From China to California, self-described “greening” efforts claiming to address inequality and the climate crisis proliferate. But why are such projects—undertaken in the name of sustainability, resilience, and quality of life—being carried out in such a wide range of places with very different histories, ecologies, and cultural repertoires for urban life?
Based on a historical study of Germany’s Ruhr Valley, a polycentric industrial region that has been recurrently “greened” despite its ample open space, this talk offers a sociological explanation of urban greening as a global, contemporary phenomenon. It argues that greening is a social practice made possible by a social imaginary of nature as an indirect or moral good, called urbanized nature; that urban processes, rather than city form, explain greening’s appearance; and that contemporary greening is best understood as fundamentally continuous with past practices. It then highlights the same logics of urban nature at work in contemporary climate adaptation and mitigation efforts in the United States, and explores their consequences, particularly regarding conceptions of climate justice and equity.
Overall, this talk demonstrates that old ideas of nature shape contemporary visions of climate-friendly urbanism—despite often being ill-suited for the problems they purport to solve—and shows how these ideas affect the conception and pursuit of ecological goals and drive interventions in the built environment.
HILLARY ANGELO is an urban and environmental sociologist, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. From 2022 until 2023, she was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She is currently Visiting International Professor at RUB.
The Visiting International Professor Grant is sponsored by RUB Research School.
The event is co-hosted with The Institute for Social Movements (RUB).