification, eviction, rising rents and prices, and impact on communities of color, the working poor, and the ethos of the city
• access to healthful food, clean water, and health care; freedom from pollutants
• poverty, homelessness, disease, racial segregation, environmental racism
• physical and mental well-being
• urban green space, public transportation, and urban mobility
• lessons from communities of color, indigenous peoples, and the poor

Part 3: The City as a Sustainability Classroom

Invited contributions will relate to a variety of case studies/narratives on challenges of and ideas and opportunities for teaching sustainability in urban settings. Topics may include but are not limited to pedagogical, institutional, and community-engaged aspects of education:
• incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives in courses
• examining the ways in which the social sciences, physical sciences, and humanities are connected in urban environmental studies
• building curricula across the disciplines related to pressing issues of urban and planetary sustainability
• examining higher education’s actual and possible role in addressing problems of urban (local and global) sustainability in the areas of research, teaching, and community engagement

Essays are invited across the disciplines on a wide range of topics addressing one or both of these global crises and related issues. We welcome discipline-specific or interdisciplinary approaches to research-based, theoretical or applied articles as well as those focused on curricular and pedagogical innovations. We are eager to include work that resonates with our sense of the need for an intense focus on discipline-specific research and teaching and interdisciplinary approaches in these areas and mindsets that take up scientific questions while bearing in mind philosophical, literary, historiographical, sociological, and other perspectives and vice versa. We are especially interested in questions of urban environmental justice and are open to a broad range of submissions that address urban spaces and processes in keeping with forecasts by ecologists like Eric W. Sanderson of the role cities will necessarily play in any version of a habitable future and critical analysis by sociologists like Mike Davis that we are already facing the consequences of a rapidly urbanizing “planet of slums.”

Please submit a proposal (500 words) together with a brief bio as attachments to Deborah Mutnick deborah.mutnick@liu.edu and Carole Griffiths carole.griffiths@liu.edu by January 15, 2020. Proposals should include submitter name(s) and contact email(s); title of proposed essay; and topic, approach, and connection to the collection’s focus on urban sustainability. Final essays should be 6000-7000 words. We are also accepting shorter essays (1500-3000 words) that profile innovative teaching practices and/or community-engaged projects. Interested contributors are encouraged to email with questions regarding their proposals.

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Posted on November 13, 2019